reviews\ Jan 20, 2003 at 7:00 pm

War of the Monsters - PS2 - Review

Long before Anakin fell to the dark side, long before Toby Maguire donned a Spider-Man suit, and long before The Lord of the Rings wowed audiences on the big screen, King Kong ruled theaters with an animatronics fist.  Incog, makers of the fabulous Twisted Metal series, saw potential in this rarely used medium.  With loads of experience in multiplayer console game development, Incog decided to take what they had learned over the years and apply it to a game about several enormous monsters that threaten to take over the world.  The result is War of the Monsters, one of the first great games you'll play in 2003.

Once you begin your first game, you'll hear familiar monster movie sounds and see a large drive-in movie screen, setting the tone of the game.  Projected on the screen is the monster highlighted on the selection bar.  From a giant preying mantis to a King Kong look-alike named Congar, War of the Monsters has a nice (but small) selection of gargantuan beasts to choose from.  (My current favorite is Togera, the Godzilla look-alike.)

Every monster has the ability to grab, punch and throw one another across the city.  In this big world with even bigger monsters, buildings become highly destructible obstacles.  Like the monsters themselves, weapons come in all types, shapes and sizes.  Standard stuff like machine-guns and rocket launchers were passed over in favor of the monsters' natural powers and real-life objects: cars, helicopters, steel beams and building pieces.  Just pick up a car and toss it at your opponent or hang onto the vehicle and beat the sucker with it.  Sharp objects, like antennas (the giant, 20-foot kind that sit on top of buildings) can be used as spears to impale any monster that won't stop breathing fire down your neck.  Impaled monsters become temporarily paralyzed, eliminating their ability to attack or defend.

Skyscrapers are as weak to these monsters as porcelain dolls are to a hyper 10-year-old boy.  Virtually everything in the city arenas is breakable.  Any object -- big or small -- has the power to obliterate a 30-story building when thrown from the fist of a monster.  And the best part is that YOU are in control of one of these monsters!

Not too long into the game you'll begin to notice several similarities between War of the Monsters and a certain arcade game from the 1980s: Rampage.  The basic gameplay concepts are the same, but Incog greatly expanded on it, making WoTM much more involving than any of the Rampage titles released thus far.

Although more complex, WotM can be easily approached by gamers of all skill levels.  There's so much to learn here: square and triangle are the main attack buttons, X jumps and the circle button is used to grab anything within your grasp.  R1 and L1 make your monster oscillate, and make him lock-on to his opponent when held simultaneously.  There's not much more to the game than that.

The excessive use of polygons and individual shapes creates an amazing spectacle of abolished cities.  Buildings crumble in so many unique ways that it is unlikely that you'll ever feel like you've seen the same animation twice.  Dust, dirt and dozens of small pieces of concrete wrap the destroyed building in a blanket of eye-popping goodness. 

It goes without saying that War of the Monsters is a little on the cartoony side of things.  But there is so much to see -- perhaps more than there is to do -- that you'll find yourself foolishly staring at the busy city streets when you should be watching your opponent.  Buildings are rendered with high-quality textures and loads of polygons.  These are not merely flat, rectangular wire-frame models that went to the salon to look pretty; they're intricate sculptures that look nice when intact, and look absolutely stunning when in pieces.

The music and sound effects are pretty much what you'd expect from a game about a war of classic movie monsters.  High, intense shrieks are mixed with a decent collection of instruments, creating a full sound of monster movie madness.  While cool, and by all means the best musical score a game like this could have, it'll get on your nerves after a while.  Think about it: would you want to have to listen to the soundtrack from King Kong while engaging in a two-hour gaming marathon?

The sound effects are just as repetitive, but they're also cool, and the game would definitely not be the same without them.  There's nothing like the sound of a monster being flung into a tall building. 

PlayStation 2 owners didn't have a party game that they could sink their fingers into (not that they needed one, considering all of the great multiplayer games it has) until January 17.  That's the day that War of the Monsters roared across store shelves.  As with most party games, its single-player mode will not hook you for too many months.  However, its two-player mode is so addictive that you'll be playing it several years from now.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.9
Multiplayer action is where this game is at.  The single-player adventure mode is good, but not all of the battles are worth reliving again and again.  Of course, the multiplayer is entertaining enough that it doesn't matter too much.  You won't want to spend much time playing by yourself anyway, since you're going to be very busy playing this game with friends, relatives, and if no one else is around, complete strangers!

Graphics: 8 
Sure, this isn't the most realistic-looking game on earth, but it's definitely one of the coolest.  I don't think I have ever seen destructive effects this good before!

Sound: 7
Monster movie fans will be taken back to the good old days when their ears get their first taste of War of the Monsters' soundtrack.  The great feeling won't necessarily last though, because this isn't exactly the kind of soundtrack that fills your heart and soul with music.  It's good, but annoying.

Difficulty: Easy
The single-player mode is unusually easy.  Twisted Metal: Black was so difficult at times that I just wanted to give up.  War of the Monsters is so easy that I found myself saying, "That's it?  That's all you got?"  Seriously, it's one of the easiest games I've played in months.

Concept: 7 
Rampage on steroids?  No, more like asteroids!  War of the Monsters takes city-crushing gameplay to a whole new level with excellent new twists and improvements.

Multiplayer: 8.5
Grab this game, call a few friends and have yourself a monster-good time.

Overall: 8.2
The fast, frantic, explosive action is enough to entertain gamers of all ages.  It's rated Teen, but lots of kids see movies rated PG-13, and this game is a lot tamer than a movie, so don't stop yourself from inviting the whole family over for a War of the Monsters gaming session.


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