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#1 18/3/16 16:04

Iritscen
Moderator
From: NC, USA
Registered: 22/10/07

Death by Degrees for PS2

Lately when I have a little time, I've been playing Death by Degrees, "starring Nina Williams".  I guess if you've played Tekken you know who that is.  Anyway, this is a PS2 game from 2005, and I went out of my way to find it because it's a spin-off of a fighting game, thus they wanted to give the player lots of freedom and abilities in combat alongside open-world exploration, the same combination that we love in Oni.

And boy, did they.  This game has taken the top spot away from Aeon Flux for "most complex fighting system in games I've played".  Here's a sampling of what you can do: striking and blocking, stealth kills, air juggling, grappling and grapple escapes, get-up attacks, throws and throw recoveries, evasion moves, combos, wall-running and wall-flips, and special interactive critical hit moves.  You can fight with your hands, you can pull out dual pistols or a machine gun fluidly during combat, you can do the same with katanas and tonfas, and you can throw knives.  That's just what I've encountered in the first couple hours of gameplay, and I've probably forgotten some things.  And I didn't even touch on the special sequences with their own dedicated controls, such as the sniping mode or the first-person spy drone mode.

The controls are, frankly, bizarre.  They are based on the dual thumbsticks, not the controller's buttons, but every single part of the controller serves at least two functions in each context and there are several contexts, so it's really easy to trigger the wrong function because there's so much to remember and because the control layout seems almost completely random.  Even though most players seem to dislike the controls, once you get practiced at them, you can pull off amazing moves in fights with a group of enemies, weaving in and out of their attacks in a way that looks like a super-powered kung fu movie.  The fluidity is greater than Oni because you have so many more combat options at your fingertips.  It's definitely a system that takes a while to master, but it pays off.

Here's a sample of the combat, though the player is not good at blocking: https://youtu.be/ROJEQR_tVVU?t=3m10s

So you might be wondering what the catch is; why don't people still talk about this game in reverent tones?  Well, it was a single-system game that never came out for PCs, but more importantly, the game is rough around the edges, and many find its mix of RPG, adventure, and action gameplay to be awkward.  When you're not having amazing fights, you're hunting around the environment for clues (including save points, which are invisible!), getting lost constantly, fighting with the fixed-angle camera and its two separate manual override controls, and, more than anything, waiting for things to load.  Sometimes you can't go more than 10 seconds without hitting two loading screens.  Playing this in an emulator has taken some of the pain out of the loading, but I still have to endure large amounts of loading, even off a HD.  The combo moves are far too hard to learn and are not more effective than performing a handful of simple moves over and over.  The menu system is possibly the most painful that I've ever witnessed.  And so far the story is uninteresting and hokey.  Nina is pretty much exactly what Bungie West was trying not to do with Konoko.

As a result, it only has a 51 on Metacritic, but that's a shame, because if you want a game with complex combat, you will probably find this one enjoyable a lot of the time.  However, I've only been through one boss fight so far, and it was pretty horrendous, so I'm expecting that there is more frustration to come.

Pros: Combat.  Graphics hold up pretty well.
Cons: Insane amount of time spent on loading screens.  Most complicated controls in the entire history of video games on all systems.

P.S.: Amusing sidenote — Nina is voiced by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, voice of Motoko in Ghost in the Shell.


byproducts are fine, but where's the beef?

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#2 18/3/16 17:34

Lithium
Member
From: Colorado
Registered: 17/10/08

Re: Death by Degrees for PS2

Yeah sadly a lot of these mid age PS2 beat em ups ended being swept under the rug and only remembered for bad reasons, as a fan of the genre it's a shame the traditional beat em up died and instead evolved into the hack n slash and character action genre we know.


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#3 15/4/17 10:43

Iritscen
Moderator
From: NC, USA
Registered: 22/10/07

Re: Death by Degrees for PS2

Just came across this thread at random while looking for another, and I wanted to say that I did eventually manage to finish the game, but I made heavy use of the emulator's save-stating because some parts are really frustrating, like a boss fight where the floor collapses when you stand in one place, and eventually the floor is full of holes so almost any move you make causes you to fall to your death.  I probably died 50 times, and would have just quit playing if I had to start over from the beginning of the fight each time.

That being said, some boss fights were quite fun, including a katana fight with a guy in a suit (where you can spin around each other's backs when you get too close) and an epic fight at the end of the game with Nina's sister (imagine Konoko vs. Konoko from Dream Lab, but way longer and with more explosions).  I really wish someone would somehow take the good parts of this game, strip out the awful parts like the menu system and constant loading screens, and re-release it.  Realistically, it would make more sense from a practical standpoint to simply incorporate the good parts into an existing PC game -- like Oni!  (Though this would require extensive engine modding, and I don't know if this game would be playable without a controller.)


byproducts are fine, but where's the beef?

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