Review: Death by Degrees (PS2)

Death By Degrees
Genre: Action
Platform: PS2
Rating: M [Mature]
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Release Date: 02/08/2005

I’m not a fan of Tekken, or any ‘fighting’ games really, so I have no emotional ties to the series. Honestly. Wasn’t expecting much from this game, so I wasn’t disappointed in the end when it turned out to be.. just.. bad.



STORY:

Our main character, of course, comes from Namco’s Tekken series of fighting games. Nina Williams is going incognito at a fighting tournament that takes place on a cruise ship. Contrived enough for you? Wait, there’s more. The ship is actually controlled by a huge multi-tiered underground terrorist origination that plans to do some terribly bad things – none of which we’re allowed to know about. All we know is that Nina’s covert buddies in MI6 [the UK’s version of the CIA] are in trouble and Miss Williams has to do some ass-kicking to save a few lives.

Seriously? Who comes up with this kind of tripe? I’ve been accosted by crazy homeless crackheads who are more creative than this. Geez.

[Rating: 2.5/10]



GRAPHICS:

The cut-scenes are actually really polished, but that does nothing to save the rest of the game. The in-game graphics are of the so-blocky-that-this-could-have-been-a-PS1-game variety. Oh, and the environments… the environments! Is there even an excuse for pixellation THIS bad these days? Do I have anything good to say about the graphics in this? Hell no!

[Rating: 4/10]



SOUND:

The effects and soundtrack are pretty good, actually. Lots of really intense riffs and tracks that sound great, but really don’t necessarily fit the mood of the game when they kick in.

Again, much like the polished cut-scenes, the effects/music quality does nothing for the rest of the game. The voice work is terrible. Remember the shitty voicework in Fatal Shadows? Well, I didn’t think it could get any worse.. and it certainly did. *cringe* I really hope that these video game companies are not paying these so-called “voice-actors” oodles of cash. These people seem to think that anyone can do voice-acting just because it doesn’t involve being on camera. Complete Bullshit. I’ve done better voiceovers in my sleep.

[Rating: 3.5/10]



GAMEPLAY:

Oh, good lord. We’re really in for it now.

Now, if you know me, you know I hate these bullshit dual analog control schemes like in Hitman or Splinter Cell. I really didn’t think that anyone could put an even more annoying spin on this scheme, but Namco has really outdone itself with this one. [No, I have not played Rise to Honor, but yes I have heard that it uses a similar control style]

Death by Degrees doesn’t use the controller face buttons to attack. Nope. No X, no Circle, no R1 or L2… oh, no, the brain trust decided to go with attacks being executed via varying speeds of tapping the RIGHT ANALOG STICK!


Ugh. Utter contempt fills me at the thought of this games control scheme. What’s even worse? Someone decided that it’d be a good idea to incorporate blocking and attacking into the same stick, and whichever function you’re going for depends on how hard or fast you tap said stick. I really couldn’t make this shit up.

To sum it up, the basic controls aren’t just uncomfortable – they’re both inefficient and just plain old unintuitive. In my opinion, a great control scheme is not about assigning non-sensical controls to the controller, just because it’s a new way to do things – it’s about ease of use and effectiveness, and Death by Degrees has neither.

[Rating: 3/10]



BALANCE:

The AI opponents/enemies aren’t overly intelligent – there’re just too many of them! You’ll constantly find yourself faced with a truckload of faceless goons on the cruise ship, and since blocking is almost impossible to pull off, you’ll also find yourself interrupting the so-called “action” and using your health-ups quite often. Sure, there are a variety of ways to kick your opponents ass – be it with kicks, punches, grapples or guns – but either way the scenario always seems to be a bunch of them surrounding you and taking potshots the entire time.

[Rating: 4/10]



REPLAYBILITY:

Let’s forget the horrendous gameplay, the awful acting, and the annoying enemies.. you’ve still got a game that is mostly just sprinting around a lackluster environment, waiting for loadscreens 50% of the time, while at the same time trying to control a camera that will just NEVER give you the view you want. Yeah, all of this REALLY makes me want to play this game again.

[Rating: 2.5/10]



ORIGINIALITY:

Praising a game for being original usually means that they’ve done something innovative to refresh the genre.. Death by Degrees has done nothing except for bring the whole design process for a game to an all new low.


Everything from the god-awful saving system [you have to ‘discover’ save points.. they’re few and far between – but making the user actually SEARCH for them is a little ridiculous] to the blatantly ripped-off Resident Evil style puzzle mechanics in this game… let’s just say that the phrase “Vomit in Terror” comes to mind.

[Rating: 3/10]



ADDICTIVENESS:

After plodding through some exploratory stages, and getting into some ruthlessly annoying fights, there’s not much left to do. Playing this game is about as addictive as receiving a colonic. If it’s possible, you might want to play more just to see if the game can get any worse.. but then again, you might risk some permanent brain damage by doing so.

[Rating: 2.5/10]



APPEAL:

I honestly cannot find anything appealing about this game. I’d wager that even Tekken fans would probably shun this abomination for the PS2. What else can I possible say? There’s no originality. Replayability and addictiveness are non-existent.

So what’s left? A scantily clad female lead? Please, give the general gaming public a little more credit – not every gamer is a 30 year old man, still living in his mother’s basement – okay, Namco?

[Rating: 2/10]



MISCELLANEOUS:

This section is moot by now. I’ve got nothing extra. The only subject I can convert into fodder for this area is the x-ray animations that take place during a specific critical attack. Think, Fist of the North Star style attacks, making hearts explode or breaking bones into a thousand pieces. A cool idea, yes, but the execution is very lackluster and tends to take away from the action – not that there’s much to take away from. It’s just another distraction in the end.

[Rating: 4/10]



The Ratings:
STORY: 2.5
GRAPHICS: 4
SOUND: 3.5
GAMEPLAY: 3
BALANCE: 4
REPLAYBILITY: 2.5
ORIGINIALITY: 3
ADDICTIVENESS: 2.5
APPEAL: 2
MISCELLANEOUS: 4

OVERALL SCORE: 31/100
FINAL SCORE: 3/10 (BAD)