There’s just something special about giant monsters from 1950′s. Maybe they’re quirky, maybe they’re cheesy, but maybe it’s just that they provide a load of entertainment value, something missing from so many of the more recent entries in the genre. “War of the Monsters” developer Incog Inc. obviously has fond memories of the various films of the era and took it all to heart for a nice title on the Playstation 2. It’s a real shame it misfires a lot.
Flying saucers have invaded the Earth and are slowly tearing apart our cities. Scientists around the world collaborate to create a super weapon that will destroy them and save the world. It all works as planned, just not like they had hoped. Once the saucers make their crash landing, a mysterious green ooze seeps from inside, infecting multiple animals (along with a few elements) and causing severe mutations. Now that these radiated monstrosities are loose and destroying our planet one city at a time, it’s an all out battle of the giants that no one can stop.
Things go very well from the start. The spectacular opening cinema is superbly done and the menu system is perfect (resembling a drive-in theater). The one player adventure mode is obviously the heart of the game. Ten monsters are available from the start and two more can be unlocked with some work. Players will be faced with a variety of challenges, from simple one-on-one slugfests to all-out assaults involving multiple enemies. Boss fights that occur about every three stages are not only brutal, but take quite some time to finish.
If the adventure mode becomes repetitive, you can play a quick free-for-all or test your real skill in an endurance match. Two players (via a split-screen, there is no online play) can play both of the latter modes or compete in one of the various mini-games. Each of those has to be unlocked in the adventure mode by spending the tokens you earned after each brawl. There are three in total including a wildly fun dodge ball game.
The problem here is actually getting far enough to unlock everything. Due to the games various problems, it can seem impossible at times. First and foremost are the controls. Not only do they involve far too many buttons, there are times when they just don’t seem accurate enough. To lock-on to an enemy, you need to press two shoulder buttons at once. Not only does it cause your hands to cramp, but also everything just seems to be a second behind. If you’re not locked, forget about it. Just turning becomes an impossible task.
The wild camera, which is either in the wrong place or moving in a completely different direction that you want it to, makes it impossible to tell where you are or what you’re doing. It sits just behind the player’s monster, but any major movement sends it someplace else entirely. Locking on to an opponent is the only real way to settle it down. You can use the right analog stick, but the touchy controls make everything more confusing.
Should you be faced with multiple enemies on anything else other than the easiest difficulty level, be prepared to take a beating. The computer A.I. is ruthless. Once you’re in position to begin beating an enemy, the other monster (or monsters in some cases) will begin launching projectile attacks that you have no way of avoiding. The camera doesn’t allow you to see what’s coming. You have to give credit to the developers for never letting the UFO’s or army take a shot at the enemy. The player is the only one who will be in their path of fire.
Each of the creature designs are inspired creations and most are of course based off, well, “real” monsters. Togera is the Godzilla clone here, featuring a nice spiked tail, which can do quite a bit of damage. Congar is King Kong, Preytor is the Deadly Mantis, and Ultra V is one of the many Japanese super-robots. Interesting designs include Kineticlops, a ball of electricity and the two magma based rock monsters, Magmo and Agamo. Finally we have Robo-47, the militaries answer to the current situation.
While they may all look different and different characteristics (reach, power, etc.), most of the monsters are the same. In close, they all perform a basic a 4 or 5 hit combo and at long range they shoot a projectile. They all can throw items, climb, and jump. Only their special moves separate them with any significance. You can play the game the exact same way with any of the monsters. There’s no need to change strategies.
At least the monsters look good. Actually, most of the game does. The cities are all well rendered (though fictional) and buildings crumbling to the ground look fantastic. The lighting effects are well utilized and the countless people running around on the ground are some of the games best touches. Even the loading screens are original with imaginary posters for each of the creatures “movies.” Probably the games best touch are the alternate costumes. In some ways, you can actually believe the roster is bigger than it is. Preytor’s second costume actually makes him a giant ant instead of a mantis, an obvious nod to the classic “Them!”
They got the audio portion right too. There is a masterful soundtrack under the action, though it can be hard to hear with so much going on. Any of these tracks could have been in one of the movies from the era. The monsters all have roars they can call their own. Some may sound a little familiar, but each was created for the game. Finally, those with a surround sound system with support for Dolby Pro Logic II get a real treat. The surround effect is better than in most movies.
“War of the Monsters” isn’t a terrible game, just a disappointment. Its main competition, “Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee,” bettered it before it was even released (though on an entirely different system). This is one of those games that just tries to do too much and in the process, needlessly complicates things. There is certainly potential for a sequel, but only if the large list of major problems are addressed.