With The Collective gone from the project, we were a bit sceptical about Buffy's second outing, Chaos Bleeds, but judging from the condition of the game here at ECTS, incumbent developer Eurocom has managed to build on last year's formula quite successfully.
The code we're seeing here is clearly nigh on if not totally complete, which is just as well with the game due out on PS2, Xbox and GameCube in just over a fortnight. Voice acting is in place from all the major players except Ms. Geller herself, with Giselle Loren reprising her cheerleading slayer impression rather well - and playable roles for everyone from Xander and spell-casting Willow to Faith and the acerbic, peroxide-endowed Spike.
The baddy this time is Kakistos, who plans to do all manner of nasty things to Sunnydale and the world in general, and so the gang are forced to stop him by travelling around and under the town staking vampires, chopping up the rather more decomposed Undead and slashing at hulking bat beasts and zombie gorillas with all manner of sharp, pointy objects.
The range of locations hasn't changed much, nor has the general composition - the player saunters around fighting things as they appear with a bewildering array of acrobatic martial arts, dispatching vamps and other nasties who lurch from the grave as the perky heroine solves rudimentary puzzles on the trail of Kakistos and his minions.
One early section sees the erstwhile cheerleader racing around a cemetery searching for pieces of a sundial. Once found, these combine to unlock a door, and with each piece a fresh wave of enemies spawn to cause mischief. Later on our Buff' fends off bat beasts in the sewers, locating fuse boxes to power a bridge and continue her journey into the bowels of a church. And of course on it goes.
The sequel's requisite freshness seems to be delivered through the addition of alternative playable characters. Willow, for example, collects spells (used via button combinations), which can be used to dispatch vamps without getting the poor dear's hands dirty. Meanwhile Xander seems to get a fair share of projectile weapons and Spike fights much like Buffy herself, but with better one-liners.
With the show's humour firmly infused, it'll be repetition of dialogue (some of which was evident) that causes problems, but with a few more varied objectives, some Tomb Raider-esque clambering around and a bit more imaginative puzzle-solving, we can't imagine this being anything other than solid, harmless fun - much like the show in fact. It looks much the same as it did last year, and it plays almost identically, but it still holds our attention admirably.
Apart from the sprawling 12-level single-player adventure (a lost episode in the fifth season this time), Eurocom has also constructed some multiplayer options, with a basic face-off, a UT-style domination mode and even a bizarre bunny-catching sub-game for several simultaneous slayers, but these feel more like a bonus than a good reason to pay. Fans of the show will probably lap it all up - particularly the unlockable extras (interviews, photo galleries, etc) - but we have a feeling we'll be advising Xbox-owning newcomers to pick up the original on budget rather than invest in this straight away.
Buffed up and ready to go...
We'll obviously be in a better position to comment when we get our hands on the final cut in the near future, but anyone who played the first game (or read our review for that matter) should know what to expect - a self-contained, interactive episode of the TV show shoehorned into a generic but entertaining third person beat 'em up template.
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