Before I had a chance to play Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the Xbox, I will admit I had not watched the series on a regular basis. I only knew a few things such as Willow being a lesbian with Angel being Buffy’s one love interest, despite being a vampire (and eventually leading to his own series), and that Buffy’s high school was settled atop a Hellmouth.
But after spending some time with the game, as well as watching the first season on DVD, and getting some pointers from my super-fan girlfriend, I started to become hooked on the series. (Now if only That 70s Show wasn’t on at the same time. Looks like I’ll need to get me a TiVo for Christmas).
From what I’ve seen, BtVS follows the storyline to the TV series closely (at least from the earlier season episodes when they were still at OLD Sunnydale High). Seems as if Buffy’s first true arch-nemesis, The Master, is being resurrected to expand the pathway between Earth and Hell, and it is up to Buffy and her friends to put an end to it. Just a typical day for a high school vampire slayer.
Most of the action in BtVS follows basic hand-to-hand (or at times, hand-to-stake) combat. Fortunately, after the horror I experienced with the hand to hand of Dead to Rights, Buffy’s fighting style is very smooth, and special attacks are executed flawlessly (enhanced by a slow motion effect). These moves, however, consume what is known as "slayer power," which is picked up from defeated vampires and demons There are also, however, many segments that require Tomb Raider-style exploration, but unlike the TR series, I never got bored.
As I mentioned before, Buffy’s friends will be around to help out. Her watcher, Giles, trains Buffy in the beginning and gives her special moves as the story progresses. Xander will provide Buffy with weapons that make her vampire slaying much easier. Then there is Willow (mmmmmmm".Willow), who will convert the power of special crystals that Buffy finds along the way to increase her health and slayer power. And then there’s Cordelia who doesn’t help out much, but is up to her old prissy Miss Popular ways, and Buffy’s cursed vampire love interest Angel makes an appearance as well.
Another one of Buffy’s foes/love interests returns in the form of Spike, who initially teams up with the Master in order to restore his beloved Drusilla, but has other intentions that will be revealed later on.
In addition to the storyline, the visual appearance of the game almost fits the series perfectly. Sunnydale High, the Bronze, all the settings in the game look like they came from the series. Extra appeal must be given to the character design as well, except for one. Whlie Buffy, Angel, Xander, Giles, Cordelia, and Spike all look like their UPN counterparts, what the hell happened to my favorite, Willow? She looks nothing at all like the Alyson Hannigan. I was miffed about that, but the rest of the visual detail is perfect, and runs smoothly without any heavy slowdown.
Although Willow’s lookalike is not up to par, at least her voice acting is dead on. In fact, all the voice acting is excellent, with most of the original UPN cast reprising their roles. The only exception is for Buffy herself. Although Sarah Michelle Gellar did not supply the voicework for Buffy, I’d like to know who the hell they got to replace her, because I couldn’t notice the difference. In this day of Metal Gear-style voice acting, I was glad to see the quality of the acting was up to speed.
My only concern about BtVS is that the game is very hard at times. There are times when Buffy will get hit once and die, and saves are only done between levels. It can result in some serious frustration, and it caused me to deduct a half gem rating for the final review.
Still, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not only a good action/exploration title, it can be described as a side story to the television series. It’s that good. EA and The Collective definitely have done their homework to make the game appeal to Buffy fans and newbies alike (it converted me). Only the frustrating sudden deaths keep the game at 4 + Gems but it earns the high score that it got.