Reviewed: May 17, 2006
Released: April 24, 2006
Life sure is ironic. I finally completed a review on the recently released update of SEGA’s 1986 arcade classic OutRun, and the same day I receive a review copy of the recently released update to Midway’s 1986 arcade classic Rampage. Having been a full-fledged card-carrying teenager all way back in 1986, I guess I meet the proper criteria for reviewing said games. However, where seeing the copy of OutRun 2006 in the mailbox left me giddy with excitement, seeing Rampage: Total Destruction left me groaning.
You see, back in my Alex P. Keaton days, I really did not care much for the Rampage game – and to be completely honest, I still don’t. While I can appreciate the fact that the cabinet really revolutionized arcade gaming with the dual-player controls and the free-form play mechanics (at least for 1986 standards), I also did not appreciate that it was one of the first real button-mashing quarter hogs.
I mean, compared to the maze-based and shooter games of the era, Rampage just seemed to lack finesse, what with its clunky controls and confusing gameplay. Yes – I know, smash the buildings – how confusing could that really be? But I just never really felt like I knew what buttons resulted in what actions, and by the time I got an inkling of figuring it out, I had spent my last quarter. Why do that when I could play Tempest or Ms Pac Man for a half hour or more on that very same quarter?
But the game did have a big following, so 20 years later Midway has recently released an bargain priced update called Rampage: Total Destruction for the home consoles.
The story starts in a boardroom meeting of a large energy-drink manufacturer. A scientist is reporting to the board on a product testing mishap for the company’s newest beverage concoction, in which 24 test subjects suddenly transformed into very large and angry beasts, which are currently destroying the nation. And the story is set.
Anyone who has played the original Rampage game knows that there is not a whole lot to describing the gameplay; player picks monster, player picks level, player smashes level with monster. Essentially, that’s all there is to a Rampage game. But don’t get me wrong, Midway has come up with some truly clever ways to smashing.
Obviously modeled after the old-time King Kong and Godzilla movies, the 25 total creatures can scale the buildings and do a variety of kicking and punching maneuvers to break the buildings’ supports and cause the buildings to crash into piles of rubble.
All the while, the creature has to defend himself against police cruisers and helicopters, all firing munitions and tranquilizer darts. The monsters’ can defend themselves by plucking up the passing pedestrians, police, and vehicles and throwing them into the buildings – or simply by eating them. Or, the monster can take the simple route and simply smash the passing humans and vehicles.
The campaign mode travels through a variety of multi-layered cities, each with certain in-game challenges that can help the gamer unlock new moves, or upgrade their characters. For instance, smashing 10 mimes might afford your character new kick or punch special moves. The gamer must progress through a half-dozen levels within a city before the game opens the next area. Saving within each level is a it nebulous, and for the first few plays gamers will be infuriated with having to replay the long levels over and over.
Really my biggest beef with the game would once again have to be the clunky controls – which, when mixed with the often-suspect collision detection system, results in some extremely infuriating moments.
For starters, the context-sensitive controls are not intuitive, and often result in unplanned actions based on the location and stance of the creature. For instance, there are certain times when a button press will elicit a pedestrian grab, but the same button will elicit a punch if the creature is already attached to a building. Try to punch from the ground (something we would like to do, right?), and the creature begins swiping madly.
And speaking of swiping, while the game is overall visually impressive and well laid-out, it is often difficult to judge the placement of the objects within the shallow 3D world. Gamers will find it difficult to grab objects like pedestrians and cars efficiently – and if the character does luck into snagging a moving vehicle, throwing it at a shooting helicopter is nearly impossible to achieve with any degree of certainty.
Also, the way that the buildings collapse is a bit dated. The same grid-like structure of the original game returns, with each building façade being made up of a matrix of bocks. It seems like each of the half-dozen (or a majority at least) cells needs to be smashed to a certain degree before the building will collapse. Although the World Trade Center proved that not to be the case – that one bank of floors can take out an entire building – I am willing to buy it for the game’s sake. But only if the game could make clearer which blocks have had the appropriate amount of destruction and which have not. It almost seems like a crapshoot at times trying to figure out why a mangled building hasn’t fallen yet.
All in all, the game isn’t a total loss – but it is really only really enjoyable in short spurts. In fact, sometimes even too short to employ the save feature. Still, there is something very cathartic about smashing up a city, and chomping on a few dozen hapless pedestrians. But really, there are better ways to spend an hour.
As with most Midway console games, Rampage: Total Destruction looks great on the PS2. The 2D sprites of the original game have been replaced with a cast of 25 characters, all animated in wonderful 3D, and each with their own unique cartoony appearance and highly expressive features.
The cascading backgrounds are not as impressive as the characters however. While the buildings within each locale are quite distinctive – often featuring individually layered designs, and unique features like raised catwalks and interesting signage – the way they all destruct is pretty much identical, and definitely not as exciting as it could have been.
The passing traffic and pedestrians are blocky and badly animated, but serve the monsters’ whole eating, throwing, and smashing purposes well enough.
Still, the overall visual appearance of the gameplay is quite striking. But nothing measures up to the cutscene movies, which are truly of the same quality one would find in a Pixar or Dreamworks movie. In fact, the overall retro styling and humor of the cutscenes was very reminiscent of Pixar’s The Incredible.
The sound quality is fairly mediocre; with generic grunts and groans, smashing and rumbling, sirens and traffic noise.
The high point would have to be the voice acting within the cutscene movies, which is absolutely superb – witty and funny, and definitely of Hollywood quality. Within the game however, the voice acting resorts to the same yells, yelps and exclamations repeated endlessly.
I am trying to find something positive to say about the value, but I really cannot. The game was clunky and clumsy, and having to replay time-consuming level upon level over because of the confusing controls and movement really blows.
Basically, If you convert the $20 price tag to quarters, it equals 80. Would I ever chunk 80 quarters into a Rampage arcade cabinet? Even if it were a brand new 2006 update? No, probably not.
Probably the best thing you get from the game are superior in-game visual quality and a handful of truly kick-ass movies. Otherwise, I would suggest saving your 80 quarters for a PS2 Greatest Hits title.
Rampage: Total Destruction’s gameplay definitely improves on the original title, and all without trying too hard to make the game cool to today’s youth – which is good, since so many retro updates simply make a mockery of the games they are modernizing.
But better than the 1986 title doesn’t make for a great game. In fact, maybe Rampage would have been better off to be left behind, especially if the effort to update the controls isn’t going to be there. Incog’s four-year-old War of Monsters may not have looked as good as Rampage: Total Destruction, but it sure played better and ran a ton smoother.
Tried-and-true fans of the original will be ecstatic with Total Destruction, but the younger hardcore gamers will probably be wishing they were playing their Greatest Hits version of Devil May Cry 3 or God of War for the umpteenth time.