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Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Xbox)
Publisher:  Fox Interactive Developer:  The Collective
Genre:  Action Release Date:  08/19/2002
ESRB:  Teen More Info on this Game
By Zach Meston | Aug. 21, 2002
One of the finest shows on TV provides the inspiration for the Xbox's best beat-'em-up.
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Pros Cons
Awesome fighting system; solid engine; dialogue is supplied by real cast members. Sarah Michelle Gellar's voice is MIA; clever pre- and post-battle comments are repetitive; no multiplayer.

The upcoming seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is almost certainly its last, as lead actress Sarah Michelle Gellar -- basking in the glow of Scooby-Doo's inexplicable box-office success -- is poised to bail for a full-time movie career. Which is a damn shame, as the show remains a sparkling oasis of intelligent writing and emotional depth in the vast wasteland that is network television.

What's most impressive about The Collective's interactive interpretation of Buffy is how perfectly it replicates the essence of what earned the series its rabid cult following: not just the martial-arts action sequences (although it is an undeniable pleasure to watch the nubile Ms. Gellar beat the holy hell out of people), but the witty repartee and complex relationships between Buffy, her friends, and her enemies. This isn't a recycled 3D engine with a body-scan texture of SMG wedged into it; this is a product of people who love the show and who know great gameplay.

Buffy's storyline takes place in the third season of the show's mythos, which I would humbly consider the series' best. The Slayer is still attending Sunnydale High School; she hasn't been, uh, Spiked yet; and Cordelia and Xander are knocking boots, much to Willow's dismay.

Buffy features several levels in which Buffy and the Scooby Gang simply engage in banter at the Sunnydale H.S. Library -- but these chatty get-togethers are also ingeniously tied into gameplay. Giles gives Buffy new pages for her "Slayer's Journal," each of which describes a special fighting move; Xander hands over oddball weapons, such as the Water Gun XVS (a SuperSoaker filled with hellfire and holy water); and Willow uses the health and power crystals collected by Buffy to boost the latter's Slayer power and health gauges.

Buffy's gameplay serves up hors d'oeuvres of Tomb Raider-ish puzzle-solving and platform-jumping, followed by a main course of beat-'em-up action. Among the "lite" challenges presented by Buffy are starting fires in ceremonial bowls, pushing enormous buttons to open distant doors, and burning through thick spider-webs. Only the newest of the newbies (and The Collective apparently expects quite a few to purchase this game) will be stumped by any of Buffy's attempts to impede the player's progress.

Buffy does, however, throw expert gamers a bone in the form of two or three secret items -- almost invariably the aforementioned energy- and life-extending crystals -- hidden in each level. Some crystals are stashed within fragile walls that Buffy has to break through with her fists or feet, while others are simply placed in obscure locations, and it's obviously worth seeking them all out.

Excuse me, do you know of a good decongestant?
This exploratory aspect also serves to distract the player from the fact that Buffy is more straightforward than a four-year-old kid who helpfully points out the enormous zit on the tip of your nose. The most blatant example of linearity is the Sunnydale High School scenario: there are dozens of doors throughout the level, but you can only open the ones with something important behind them. Not that the game's linearity is a bad thing; it keeps the focus on the action, which is obviously the designers' intent. This is a beat'em-up, not a go-anywhere action / adventure.

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