Death By Degrees Review
Last summer, if you had asked me if I would like to play the next game with Nina Williams in it, the answer would be an enthusiastic "Yes!" If you explained to me that the game would not be Tekken 5, but rather an action game starring the blonde bombshell, I'd have been less excited, but I'd be willing to give it a go. Presumably, this curiosity was what Namco was banking on when they decided to release Death By Degrees, because it they certainly weren't counting on solid gameplay to get the job done. Releasing a game this bad borders on criminal, so Psx Extreme locked me in a room to investigate. Here's what happened:
10:35 A.M. I open up the game and place it in the PlayStation 2. I am taken to the main menu. It seems there are several things that can be unlocked, including movies, a sniper mini-game, a challenge mode, and a bonus game with Anna Williams. Hopefully I will unlock some cool stuff.
10:38 A.M. After starting a new game, the opening FMV starts. Let's see... there are some guys on a ship, Nina fighting in an underground fighting tournament, something about MI-6 and the CIA. Hmmm. It looks like we are supposed to infiltrate the ship in some sort of joint operation - I don't understand it, but it sounds good to me.
10:41 A.M. Nina's alongside a pool in a rather revealing bikini. I should take this time to mention that she's quite the bit of eye candy. Blond hair, large breasts, curvaceous figure, and a supermodel's face - not your prototypical super spy. From what I hear she will change into many revealing outfit that according to the developer, have because they are in fact, practical to fight in. Sure.
10:45 A.M. I just learned the basics of the fighting engine. Instead of using buttons to fight, I'll be pushing the right analog stick in the direction of my nearest attacker. The game tells me I can see who is poised to strike next because their life bar will appear over their heads. Evasive maneuvers can be performed by tapping the left stick quickly in the opposite direction of the attacker. This seems to be an odd choice, since that's also how I move.
10:47 A.M. Uh-oh, looks like I've been caught by Bryce and Lana, two evil looking people. They decide to lock me up, but they do so by putting me in a room with an open glass door that leads to the balcony where I can make my escape. Brilliant.
10:55 A.M. I just got done fighting the camera, which is positioned in a way that reminds me of the Resident Evil games on the PlayStation. Has nobody ever read one of the 10,000 reviews that says that it stinks? Even Capcom finally figured it out.
11:00 A.M. It turns out I can hold the R2 button down for an over the shoulder view. This is a horrible view, and very difficult to manage, but it allows me to run. Nina walks slower than molasses, so I will be running a lot.
11:10 A.M. Wow, this camera sucks. I just got in the swimming pool and learned I could swim. Why are there load times every time I open a door, pause the game, or go swimming?
11:15 A.M. Okay, I need a save point. The save system is quite possibly the worst thing I've ever experienced. When you get near a save point, a cell phone bar will appear in the top right corner. As you get closer to the point, you'll get a second bar, and when you are on top of it, the point will appear and you will get the third bar. What's the point of the third bar when I am already standing on the stupid thing? Why should it be so hard to save my game? Is that I right I need to earn?
11:20 A.M. So when I'm fighting guys, I can do a "critical strike" when my focus meter fills up. If I press L2, an X-ray of the person I am fighting appears and I can move my cursor over the red spot, which is a vulnerable area. After hitting the analog stick to attack, Nina does a kick or some other unimpressive attack, and the game zooms back into X-ray mode to show the damage. Why is this guy's brain throbbing when I kicked him in the shoulder? More importantly, why is he getting back up to fight me, when I just exploded his skull?
11:40 A.M. This game isn't too bad looking so far, but man it's got some lousy textures. I just climbed through an air duct that could have shared air duct textures with a PlayStation game. Come to think of it, there really isn't a whole lot to look at on this cruise ship. Lots of blank walls and boring colors. They sure spent a lot of time animating Nina's breast though...
12:00 P.M. I am already tired of picking up shiny objects to add to my inventory.
12:20 P.M. I am already tired of the load times when I simply need to boost my health or change weapons. On a side note, the weapons are pretty worthless, and I am better off just tapping the right analog stick like it's going out of style. Is this how they avoid the "button masher" moniker, because technically I am not mashing a button? Lame.
12:30 P.M. Holy crap, I just had to hang from a pipe and shimmy across. This is not Splinter Cell, there was no point in making me do that.
1:00 P.M. I'm protecting one of my allies by sniping the dudes that are coming after him. These controls aren't bad, but I can't tell if I killed a guy because the animations are all the same until they drop. While I am waiting to see if he dies, I am getting wasted. For some reason, I am not allowed to restore my health here. Thanks Easter Bunny!
1:07 P.M. Destructible crates. You have got to be kidding. We haven't moved past that in 2005?
1:30 P.M. Ok, seriously, the amount of backtracking I am going to do in this game is going to be awful. I can tell from the locked doors that require different access levels that this is going to be a chore. If I need fingerprints to open doors, why can't I just drag a fallen enemy over there and use his hand? Oh, I have to waste time to find some fingerprint scanner. Yay.
2:30 P.M. Hmm, I must have nodded off. The last thing I can remember is some horrible voice acting. The voice actors must have gotten up in the middle of the night to do this script - they don't sound too into things. The music is also really bad, and it seems to restart every time I go in and out of a room. Repetitive guitar riffs that are supposed to get me pumped for battle. Blah.
3:00 P.M. Man these boss battles are really cheap. How long are these life bars anyways? Fighting in the meat locker was the most frustrating thing I've done in a long time. Since Namco is dressing Nina like a whore in this pseudo-French maid outfit, I am surprised they didn't throw in a joke about it being -22 degrees in the meat locker and her nipples being hard. Oh well, I guess I just did it for them.
3:05 P.M. I can kick through walls, but not in a good way. I can't knock them down, because there's really nothing destructible in the game, but I can watch my legs pass right through things that are supposed to be solid.
4:00 P.M. Let's see, what do I need to note here... Zombies, recipe for cooking rat, picked up another billion shiny things, took another dozen fingerprints, yelled at the camera, and gave up trying to figure out the story.
4:30 P.M. I can't take any more, this game is awful. I don't care if it did come with a Tekken 5 demo for most people. That game is out, so the only reason to even try Death By Degrees is if you are trying for Death By Boredom. Look, the analog fighting thing just doesn't work. It didn't work in Rise To Honor, and it certainly doesn't work here.
3/28/2005 Aaron Thomas