Chaos Bleeds is an excellent, well-put-together action adventure game that most fans of the genre should be able to enjoy and any Buffy fan will love.
Though the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series has seen its series finale and has traipsed its way into the land of pending syndication, these facts do not mean the franchise is without life. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds is the follow-up to last year's well-received Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an action game exclusively developed for the Xbox by The Collective. In this year's installment, Buffy is on all three console platforms and has changed developers--with Eurocom Entertainment Software taking over the reins. Despite the personnel and console changes, however, Buffy is back in true form. For better or for worse, Chaos Bleeds retains practically all of the gameplay elements of the first Buffy game, but there are some significant upgrades as well.
Chaos Bleeds' story is similar to last year's game in that it is treated as something of a lost episode from the show. Buffy enthusiasts can place the game in the time line of season five, nestled snugly between episodes 17 and 18. The game begins with Buffy and crew having to stave off an onslaught of vampires at the Magic Box (the local magic shop where Buffy's operations are based). As the battle comes to an end, one vampire lets slip a threat of impending destruction--courtesy of vampire head-honcho Kekistos. What ensues is a lengthy journey that pits Buffy and company against a number of familiar foes, ranging from the insidious Ethan Rayne to the very epitome of evil itself--known as "The First."
Familiar villains aren't the only characters who make appearances in Chaos Bleeds. Aside from Buffy's usual cohorts--Willow, Xander, Spike, Tara, Giles, and Anya--the game also features appearances by rebel vampire slayer Faith and the ever-wooden Sid the Dummy. Buffy, Willow, Xander, Spike, Faith, and Sid are all playable in different sections of the game, though you don't get to choose which character to take through each section of a mission. Rather, the game simply switches control over to a different character depending on what the plot requires. Additionally, in some instances characters will pair up in combat situations. For instance, you may encounter a situation where a player-controlled Buffy and an AI-controlled Willow will team up early on to trounce a group of vampires. Some situations will also require your controlled character to protect another. Such is the case when Willow, at one point, finds herself guarding Tara from Ethan Rayne's attacks.
The addition of multiple playable characters is important not only from a storyline point of view but also from a gameplay one. Rather than just giving each character the same basic list of moves and attacks, each one actually fights and handles much differently. For instance, Buffy, Spike, and Faith are much more combat-savvy, and, thus, their moves and fighting styles are geared toward martial arts-styled punches, kicks, and the like. A character like Willow, on the other hand, is far less capable when it comes to hand-to-hand combat; instead, she focuses on magic. Therefore, Willow only has one basic strike attack, and the remaining attacks are made up of a hefty list of spells that she will learn as the game progresses. And then there's Sid, who, due to his small size, is not nearly as powerful in his attacks as the rest of the characters. He is, however, much faster, and therefore he can launch a flurry of punches and kicks at an opponent. These flurries inflict roughly the same amount of damage as the rest of the characters. Overall, the game does a great job of giving each character his or her own unique style of fighting. (Though if there is one flaw, it's that there simply aren't enough instances to play as Sid, who is easily the most amusing character to play in the game).
Aside from this addition, there aren't too many major changes to Buffy's gameplay. The game uses the same basic control scheme as the previous Buffy game, with familiar punch, kick, jump, and action buttons. One slight change is that staking an opposing vampire is now controlled by a separate button from the action button--but, otherwise, it's pretty much the same setup. Compared with last year's game, Chaos Bleeds actually feels a bit more realistic in its combat. This is not to say the exaggerated elements of the TV show's fight sequences aren't there, as you'll still see plenty of exaggerated jumps and throws and lots of vampires sent spinning through the air in an impossible manner. However, the game definitely seems less hurried in how the combat progresses, and, overall, it actually feels a bit better. Weapons are, of course, still a big part of the gameplay as well, and Buffy has plenty of different weapons at her disposal, including her trusty wooden stake, a crossbow, a battle-ax, a spike, a shovel, a water gun filled with holy water, a gun that shoots hellfire, and a host of other goodies.