Rampage: Total Destruction Review
Rampage is one of those classic franchises that you wish would get better with age. With every new installment, you hope against hope that the old-fashioned glory of the series is reborn, but each time, you realize the days of the "golden oldies" are long gone. The problem with games like this is that their fun-factor is inherently cemented in old-school entertainment, and along with new technology comes the drive to overhaul old formats.
But for better or for worse, this particular series has managed to maintain its old-fashioned charm. There's something to be said for that, but at the same time, you'd expect the developers to utilize some of that new fandangled tech stuff to enhance the experience. You don't have to rebuild the foundation, but you could build on what's already there, offering your fans a chance to see a familiar yet better Rampage title. Unfortunately, they just haven't made it happen with previous installments, and Rampage: Total Destruction is no different.
Now, you don't expect to see groundbreaking visuals in a game like this, but you do expect to see some definite improvement. Luckily, the graphics are one of the few evident pluses in Total Destruction, primarily due to the wide variety of monster emotions and animations. The backdrops have a moderate amount of detail but aren't exactly crisp or meticulously designed, and in general, there's absolutely nothing to write home about. All this being said, it's solid for a Rampage game, especially when you consider it's never been a focal point of the series.
Surprisingly, it's more about the sound than the graphics. This kind of slammin' game needs top-notch effects and the benefit of a few kickin' soundtracks to compliment the gameplay. And for the most part, they kinda got it half right. The effects resound with the deep cracks and crushes of stone and brick getting mashed under tremendous weight, and there's even a few bits of comical monologue. For example, "this monster's kickin' our can" is one such statement you'll hear often. On the flip side, there's about two total soundtracks in the entire game, making each level seem outrageously repetitive. This, I was not happy to find.
But let's face it- Rampage isn't about polished technicals; it's all about the gameplay. It's about taking control of a giant beast and laying waste to any given city; bringing down buildings, chowing down on helpless humans, and tossing buses around like they were toys. If you have a burning desire to vent your frustrations, chances are, a game like Rampage: Total Destruction is right up your alley. Well, it's right up your alley for at least an hour or so, because after that, you're not likely to keep playing.
The very first thing you notice is the surprising lack of control. It shouldn't be all that difficult to climb around, jump, and attack, but for some reason, they've made it extremely clunky this time around. It takes a much lighter touch than you might expect to change direction on a building (so you can reach to the left instead of the right and vice versa), and simply jumping can be a nightmare. But as the game is only pseudo-3D, there are really only so many directions to leap. And this brings me to my next topic: the environmental layout.
Of course, the franchise originated in 2D, but it also hasn't quite graduated to full 3D, either. Total Destruction puts you in a three-dimensional environment, but you can only move left to right in a set space, with the exception of being able to climb on the sides of buildings. This makes the game unbelievably linear, and while that's nothing new to the series, it's long past time to give the gamer a few more options. Perhaps Pipeworks could've taken a cue from War of the Monsters...
It may be long past time to move Rampage fully into all three dimensions, because it doesn't seem like they can make it any better in this quasi-3D format. They didn't really change much else, but what they did manage to enhance couldn't quite off-set the parts that obviously needed more attention. It takes longer to bring down a building now, monster-on-monster battles have all but disappeared, and the mini-objectives to unlock new characters and upgrades are easy and mundane. Speaking of those upgrades, they were an appreciated addition because they added a modicum of depth and strategy to an almost painfully-straightforward game.
And for more on the plus side of things, the monster animations are fluid and their varied reactions can be downright hilarious. Furthermore, there are many, many crazy beasts to unlock and use, all of which have different strengths, thus adding even more to the gameplay depth. But despite the diverse abilities that include Jump and Crush, each monster pretty much controls the same. And there is far too much overlap when it comes to the upgrades; George's first skill is exactly the same as Ralph's, for instance.
Yeah, we've got a Timed Mode and a King of the World Mode, but they're not likely to hold your attention for very long. The game's bread and butter is entrenched in the campaign and multiplayer, but due to a significant lack of control, repetitive levels, and gameplay that should maintain a higher fun-factor for much longer, the "bread and butter" is crippled. Co-op can be fun and it's always a minor thrill to go bashing around town, but how often can we do the same ol' same ol' without enough of the advancements we might've expected?
In the end, you'll probably make it through Las Vegas, San Francisco, and London, but after that, if you're still playing, you're either immensely bored or far more enamored with the game than I was. Rampage: Total Destruction has few good points, and the basic theme is still good-hearted fun (which does work, to some extent), but there are just too many glaring issues to recommend it for purchase...even if it is only $20. But I always like to leave the reader with something positive, so I'll say it's certainly better than other budget-priced PS2 titles. Beyond that...
10/4/2006 Ben Dutka