Buffy better watch her back because Sierra’s upcoming release, “Dark Angel” for the PS2, features a genetically-modified vixen named Max who will make short work of both Buffy and her vampire-slaying posse. Being a former fan of the show and a fan of Jessica Alba (*wink* *wink*), I popped this puppy into my PS2 and fired it up. Can Max bring the heat to the console? Let’s find out …
The game starts out with a movie sequence that gives you the background information of the current state of things and the driving force behind Max. Start the game, and you will immediately receive intel from your ally in justice, Logan. He checks in with you from time to time during the missions to give you information about upcoming enemies or the current situation of your surrounding level. The game is set in post-apocalyptic times so it’s very dark … both figuratively and literally. Every mission takes place at dusk or shortly thereafter, which in turn makes every board overly dark, but you’ll need to utilize that darkness to keep your cover, and a huge amount of your tactics will be based on stealth. Even James Bond can’t be very stealthy during the day.
The gameplay is basically your general run and fight type. Meet the enemy (usually multiple enemies), and fight your way through them to get further down the board or to get a necessary item from them after you’ve killed them. Max’s use of stealthy methods adds some realism to the game: you can hug walls, peek around corners, and move extremely fast to hide in the shadows. The controls are your standard kick, punch, jump, and hold/throw, but you can also perform combo moves so it’s not a total loss. They also implemented the “slow-motion” feature (a la Max Payne) into your fighting so at times, your actions instantly slow down then return to normal. This feature is pretty cool to experience, especially when knocking down multiple enemies. Your movement is controlled with the analog stick, a feature that is becoming more widely accepted. The top left right buttons control zooming, target locking, and firing. The regular triangle, circle, x, and square are your combat controls, and L3 is your speed boost. The controls are not difficult and quite easy to master.
The graphics are pretty well done in “Dark Angel.” The character Max sort of resembles Jessica Alba, and Logan kind of looks like Michael Weatherly. Most of the outside boards are modeled after the post apocalyptic theme so there are plenty of burnt cars and debris lying around. It is a third person view game, and the camera angle is adjustable but when backed against a wall or crouching behind some boxes, it becomes quite limited. While the graphics are not the best that I have seen, they definitely complement this game nicely.
Sound in “Dark Angel” is one of its high points. You can hear the enemies talk, and footsteps can and WILL lead the bad dudes to your location. There is also a slamming soundtrack that changes to fit the mood. Entering a fight gives you a fast-paced track while normal sneaking around gives you some slow-paced suspenseful music. The folks at Sierra also brought on the actual actors to do the voices. That’s right boys and girls, Max’s voice is Jessica Alba, and Logan’s voice is Michael Weatherly. I don’t think I need to say more … excellent audio!
Overall, the game isn’t very long, and the maps are quite small and don’t feature too much interaction. You are steered through the game levels and don’t have too many chances to roam freely. There is also a lack of weapons; for the most part, you use hand-to-hand combat, and there are aids such as a baton-type thing called a “Tonfa” and your stealth gun that fires electrical death bolts if you don’t want to blow your cover, but other than that, you use kung-fu action to lay down the law. One thing to note though is that you have a rage bar, and when that is full, you can go “berserk” and start laying the smackdown on the enemies’ candy asses.
The AI is challenging and only gets worse as you progress, and enemies can carry weapons such as machine guns. They also won’t hesitate to call in reinforcements, leading us to reiterate that stealth is the key to this game. You’re more likely to play this game once-through than replay it. The game does justice to the show and its theme, but there are some down points such as the rather small boards, some missions are timed, and the lack of weapons, but all in all, it’s a good game. Just for a little extra bonus, here are some pics of my Dark Angel … Jessica Alba!