Reviewed: May 29, 2006
Released: April 24, 2006
It probably shouldnít come as any surprise that Midway is one of the reigning kings of retro games. Theyíve been in this business for over two decades and some of my earliest arcade memories are playing Midway games like Gauntlet and Spyhunter. And while itís far easier to double-dip into the existing design pool than to try and come up with the next big ďthingĒ, at least when Midway revisits a franchise they do it with style.
Rampage: Total Destruction celebrates the 20th birthday of the original Rampage coin-op, which means younger gamers will need to ask their dads about this title, assuming they havenít already taken over your console with their own copy.
Recently released on the PS2 and GameCube, Nintendo easily gets the best version with cleaner graphics and built-in four-player cooperative play, as it was meant to be. The premise is simple Ė play as any of 30 insanely creative monsters as they terrorize and destroy all your favorite cities and popular landmarks on a worldwide tour of destruction.
You didnít need a reason (or story) to play games in 1986, but today we expect one so we now get a clever tale to setup the mayhem. We join a board meeting, already in progress with a scientist reporting to the executives on a product testing mishap for the companyís newest beverage concoction, in which 24 test subjects suddenly transformed into very large and angry beasts, which are currently destroying the nation.
Gameplay is only slightly more complex than it was twenty years ago. You basically punch and kick buildings, stomp on cars and people, or pick-up anything that can be grasped and smash it or throw it into something else. Admittedly, it does get a bit repetitive if you try to have some kind of monster marathon, but taken in small doses and mixing up the clever cast of characters makes this a delightful diversion, especially when friends are over.
Itís the multiplayer that really sells the premise, because it just doesnít get any better than having two, three, or even four monsters pulverizing the cityscape in a race for destruction points and power-ups. And even though itís cooperative, it can also get quite competitive.
The attack system is far more advanced than the original arcade game. You now have numerous attacks and combos along with new moves that are unlocked as you progress through the story levels and cities. The unlockable content in this game might not be as vast as Mortal Kombat but it comes in a close second.
Choosing the right monster is made quite fun with a trading card system where you have each monster picture on a card and then you flip it over for their stats and abilities. When playing multiplayer, each person can pick a monster that will fill in the weaknesses of their fellow fiends. If done correctly, you can have quite the destructive force under your command.
As you get further into the game the population starts to fight back. At first its easy stuff like cops, then they call in the National Guard and then the tanks and choppers start taking shots at you. There are plentiful power-ups, some give you health, and others make you sick, and others give you temporary ability boosts. Itís pure and simple arcade action at its best.
Rampage: Total Destruction looked good on the PS2 but itís even better on the GameCube with smoother graphics and improved textures, but the graphics remain purposely primitive. Even though the monsters and the cities are now in glorious 3D they all have a distinct sprite-like appeal to them with robotic animation when you climb or punch a building.
Each of the cities has all of the popular landmarks you would expect, both to help identify the city and give you the pleasure of smashing said landmarks. These levels are much more complex than the original game with more depth. You now have the ability to go ďintoĒ the screen and destroy streets beyond the foreground, but even with this new 3D faÁade the buildings and their animated destruction is still extremely simple.
As you smash buildings it will swap the clean texture with a cracked or smashed texture and when you have smashed enough of a building it will sink into the street, often with you still attached. The passing traffic and pedestrians are small and simply animated, but they still serve their purpose as food or projectiles.
Unlike their new Gauntlet game, Rampage: Total Destruction isnít meant to be a huge retro-refit, but it still is an attractive game. Rising above the primitive gameplay visuals are some of the best cutscenes Iíve seen on the GameCube for quite some time. These are easily feature-film quality.
The sound quality is fairly mediocre; with generic grunts and groans, smashing and rumbling, sirens and traffic noise. The music is forgettable, not in a bad way, but more so in that it blends into the menus and gameplay so seamlessly you donít really notice it.
The voice acting in the numerous cutscene movies steals the show with witty and funny dialogue that is definitely of Hollywood quality. The only voices youíll hear during the game are the repetitive (but often humorous) cries and taunts of the population.
Rampage: Total Destruction is wisely priced at $20, which is fair. Given its simplistic and repetitive gameplay, anything more would have been pushing it, but with such addictive and destructive gameplay, combined with a strong multiplayer component, especially on the GameCube, this is a great deal and a must-own game for anybody who like to share their game time.
Rampage: Total Destructionís gameplay is not only a great homage to the original, it improves on it with more monsters and a greater variety of moves, plus a massive collection of unlockable content that will keep you playing for months to come.
Midway isnít trying to create something new here, but they have created something witty and fun, and isnít that why we play these games in the first place? And who knows; Total Destruction might just bring a few fathers and sons together around the old Cube, and dad might even win a few.