Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Xbox – Aug. 18, 2002
Developed by: The Collective, Inc/Eurocom
Published by: FOX Interactive
Written by: Christopher Golden, Richard Hare, Thomas Sneigoski

Gamespot gave the game am 8.3. IGN did the same. Hell, even Team Xbox gave the game a 7.2. The bottom line? People actually liked this game. Check the user reviews on Gamefaqs, even. The lowest is a 7/10. Many of these reviews claim the game is fun, has an engaging combat system, and offers up a quality bit of peripheral Slayer-action that is worth the price of admission. All of these reviews say the game is a delight and should be played by all fans of the show. All of these reviews are wrong and all of the people that reviewed the game must have been high or fucking insane.

I had never played this game, but had heard great things about it. I didn’t own an original Xbox so I never had a chance to try it out. The reviews looked sick and, for the most part, the graphics looked real damn good at the time (remember, this is almost a decade ago). And, hell, even the voices seemed to be ripped right from the show (this is because its the same voice cast, minus SMG as Buffy because, well, she was smart enough to demand a look at the script and game first, so she could approve before lending her voice. Good on you, SMG. Good on you). And in the weeks leading up to giving this game a go, I read that the combat system was hailed as a winner and one of the most fun parts of the game. This is all well and good, and I can even applaud the game for having these elements right. But it doesn’t matter if the writing is OK or the voice cast is spot on. It doesn’t matter if your basic brawl with a bumpy-faced vampire is slick and entertaining. And it doesn’t matter if the quips are fast and the wit is sharp. If you have all of these things right, but your character dies if she gets ankle-deep in water because there is no way to control how far Buffy will jump, forcing you to restart a level and losing an hour of gameplay because there are no save points and you fucking throw the controller at the wall, throw your clenched fists in the air, and curse God for being such a bitch and allowing humans the experience rage, frustration, and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Xbox, you have a shitty game.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re going to accuse me of playing this game out of its time period. Like, it would be the same as me judging someone for wearing 70’s-style clothing today, having time-traveled here from the 70’s. Unfair. Well, you could make that claim. But I would tell you to go back and play the first “Half-Life” – the game is from Nov. 2001 and it holds up today. No cover system, tired-but-true health and the graphics are laughable by today’s standards. But I bet if you had never played it before and tried, as I did with this game, to stomach these flaws, you’d find a rewarding experience and be able to see all the ways the game was a trend-setter. Not so with “BtVS” on Xbox. The game is pure garbage. You can call it an unfair review of the game. But you’d have to be retarded to do so.

So the story is like this; The Master (from season 1) is back and trying to bring himself back to life. It takes place after “Revelations” (which is why I chose to review this game now, rather than at random. And also why I have had to wait to watch any episodes in the meantime, something that has literally shaved a few years off my life, I think), so Angel is back in the fold, there seems to be some weird sexual tension between Xander and Willow, and Spike is back in the picture, a bit. Buffy and co. must find out what The Master and Spike are up to, all the while fending off demon dogs, giant hillbilly vampires, and some stupid looking skeletal demons. There is also a trio of demons called “The Dreamers” who The Master plans to use to bring his body back, as well as build a bridge between Earth and a Hell Dimension to bring about the apocalypse. From a narrative standpoint, it all makes sense and is a fun little diversion from the show’s arc during its third season. I think some of these writers either did work on the show or – regrettably enough – the comics. So, in some ways, the writing, the dialogue, and the wit are moderately spot on. Even if The Master is now British for reasons that are never explained (no Mark Metcalf?!?!? Blasphemy!).

The combat that is so heavily applauded, though, and fills the levels to the brim is boring and stale after ten minutes of gameplay. Its atrocious. You just punch and kick and try to stake monsters and, of course, block block block. I played the game on Easy, thinking that – for the most part – the goal was to experience the game, not struggle through an ordeal. I made the right choice, because the game was hard, even if the combat was easy. I can’t imagine what level of sorrow I would have been made to suffer through, what kind of gauntlet I’d have been made to run if I’d tried this on Medium or Hard. See, even if you can easily punch your way through a level, you have to jump. I hate jumping puzzles, and so does this game, apparently. Buffy jumps like a fucking feather pillow being thrown through the air. You can’t guide her at all after she’s left the ground, which means if you didn’t line it up perfectly, she isn’t going to make it. Sometimes this is only bad (falling hurts her a lot) but other times its game over, seeing as how there are untold numbers of bottomless pits, underground ravines (she can’t swim), and lava flowing under Sunnydale. And, to make matters worse, half of the time she’ll grab the edge of a platform, so if you miss a bit, its cool; Buffy will grab hold and can pull herself up. But the other half of the time? She’ll just slide against the side of the platform, falling to her death. Its taxing. Its just… it… fuck.

This wouldn’t be so tiring and goddamned frustrating if there was a better method of saving progress. Rather than a save feature or even any kind of system for placing Buffy somewhere after a fall to the death, albeit with less health, the game relies on a shoddy and shitty check-point system. Each level is broken up into segments and when you get to a new segment, you’ve reached a checkpoint. Sometimes these segments are long stretches of halls and tunnels, filled with bad guys (boring, long-winded, and exhausting), but other times its one room with insane jumping puzzles and things to climb and clamber around. Also monsters. And,  nearer to the game’s end, its a combination, with the jumping rooms – of course – being at the end. This means that you have a trial-and-error segment at the end of two hours of gameplay, only to fuck up and have to start over agian. I got so damned good at certain areas of the game because I had to replay them so many goddamned times. It was like Hell. I imagine Hell is exactly like this. Jesus.

To say this game is shit is to badmouth actual shit. Like, poop everywhere would be offended to be grouped with this game. Even the voice cast must have hated making the game, since they all sound like they phoned it in. And I mean that both figuratively and literally; the level of conviction they have when delivering their lines is pure crap and the quality of the voice overs is simply awful. I wanted to punch my own ears in. I wanted to die. I wanted to die. Its a sad story with the best voice actor in the game is the one not playing the same character they did on TV. The chick doing Buffy’s voice sounded the most enthused, probably because she was in a big-name game with a franchise title and would thus get some exposure. Here, though, it just makes it sound more sad. And pathetic. And so, so sad.

Don’t play this game. I can’t believe I did. I can’t believe I finished it. I can’t believe I didn’t cry. I can’t believe the boss fights were so goddamned easy and that the ending was so anticlimactic. I can’t believe someone made this game. I can’t believe all those reviews were so positive. And I can’t believe I’m still writing about this thing. Fuck you, universe. You housed me and this game together. Why can’t I be in an alternate universe where there was only the show? The Skyler in an alternate universe that isn’t even doing these reviews is laughing at me. He’s laughing hard. And its so, so sad. Fuck this game and fuck you if you are one of those people that liked it. I hope you fall in a hole. A hole filled with cobras. And I hope someone fills in the hole. With acid.