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haos Bleeds is designed as a lost episode to the fifth season of the television series. To give the game an authentic tie, many of the actors from the show, including Nicholas Brendon (Xander), Anthony Stewart Head (Giles), James Marsters (Spike), and Amber Benson (Tara), reprise their respective roles through voicework. Sadly, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) and Alyson Hannigan (Willow) did not lend their voices to the project (reasonable facsimiles were hired) and are represented only through likeness.

Respected UK studio Eurocom has replaced the Collective as the development team; but rather than starting from scratch or creating a new direction for the series, Chaos Bleeds is stylized as a direct sequel to last year’s Xbox game and shares the same technologies. In a sense, Eurocom was able to correct many of the mistakes from the first release to create a more compelling product. For instance, the focus of gameplay no longer amalgamates hand-to-hand combat with Tomb Raider-styled exploration and platforming. This time around, combat takes precedent and variety stems from the inclusion of different playable characters. At certain points in the story, control switches from Buffy to other characters such as Spike, who can pound vamps better than anyone; Faith, the former slayer and all around badass; Willow, who unleashes a flurry of powerful spells; weapons-reliant Xander; and Sid, the loveable and possessed ventriloquist dummy.

All of the characters feature unique attacks and feel quite different from one another. The combat system can best be summed up as a brawler with a bite. Explosive combo strings, blinding magic, and the sharpest of weapons take center stage. The controls are a little tighter than the last release, but it’s basically the same beat ‘em up action as before. Of course, assuming the role of different personalities produces a plethora of alterations and additions.

For some reason, however, Eurocom determined that the revitalized combat wasn’t enough to entice players. As you’re dusting vampires, you’ll also have to keep your eyes peeled for items that can be used to open locked doors or new areas in a stage. This scavenger hunt element seems fairly straightforward and trivial at first, but as you progress through the game, you’ll find yourself scouring every inch of an environment to find a key, a box that can be pushed, or a hidden path. These puzzle elements are implemented very poorly and act as unwanted distractions that often have you pulling out your hair wondering what you should be doing next.

Thankfully, the intensity of battle, breathtaking graphics, and intriguing story are powerful enough to overcome any shortcomings in the game. As a whole, it’s a much better game than the first, and geared more toward Buffy enthusiasts.   -REINER

MATT   8

Although the Collective (developers of the first Buffy) are MIA for the sequel, Eurocom steps in and does an admirable job of replicating the high-quality brawling action that put Buffy on the video game map. In many ways, this is an even better game. It allows you to take on the role of most of the show’s main characters, each of whom have their own unique combat moves and abilities. I especially liked playing as Willow [insert band camp joke here], as her magic-based attacks were a nice break from all the punching and kicking. For Buffy diehards, this is a complete package, with excellent character models, voice-acting, and dialogue. However, there are some zits on this lovely face of a game. The puzzles seem to be either painfully obvious or completely random. Also, there’s really not much here except for some great combat and a popular license – which, for now, should be good enough.

A straight-up sequel with different playable characters and not nearly as much platforming
Some of the best particle effects around
Spoken dialogue by many of the show’s actors. The music picks up as the action intensifies
The combat system rocks, and each of the different characters adds something to the mix
It can be completed in a day, but it’s well worth the price of admission
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