Charlie's Angels Review

  • First Released Jul 8, 2003
  • GC

Charlie's Angels is a beat-'em-up through and through, but a very, very bad one.

Gaming history is littered with lackluster games based on movies that do little except serve as cheap advertising ploys for their respective films. Few of these games, however, can compare to the horrific display of ineptitude that is Charlie's Angels. The game doesn't follow the plot of the most recent film, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, instead focusing on an "original plot" that puts the film's three sexy heroines--Natalie, Dylan, and Alex--on a quest to stop a master thief from stealing the world's national monuments. Along the way, the angels will travel to numerous badly designed environments, perform an extremely limited list of martial-arts moves on an even more limited list of ridiculous-looking enemies, and sleepwalk their way through their poorly written lines with just barely enough energy to form actual syllables.

Charlie's Angels somehow manages to take a no-brainer style of beat-'em-up gameplay and completely break it.
Charlie's Angels somehow manages to take a no-brainer style of beat-'em-up gameplay and completely break it.

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Charlie's Angels is a beat-'em-up through and through, but a very, very bad one. The game utilizes an extremely rudimentary control system that consists of punch, kick, block, and jump buttons. Each of the three angels has her own "fighting style," but this term can only be used loosely, as all three styles make use of some similar-looking kick and punch animations. Furthermore, you'll have a range of only two to three moves per attack, as the game's idea of a combo system seems to entail stringing together two punches and two kicks over and over again in a highly repetitive and tedious fashion, and then finishing with a cheap-looking special move that occurs seemingly at random and frequently causes the game's frame rate to completely fall apart. Jump moves don't fare much better, as there's only one jump punch and only one jump kick, and trying to actually land either one is a pretty harrowing experience.

Adding to the horrific gameplay is the completely asinine storyline and mission structure. The plot of the game is rather silly, but by itself it isn't much worse than most of the stories in this genre. Rather, the bulk of the problem lies in the fact that every mission in the game feels utterly meaningless in every capacity. As you play, you'll get to enjoy performing such wonderful tasks as running through a level and beating up every dumb enemy in sight until you get to a computer terminal, or perhaps running through a level and beating up every dumb enemy in sight until you find a button to press or a statue to move to make a door open or something. Occasionally you'll climb a really, really long ladder, or fight an obscenely easy boss, but really, there's nothing that salvages Charlie's Angels' awful gameplay.

Further adding to the conglomeration of problems in Charlie's Angels is a hefty list of bugs and underdeveloped gameplay elements. The biggest offense is the game's difficulty, in which the fault falls squarely on the AI. Enemies run at you mindlessly, brandishing their fists or knives, or just stand there when confronted, blocking every attack you throw and occasionally mounting an offensive. Simply running straight at every enemy and mashing the attack buttons is enough to progress past the onslaught of dim-witted bad guys. And if you get into a tight spot, you can always just run around in a circle while the bad guys aimlessly follow you. Charlie's Angels is also rife with bugs, including such gems as having an enemy somehow manage to sink knee-deep into the ground, and yet continue to fight you, even without the benefit of shins. Additionally, in a couple of instances, knocking an enemy backward in an indoor environment somehow managed to trap him behind an open door to the point where he was unable to escape, and we were unable to progress until he had been defeated. The solution was, of course, to just knock the enemy out by punching right through the solid door.

Even if the game were devoid of graphical bugs, it'd still be a horrid-looking affair. The in-game character models for Natalie, Dylan, and Alex are unbelievably bad, with some of the cheapest and dirtiest facial maps, textures, and animations you'll ever find in this generation of console gaming. None of the enemies look much better, and rarely do they ever make any sort of contextual sense in the level they're assigned to. For instance, when running through the inside of a large boat, you'll suddenly find yourself surrounded by a butler, a construction worker, and a guy in a wet suit. The camera used in Charlie's Angels is also in the running for the most poorly designed of all time. It will frequently veer off in the opposite direction of the angle that would be most useful to you, and it somehow manages to always find the most unattractive angle possible. The only possible exception here are the game's CG cutscenes, which are used for mission briefings and at the end of some levels. The work done on these is far and away superior to anything you'll see during the gameplay, though they're still pretty unappealing overall.

You will never find an uglier game based upon the concept of attractive female action stars.
You will never find an uglier game based upon the concept of attractive female action stars.

Topping off the game's never-ending list of issues is its audio. The biggest draw here has to be the fact that Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore provide the voices for their characters in the cutscenes, as well as a few moments during the game. Unfortunately, it's abundantly clear that the developer was only able to get the actresses for an extremely limited amount of time, as their collective line delivery is laughably bad, showing all the emotion and enthusiasm of a brick, and giving the impression that they had each individually been roused from a bad hangover and thrown in front of a microphone. Bernie Mac didn't bother to reprise his role as Bosley, so instead we're treated to a bad voice actor doing his worst Bernie impression. What's even more atrocious is that most of the voice tracks skip and distort pretty badly, making the whole thing a sorely wasted effort. Rounding out the game's nightmarish audio are some astoundingly awful sound effects--especially the perplexing noises characters make when dying or being hit--and some generic background music that's totally forgettable. There are a couple of licensed songs from the movie's soundtrack available, but only in limited situations, and really, they're just as meaningless as everything else in the game.

Perhaps the sole saving grace of Charlie's Angels is that it's mercifully short--the whole game can be finished in about three hours (perhaps four, if you set the game to hard). In the end, Charlie's Angels is the personification of the "game as a marketing tool" mentality, as this game serves no meaningful purpose, except to rob you of your time and money. Do yourself a favor and just stay away.

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