PS2 REVIEW: DEATH BY DEGREES

Nina, the voluptuous star of the Tekken series branches out to star in her own videogame, Death by Degrees. The result is not unlike any movie that starred a cast member of Friends.

Death by Degrees sounds good when you read about it. It supposedly blends fighting, puzzle solving and stealth all wrapped up in one big, adventurous story. But as we know variety does not a game make. There just wasn't enough attention paid to the details of the different facets of the gameplay. All of these elements would not be able to stand on their own for an entire game and are barely passable when combined here. I embraced the variety but only because I was under the impression that the game would perhaps get better if something new were introduced. Unfortunately I was unable to maintain that optimistic attitude to the bitter end.

Nina is a robust chick with lethal moves and a body to match. If you like to ogle at giggling breasts then you'll find no shortage of stimulation here. It's too bad the developers spent so much time animating a pair of boobs while the rest of the animation is less than fluid. This entire game is a vehicle for Nina to show off her assets but not necessarily here depth. Tekken fans will be disappointed in just how little control they have over Nina.

Aboard a cruise ship for a fighting tournament, Nina becomes embroiled in some subterfuge when some undercover Brit agents from M16 mysteriously disappear. She learns that a high-tech weapon is in the wrong hands. To retrieve it and save the day she's going to have to find her way deep into the enemy's lair. To do this she will fight countless guards, use stealth to avoid detection, and solve puzzles to gain access to new areas.

Nina is capable of using guns, swords and her Evil Mist but her fighting skills are just as deadly - although none of them are particularly fun to use. The R stick targets the enemy. This is necessary for a 360-degree combat radius. Nina starts out with only a few moves but she can purchase more. For a time all you'll find yourself doing is moving the stick and pushing it forward to activate some moves. Throws and submission holds can be added to the mix but it's so easy to see that the animations are pre-rendered that it feels unnatural.

One of Nina's best moves is her ability to crush bones and target vital organs. Using her X-ray vision, she's able to locate the vulnerable, internal targets within the enemy. By aiming the cursor on the glowing red area and pressing the stick you will activate an animation of Nina delivering a deathblow to her antagonist. This works fine for the first part of the game but eventually you will run into stronger opponents that don't seem phased by a broken neck or a mangled heart.

Missions are not terribly varied although there are different obstacles that you will encounter that slow you down. Many of these are locked doors in which you must use scanned fingerprints to access. It's a time-consuming process and one that tends to disrupt the pace of the game. There is nothing particularly difficult in this game and if it were just balls-to-the-wall action it might even be enjoyable. The puzzles and stealth elements are tedious and require more routine work than genuine reasoning skills.

Death by Degrees is a few notches above a budget-title in terms of presentation. The graphics are decent but there are some low quality textures that reappear throughout the levels. The animation isn't smooth and load times are longer than average. The voiceacting is terrible. The sound effects are fine but the music repeats endlessly. There are certain loops for different situations but these loops just keep repeating, giving rise to a been-there-done-that feeling to new situations.

Replay value is limited. It's doubtful that the average gamer would even care to finish this game. The story is predictable so there's little incentive to complete the game just to see the conclusion. There is no multi-player mode but there are some mini-games to unlock and there's a playable demo of Tekken 5 which is by far the most exciting thing you'll play in this entire package. My advice is to wait for Tekken 5 if you want a good fighting game. If you really want to see some jiggling jugs then rent an exercise video.

Preview by Chris

Namco has been busy announcing their line-up for E3. One game that has some talking is Death By Degrees. It may be due to the fact this one will remind players of the popular game series Tekken. Of course that one is another game series by Namco only this time the spotlight will be on one of the female characters from the Tekken world. Nina Williams is one young girl you don't want to mess with.

She is trained in various forms of the martial arts. She has killer looks and is also trained to kill with any weapon. She can also walk right into a room without being noticed and unleash her rage and then leave as quickly as she appeared. The game will be a mix of stealth and fighting with a fantastic CG opening and a story line that will unfold while the action happens. Of course we also expect some great voice-over talents and more CG scenes throughout the game. It was already announced that the game will be released in Japan first and this may be a good thing since when they make the North American version, they may fine-tune the things that may need it.

Namco is taking a bit of a risk here. Since there have been rumors of the next Tekken coming out itself, although no official word confirming when this will happen. It does make sense to open the series to a spin-off since the game is not a sequel and the spotlight will be on Nina. In addition to the arsenal of weapons and skills that Nina will have to help her in the game, she will also have the ability to see through walls using X-ray vision and the game will go into slow motion during some key fights. It was also announced that Nina would have a partner named Alan. Namco has not said if he will be a playable character or just someone to aid her in the missions.

The game is said to feature a control system much like Rise To Honor and the next Dead To Rights game. The 360-degree control will allow players to make lightning fast moves and Namco is currently adding new control systems to make this type of controls work even better. The new control system that they have been working on is called critical strike. Nina can be in a firefight with a weapon and deliver a summersault kick to another enemy while never having to lose her aim on the first enemy. While it sounds really cool, only time will tell if they can deliver the sort of controls they want to. The screen shots look impressive and the game in the early stages has received a lot of buzz already. Take a look at the screen shots and Nina in action. Watch for more on this one as soon as we get the full details!

Story:

Death By Degress blends a unique mixture of combat and adventure. Beautifully rendered environments set the stage for game play, including combat in a weapons research facility, a cryptic prison and a level onboard a luxury cruise ship. An intriguing storyline with challenging scenarios, recognizable characters and interesting character development will allow players of all skill levels to graspDeath By Degress game play mechanics and participate in over–the–top, fast–paced action combat.

Features:

  • Intuitive 360 degree combat engine lets Nina counter enemy threats on all sides at any time. Utilize both analog sticks to unleash a deadly flurry of attacks in any direction.
  • Burst organs and shatter bone—use Nina’s on–screen “X-ray vision” to target enemies’ vital areas.
  • Master a vast array of firearms, blade weapons—including tonfa and katana—and acrobatic, hand–to–hand combat moves for unheard-of gameplay variety.
  • Thrilling stealth sequences allow you to silence enemies with chokeholds or swipe fingerprints from downed sentries to gain high–security clearance and access protected areas.
  • Gripping, cinematic storyline unfolds across more than an hour of pre–rendered and in–game movies.
  • Make use of Nina’s signature Tekken moves, including throws, submission holds and the lethal Evil Mist.
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System: PS2
Dev: Namco
Pub: Namco
Released: Feb 2005
Players: 1
Review by Kelly
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
2.5
GRAPHICS
3.0
CONTROL
3.0
MUSIC/FX
2.0
VALUE
1.5