Anyone remember Microsoft’s Grabbed by the Ghoulies for Xbox? No? Well, that’s not surprising considering it was forgotten long before it even hit store shelves. The key gameplay component of Ghoulies was a simplistic “left stick moves, right stick attacks” mechanic, which turned the game into nothing but a stick twiddling beat ‘em up. Apparently, someone at Namco really dug Ghoulies, so much so, they felt like they should shame a popular Tekken character (Nina Williams) by taking the watery gameplay of Ghoulies and forcing Nina to take part in it. No, there’s no zombies or cell-shaded ghoulies here, but there is the near exact same lackluster gameplay mixed with a huge splash of linearity that guarantees Namco’s new game, Death by Degrees will die a quick death on store shelves.
The game opens well enough, with a flashy series of intro animated sequences that’ll get you completely pumped for action as Nina Williams, super-spy. But then, the game begins and it’s all downhill. I can spend all day talking about this game, but let me boil it down to this – the combat is so weak, you will not find yourself playing this game for more than an hour.
How can I be so assured that this game is so unenjoyable? Imagine if you will, a game in which the left analog stick moves your character, and the right is used to aim and launch attacks. By moving the right stick in the direction of your intended victim, you’ll aim and launch an attack on him. No choice of combo, no specialized targeting, it’s just point the stick and watch the beatings begin. There’s a special powered up attack, called the “critical strike”, which Nina gets by earning a full “focus” bar (does every fighting game now rely on a focus bar?) that lets her target soft spots on her targets. When you launch the targeted attack, which is no simple feat, as it’s a button mashing combo from Hades, you get an X-ray view of the target which lets you spot a juicy section of the body and let loose a furious attack. And after the furious attack…the bad guy shakes it off and keeps on coming. What a lovely thought, a super-powered killer move that just forces your opponent to go buy some aspirin.
One major problem I had with the thumbstick-oriented combat is that I was so used to hitting buttons to launch attacks (you know, how it is with good fighting games?), I’d constantly hit the face buttons, frequently bouncing myself out of combat and into the level map screen. There really needed to be an option to disable face buttons during combat, since you don’t use any of them, not even to jump (which you can’t, by the way).
Let’s say you’re willing to overlook the weakened fighting mechanic, so what’s left to enjoy? Certainly not the presentation, which offers about average in-level graphics (though absolutely luscious CGI’s at times), and annoying voice acting. Let’s not forget the repetitive music that sounds vaguely like Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III.
Well then, maybe presentation and fighting mechanics aren’t that important to you, and so you’re wondering, “how’s the mission-oriented gameplay?” Again, Nina’s adventures in spy-land will let you down, as this game is a serious “point A to point B” linear stroll through your recently spent $50. You will enter an area, fight a bunch of guards, bosses or what have you, then try to find the one exit on the level. There’s no need to explore, since you can’t. Death by Degrees’ lack of camera control (the thumbstick is for fighting, remember?), means you can spend more time hunting for the exit rather than fighting bad guys.
Death by Degrees’ saving grace? The included Tekken V demo disk. Even the limited Tekken V demo is more fun than Death by Degrees. Now, you may think I’m being overly harsh on this game, as if I’m looking to say nothing but negative things about it, but honestly, it really is this bad. After playing great Namco titles like Breakdown, I just can’t accept a game like Death by Degrees, and neither should you. Pass on this one.
- Gameplay: 5.5
- Weak fighting mechanic and linear levels equal boring gameplay
- Graphics: 6
- Only the CGI sequences are worth watching
- Sound: 5
- Lame voicework, “bleh” sounds and mind-numbing music
- Replay: 2
- Why would you play through this once, let alone again?
- Overall: 5.5
- The included demo disk for Tekken V is far more enjoyable