Death by Degrees centres on one of the lesser known characters from the Tekken franchise, Nina Williams. The title comes from the fact that kills, attacks and movement are all performed using the analog stick. It is an intriguing concept that sounds a lot better than it actually is. Death by Degrees is played from a third person perspective, which is very similar to Metal Gear Solid.
Set prior to the first Tekken game, this prequel focuses on the events that lead up to Nina's involvement in the Iron Fist Tournament. Nina's back-story centres on a secret organisation called Kometa, Kometa wields a powerful weapon named "Salacia" and it is feared as a deadly terrorist threat. The action starts on a luxury cruise ship, where the executives of Kometa organisation have gathered in anticipation of an underground fighting tournament. To investigate the organisation, Nina Williams enters the tournament and becomes its champion. The game begins with Nina imprisoned on the cruise ship, Nina learns that a fellow agent has gone missing, and she is ordered to ensure the success of the mission.
After the long unskippable introduction and a novel tutorial featuring Nina in a bikini, players take control of Nina in one of the rooms of the ship. After a bit of navigation the game begins. It is a pretty sombre beginning, but is did remind us vaguely of Metal Gear Solid.
Using the analog stick to control Nina ensures 360 degrees of control, but this isn't used as effectively as it could have been as Nina's moves aren't that varied, in fact using the analog stick reveals some of the downfalls and lack of variance in Nina's moves.
There are 140 rooms in the game, but a lot of them look similar, Death by Degrees also features on-screen "X-Ray vision" which allows you to target the enemies bones and internal organs, brutal.
Aside from the story mode, Death by Degrees also features a challenge mode, Anna mode, Sniper mode, Hover-camera mode and Puzzle mode.
The game play is not as exciting as it sounds either. The game becomes very repetitive very quickly though, and the countless number of enemies that come at Nina are fairly easy to kill. Due to the fact that the analog sticks are occupied with movement and attacking there is no easy way to move the camera. Often the biggest obstacle in the game is the camera itself. It really should have been easier to move the camera, as this game features the worst camera work we've seen in a game for a very long time.
At times we found ourselves blocked by the camera, meaning an enemy would come from behind and injure us. This blatantly infuriated us, as it felt cheap and simply made us want to turn the Playstatoin 2 off.
One of the other things which turns us off is the ridiculous amount of loading. Walk somewhere - load, open a map - load, it just all becomes a bit much. Also, for some reason Namco have decided to tease players with a save spot, they must find three bars of "reception" before they can save, this wouldn't be so bad if there was some logic to finding the save spot, but they have just been randomly placed in random areas.
Generally Namco present fairly good production values with their titles, and Death by Degrees is no exception. The FMV's look absolutely brilliant, but unfortunately the game is slow and the graphics aren't as good as they could be, considering the game doesn't have to map too much environment, we really expected more. The game can also be far too linear at times, and setting the game on a ship has also meant the scenary doesn't vary too much, which can make the game feel repetitive, combine this with the repetitive combat and the game feels very repetitive. The graphics are just far to bland, after the FMV we really expected more.
It is clear from the beginning that Namco have tried to create a game that replicates Metal Gear Solid, but with a female heroine. This is especially evident with the soundtrack, The music is grasping and really good as it helps to create the atmosphere of the game. Namco have demonstrated great production values once again, however, just because a game has good production values doesn't mean the game is necessarily good.
Death by Degrees should last the player a fairly long time. There are plenty of modes, some of which are more of a highlight than the story mode (for example the sniper mode is great fun). However, we doubt many people would stay amused enough with the game to play through everything. Namco have also included plenty of unlockables such as a movie player, music player and different difficulty levels.
Death by Degrees is a poor game. Nina wasn't a good choice as a playable character, but this wasn't the only bad choice made by Namco in the development process. Spin off titles barely fair well and this is a classic example. The production values are high class, but the average graphics, average game play and terrible camera really detract from the game's overall enjoyability. Death by Degrees could have been a good game, we guess we'll just have to wait until Tekken 5.
We really can't help but think that Death by Degrees would have been much better if there conventional controls, sometimes a developer can try too hard. We hope Namco learn there lesson and stick to a true Tekken sequel, rather than try and cash in with a gimmick, with a gimmicky character, a better character with a better storyline should have been selected, as throughout the entire game Namco has to refer to Nina as "Tekken's Nina". The Tekken franchise is known, Nina on her own is not. The Tekken franchise is good, Death by Degrees is not.