Version tested: PlayStation 3
The PS3 debut of venerable and award-winning quiz series Buzz will not surprise you. In terms of presentation and content, very little has changed. It's hard to avoid a slight twinge of disappointment when you realise this, since our usual expectation when any series jumps console generations is to expect a showcase; something bigger, bolder, familiar yet beefed up in all the ways that were never possible before.
That's not happened here, but that twinge of disappointment soon fades. Buzz doesn't really need a makeover, since it's already a superbly refined quiz machine. Relentless has therefore opted for the safer, more sensible, path of not fixing something that isn't broken. The categories are the same - Lifestyle, Sports, Knowledge, Movies & TV, Music - and they break down into sub-categories such as Food and Drink, Toons and Oldie Hits.
The rounds available are also familiar, bar one new addition and one tweaked entry. Play a local multiplayer game and you'll get Point Builder, Pass The Bomb, Fastest Finger, Pie Fight, Point Stealer, High Stakes and Final Countdown. High Stakes is the new round, and requires players to bet some of their points based on their confidence regarding the subject matter. Final Countdown, meanwhile, now places each contestant on a raised podium, the height of which is dictated by your score. Being the first with the correct answers raises you higher, wrong answers drop you lower. Should you drop to the bottom, you plummet into a hole and are out of the game.
You still have no control over which rounds you get, or in what order, which seems a bit of a shame, especially with the new emphasis on handing creative control over to the user. Obviously the fixed order has been carefully chosen to offer the best flow of scoring opportunities, keeping the game interesting even when the players are hopelessly imbalanced. And I also understand the urge to keep the game simple and accessible. Yet I can't help feeling that an extra layer of user control, offering access to all the round types from previous games and allowing players to create their own "greatest hits" quiz compilation, would have been a nice gesture.
User control is, of course, still on the menu in the form of MyBuzzQuiz, the website that lets you create your own quizzes and share them with fellow players, who can then rate your work. The most popular quizzes rise up the ranks, until you're crowned Big Chief Quizlord of whatever region you happen to be playing in. We already went into the nuts and bolts of this addition in our hands-on preview but suffice to say that while the more creative players may find the eight text question format rather limiting, this is an area of the game that can only grow and grow. It's fun just seeing if anybody has created a quiz for your own niche interests, and making one up if there are none to be found.
And then there's the online Sofa vs Sofa mode, which is shorter than the offline multiplayer mode with a different line-up of rounds. Stop The Clock, Fastest Finger and High Stakes are joined by All That Apply, in which you can select multiple answers to the same question. You can see what other people are selecting, which is either an outrageous cheat or a good way to make you paranoid about the one that you've not selected but everyone else has. Points are allocated for each correct answer you choose, and deducted for any you get wrong.
The addition of online play is certainly welcome, particularly since Microsoft's Scene It? didn't venture into these waters, but with no real communication between the teams - apart from the pre-scripted jibes from your character - it does feel like the concept of team play is being undersold. Relentless has assured us that voice chat and EyeToy support are both things it's looking to add in the "near future". It really can't come soon enough, especially as far as EyeToy is concerned, since they would seem to be a match made in heaven. When even the most basic Xbox Live Arcade quiz games are offering camera support, it's something of a glaring hole in the Buzz arsenal.
The HD makeover is very agreeable, with familiar characters popping off the screen in their new coat of shiny graphical paint, and with 5,000 questions it's the best-stocked Buzz so far. Despite playing countless games online and off in the past few weeks, I've yet to see a single repeat. I have, however, encountered a curious situation where the subject of questions will repeat - at various times I had two different questions in a row concerning Fatboy Slim, David Bowie and South Park. The law of averages dictates that this will happen sooner or later, but it's happened often enough to be noticeable. It's not as game-breaking as repeated questions, but it is a touch distracting.
On the hardware front, the wireless Buzz controllers are exactly the same as the old PS2 version, but thanks to a generous attitude to backwards and forwards compatibility, both controller types work with either console. So if you've already got the old buzzers, and aren't fussed about wireless, you can pick up the game solus and make a nice saving. Equally, if you're still playing the PS2 games, but quite fancy wireless controllers, then you can pick those up separately as well. The little dongle pops into a USB port and you're off. It's obviously not the same as Rock Band and Guitar Hero - and I doubt you'll ever be able to use the Scene It? controllers in Buzz or vice versa - at a time when peripheral compatibility often seems like afterthought, it's refreshing to see a product being as inclusive as possible.
Now, you may have noticed that most of my criticisms revolve around things I wish they'd included, rather than problems with the things they already have. That's because while Quiz TV may seem a rather timid evolution of the series, there's very little that it gets wrong. Buzz has always been an excellent quiz game, and that's also true of this version. The ability to create your own quizzes, however small, and play against other families (or households of lice-riddled students) is certainly a notable evolution for Buzz, and for quiz games in general, even if the implementation is more of a tentative step forward than a giant leap.
Best to think of this release as planting a seed, rather than an end in itself, with potential to grow into something quite wonderful with some canny updates from Relentless and a dash of imagination from the players. For now, it's nothing more, or less, than the most polished and entertaining quiz experience on this generation of consoles.
8 / 10