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Death by Degrees

01 May 2005

Purple SpandexOriginally slated for a summer release in ‘04, Death by Degrees has finally been perfected enough, at least Namco would hope so, to be available in stores. From the highly popular fighting game series, Tekken, assassin for hire Nina Williams stars in this action adventure. Offering a uniquely different battle system from typical action adventures, some stealth capabilities, and puzzles, Namco has tried to set Death by Degrees apart from the norm. However, the battle system and the mediocrity of the other features make Death by Degrees unsuccessful.

It’s a bit ironic that the cold and unsympathetic character of Nina Williams joins forces with the CIA to stop an underground organisation. She goes undercover in a fighting tournament while her associates try to uncover things - when (wait for it...) something goes wrong and they are all exposed. There isn’t really much else of the story to talk about. The beginning cinematics that goes with this description are impressive to look at - but this long-winded intro is really only thing that Death by Degrees has going for it.

The battle system in Death by Degrees puts all your attack functions in the right analog stick of your PlayStation 2 controller. You simply attack in the direction of your enemy to perform a combo. New moves can be earned as you level up your character by defeating opponents and weapons such as swords and handguns can also be equipped. This adds a bit of variety but Death by Degrees remains a mindless button mashing fest. When you have powered up your critical strike meter by getting physical at enemies, you can also perform a critical strike attack. An X-Ray of your unlucky opponent’s skeletal system will appear and zero in on a spot before Nina performs a bone crushing attack that may kill your opponent. Sounded like a great idea but this feature gets boring and repetitive to watch after seeing it a few times.

The Williams SisterNamco attempts to make Death by Degrees a bit more varied by allowing you some Metal Gear Solid-like features. You can sneak into a room and take out your enemies by using a choke hold, but it’s just as effective and faster to simply mash your right analog stick. Also on your way, you will have to use a pair of night vision goggles to maneuver your way through a motion detector or collect fingerprints that will be used for scanner ID pads. These features are fairly basic and mediocre, and if taken out, would not be noticeably different. There are some extra features in Death by Degrees that supposedly give it some replay value. One such feature allows you to play through the game as Nina’s disgruntled sister, Anna Williams. Why in the world you would want to even finish this game to play as her sister is questionable, however. Also included with the game  is a very brief demo of Tekken 5, which is slated for release in late June.

If not for the fact that Death by Degrees has the Tekken label behind it, this game would quietly seep to the bottom of the stack. Even the most die hard of Tekken fans will find it difficult to overcome the repetitive gameplay and justify purchasing this game. If the mindless action of mashing your analog stick to death won’t bore you into using Death by Degrees as a coaster. Although there are several mini-games available such as sniper shooting (which you will also use during the game at certain points), none of them have any entertainment value that would encourage you to play through the game to unlock them.