Developer: Pipeworks Software
Release Date: April 24, 2006
It's a classic formula: Take a classic (or simply old) game, modernize it for the latest console, and sell for a quick buck. Optionally, repeat for more quick bucks. Midway's followed this procedure to the fullest with Rampage: World Destruction, and unfortunately, the results are not exactly the most impressive in the modernized classic meter, falling somewhere between Shadow the Hedgehog and Megaman X7 in terms of quality on almost every level, with one very major exception.
For those who have never played Rampage before, first off, go ahead and rent this version and press X at the main menu so you can play the original Rampage arcade game and/or the comically styled Rampage: World Tour, the first remake. Basically, you play as a giant monster that climbs up and down buildings, making sure to eat or break anything in its way. Victims could be the omnipresent military forces, gawking bystanders or a giant American flag – anything that's the right size for you to grab and destroy.
Needless to say, political correctness is not a hallmark of the series. Wreck every building in an area, and you go on to the next, destroying more and more complex neighborhoods over time, ad infinitum. The formula is exactly the same but progressively more complex with each iteration – the original had Jump and Punch buttons, World Tour threw in kick buttons, and Total Destruction throws in 3D controls and a dedicated grabbing button – but you are still simply wrecking buildings and going to the next one.
The core problem comes in trying to stay pure to this formula while performing a severe feature creep operation. Unlockable content in a poorly handled fashion, "upgrading" to 3D while trying to preserve the transparently grid-based simplicity of the original versions, adding in boss fights at the end of every 10 stages, "improved" multiplayer support, and more available actions end up turning the game from a fun destruct-a-thon to barely tolerable, almost chore-like wrecking, while hunting the pixels that will get you new items.
To unlock new things in Total Destruction, you find them in the buildings – grab a miniaturized freezing tube, and another of the 30 basically identical characters pops out. Find two, three, or four of a specified item, and you get a special move. The problem is, that if a building holding an item collapses, you can't get that item, making it either a crapshoot to get the items you need, or an annoying process of smashing in every window and hoping you get lucky. This turns the relatively joyous smashing into annoying pixel-hunting. You can enjoy the game or get some of the unlockable items – pick one each time you play through one of the seven 10-level sets.
Some games just don't work as well when you take a pseudo-3D style and turn it into the real thing. This produces several major issues, not the least of which being that they preserved the rather wooden control scheme that defined the original titles, which results in your character moving like a slug with a red target on its back for the military guns, whose damage capability has been toned down to the point of eliminating any sense of difficulty. Your punches also go right through things you assume they would hit and damage.
This could have worked if the conversion to 3D had been simpler to understand – unfortunately, Midway decided to add command after command after command, until you cannot be sure what hitting a certain button will do for sure. It takes much longer than it should to get used to the controls, which makes the core playability issues all the more obvious.
The graphics, which are simple and enjoyable when taken in the context of 2D sprite-based graphics, become devoid of detail and convey less of a destructive feeling when converted to polygons. They lose their luster and fluid sense of your dealing damage, even though they are perfectly functional if you look at any one screenshot of the game. When a building falls, you don't even get nice-looking smoke effects or decent-looking rubble. The only good news is that the camera is locked in place, and you cannot typically end up behind a building. The best part of the game's graphics are the sub-par – but thematically fitting – menu screens, which don't lose speed in translation.
I should also add that the game's advertised ability to throw objects around to increase the destruction is critically hampered by the controls; you will have a hard time hitting a building that is right next to you, let alone the helicopters or other vehicles, with that car you just picked up. This turns what could have been a very fun advance in destruction into a mere diversion for a few extra points which does nothing to really improve play.
The sound in Total Destruction is not much better. The whumps and crashes sound reasonable, but the music is as generic as can be, and the tiny numbers of voice clips will inevitably repeat, again and again and again. This is particularly true of the clips associated with power-ups and filling the "Rampage" meter – I actually dreaded getting power-ups because of the unpleasant voice clips that were sure to follow.
The title does have a few things going for it. First off, they do an excellent job of making parodies of the city landmarks you are destroying, keeping them just authentic enough to be satisfying, while just "off" enough to match with the cartoony feel of the graphics. The game's sense of humor runs fairly well throughout, and keeps things nice and campy. They were not going for Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, and the results are perfectly good for short, non-Jackonesque smashdowns.
Total Destruction is also at its best in multiplayer play, by fiat of keeping it simple. You can have one helper to make the campaign mode easy; King of the City, to see who can cause the most damage per city block; or King of the World to see who can endure to cause the most damage to the most blocks across all cities. Allowing players to have per-profile unlocks is a nice personalizing touch but isn't necessary if one person just unlocks everything.
Rampage: Total Destruction really does not live up to the rather modest quality levels of World Tour or the original, and chooses to highlight this fact by offering the entire arcade versions of the prequels in the cartridge – they both port over very well, by the way. I cannot recommend it to most players in spite of these additions, but dedicated destructophiles may wish to give it a try with a rental and decide. Perhaps you'll see something that I did not, and find an enjoyable game that's average at best.
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