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Death by Degrees (PlayStation 2) artwork

Death by Degrees (PlayStation 2) review

"When I heard about Death By Degrees, I was intrigued. Long story short: it failed. I still don't care about Nina Williams. Actually, it's worse than that — Death By Degrees makes this walking piece of plastic's lack of personality even more obvious."

I don't care about Nina Williams. Some would say that makes me biased against Death By Degrees, but it's really just the opposite. I saw this game as an opportunity to give one of Tekken's underdeveloped characters some much-needed relevance. That's one thing the Tekken series lacks: well-developed characters. Except for Heihachi. He's the bee's knees.

So when I heard about Death By Degrees, I was intrigued. Long story short: it failed. I still don't care about Nina Williams. Actually, it's worse than that -- Death By Degrees makes this walking piece of plastic's lack of personality even more obvious. Apparently Namco wants us to view Nina only as a pretty porcelain doll, because she spends her first fight in a bikini, which was a great way of reminding me how much better Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball looks. The ensuing cinema scene shows off Nina's "attitude" and her unfortunate abuse of Botox.

Compared to its "snarky lone wolf tough girl" peers Tomb Raider and BloodRayne, this 3D adventure has bigger problems than its anatomy. Early on in the game, I was walking by a giant swimming pool, hiding behind pillars to avoid the guards wandering around its perimeter. Because of the bad camera, I ended up accidentally diving into the pool. Fortunately, none of the guards noticed the big SPLASH or the attractive burst of water spraying into the air. So I just climbed out of the pool and snuck back behind a pillar.

Motto of the snarky lone wolf tough girl: Everyone else is stupid!

After a few seconds of holding the R2 button and tinkering with camera angles to try and see whether the guards' backs were turned... I made my move. I darted out from behind the pillar, and the camera swiveled around so that instead of watching my prey, I was staring into Nina's eerily lifeless eyes! Fortunately, holding the R2 button swings the camera back into an over-the-shoulder viewpoint.

So here I am, holding the R2 button and using the left analog stick to run alongside the pool. I turned a bit to the right... but the camera didn't turn with me! Fortunately, by moving the right analog stick (while moving the left stick and holding R2), I was able to turn the camera and get my unsuspecting prey in sight. It takes Nina three buttons to do what Ryu Hayabusa can do with one, but that's because Ryu is a SUPER NINJA.

After all this time spent fiddling with controller buttons, my prey was not only suspecting, but was running straight towards me -- with a friend. The two terrorists ran up next to me, dropped their sub-machine guns, and started punching wildly in my general direction. I pushed the right analog stick to turn towards a random thug, and then realized... I can't attack!

The reason I couldn't attack is because I was still in the over-the-shoulder viewpoint. The right analog stick that I was using to control the camera also functions as the "attack stick". Press it to the right to kick right, to the left to kick left, and so on. Obviously that doesn't work if I'm using the stick to control the camera.

So I let go of R2, which moved the camera from the behind-Nina view, to the wherever-the-hell-Namco-wants-it view. In this case, that meant "focused on Nina's silicone chest". So there I am, staring at Nina, really wishing I could see my enemies in front of me. So I just start kicking in random directions, hoping the unseen enemies happen to walk near this dumb girl (but she's got attitude, yo). Even when she connects, this "ultimate assassin" sure takes a while to kill people.

This is where I stopped caring.

So when Nina actually kills people, she gets skill points that can be spent on a bunch of worthless attacks. And she picks up items. That do things. Nina can even pick up guns and swords, because ruining hand-to-hand combat wasn't ambitious enough for Namco. Nina can perform bone-breaking critical strikes that steal their visual imagery from Romeo Must Die, since Death By Degrees steals -- and ruins -- pretty much everything.

Wait, scratch that. Death By Degrees does have one original idea. Instead of being able to save at any time, Nina has to discover save points by playing an elaborate game of "hot hot cold". The closer Nina is to a save point, the louder her radio beeps. If she happens to walk over the exact right square, the game can be..., never mind. Nothing can save this game. It's garbage. It's got dumb boss fights (where you're told to "knock him into the spikes" but can't actually control the direction your opponent falls), dumb sniper mini-games, even dumber combination puzzles, the slowest ladder-climbing EVER, and a bunch of pointless back-tracking so that you can open previously-sealed lockers to obtain items that will let you back-track again to open previously-sealed doors to fight the same friggin' robots you've been fighting for five missions.

According to Namco, Death By Degrees contains "ten trillion tons of mayhem".





zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (July 04, 2005)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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