Death by Degrees
Wiggle your toes, wiggle your toes… Oh damn, wrong intro. Hmm, at least something from Kill Bill 2 stayed in my memory apparently. Anyway, in Death by Degrees, “wiggle your tits” seems like a more appropriate catchphrase, because that’s what the game is all about. Gameplay? Not even by a long shot!
As you might have guessed, this game is just another run-of-the-mill action game, that really doesn’t add anything to this already overcrowded genre. It’s not the worst I’ve ever seen, but it can’t be called good or even satisfactory in any way.
The one big thing (or actually the two big things, if you know what I mean) this game has going for it is the main character Nina herself. Without a doubt, Nina is sexier and better-looking than even Lara “ever increasing cup size” Croft and that’s exactly what Namco was after. Since they already knew they wouldn’t be able to create a decent game, they just played up Nina’s good looks. It already starts with the intro. Nina is fighting in the ring against multiple enemies in a way that can be elegantly described as slightly underdressed. After she manages to knock out several enemies and is declared victorious, the movie skips an hour or so and picks up again when Nina is lying by the poolside in her bikini. Yup, and it just carries on like that…
Quite possibly the worst thing about Death by Degrees is its horrible control and camera system. In stead of just bashing the buttons on your PS2 controller, you’ll be twisting your right analog stick like hell. Nina attacks in the direction you’ve got the stick pointed. This sounds easy but it sure as hell isn’t. The camera continues to pick the worst angles possible so you’ll just randomly pick a direction and hope your kicks and punches hit. How unbelievable it may sound, but this tactic actually works best, since you’ll be swarmed and encircled by enemies almost every time.
Of course there are combos and special attacks in the game (quite a lot of them in fact), but because of the broken control scheme you’ll hardly ever use them. Just twist the right analog stick and you’ll be fine, especially in Easy (which I’ve played). The more hits you land on your enemies, the more skill points you earn. These can be used to buy special moves or all kinds of miscellaneous upgrades. You’ll also go up in level, which lengthens your life and Focus gauges.
Once you’ve filled a few segments of your focus gauge, you can use Nina’s signature move. Hold L2 and attack a random enemy. The game will then go into some kind X-Ray vision and you’ll be able to target specific weak spots on your enemy. Nina then attacks these bodily parts in a slow motion cutscene. It’s a neat idea, but you won’t use it very often, because of the slow-charging Focus mode.
Aside from the cool X-Ray attack, Death by Degrees doesn’t cut it when graphics are concerned. All of the game’s environments are blueish or grayish, which makes them way too similar and very repetitive. Aside from Nina’s outfits, the game just lacks colour, not to mention detail. Textures just look blurry and washed-out and the few different enemies don’t stand out in any way. Only Nina is well animated and pretty detailed, though not as great as in any of the previous Tekken games. Even though the game only has mediocre visuals, the game features abundant and pretty impressive loading times. Every time you enter a room, you’re welcomed by one of these irritating loading screens.
The audio isn’t a lot better, but it’s better nonetheless. Nina and the rest of the cast’s voicework is acceptable and the music in the game never bothered me (which is something good). The game’s sound effects on the other are quite dumb. For example, everytime Nina runs it sounds like she’s treading with high heels, even when she’s in fact walking barefooted. Gun sounds have also been done better in pretty much every decent action game. But hey, the same thing goes for the entire game…
The game also features some nice minigames (the sniper levels and honeycomb puzzles for example), but those can’t jack up the game’s general level. After you’ve completed Nina’s fairly lengthy adventure, you’ll also unlock a ton of extra’s, but by then I was too fed up with this game, I didn’t even bother to try them. I’m sure you won’t mind.
Summing things up, I just have to say Death by Degrees fails miserably in providing entertaining gameplay. The controls and camera are simply disgusting, the game doesn’t look nor sound too good and the levels are boring to say the least. The game is simply all about Nina (and her twins), nothing more.