Review by IamTheWhiteGuy

"War of the Monsters comes across as being the game that almost was, but wasn't"

Well, for starters just let me say I was REALLY looking forward to War of the Monsters. I did not give it a 2 because I don't like giant monster games. Rather I love them. I mean come on, be realistic now, who would not want to play a game about monsters fighting about different cities teeming with hapless screaming people, destroying everything? Not a soul on this earth, that's who. And let me tell you, I was excited to play it. Enough for me to spend twenty minutes walking out to the Electronics Boutique in about 30 degrees Celsius below weather, even after finding out that while there could still be 4 monsters in a game at one time thanks to CPUs, the four player mode was taken out. Maybe my high expectations affected my opinion of the game but the point is, this is not a good game. It’s a fantastic idea, I'll admit. Hey, it could've even been a great game but, you see, certain monsters seem to pound other monsters with ease. I've also noticed that computers (even on the easy setting) are incredible at setting up strings of combo after combo after combo. Basically, you start the match, get stuck in a big never ending combo and die.
In case my point is not as obvious as I hope, war of the monsters is button mashing of the worst kind. You get near a monster and press the square and triangle buttons with up or down on the D-Pad (since War of the Monsters is in practice unplayable with the analog stick) and launch him across the level, then repeat with special attacks (one long range and one close range performed by pressing triangle and circle and square and X respectively for each monster all close range attacks are fundamentally the same). Those attacks will then either stun, knock down or fling a monster across the level. You can pick up fragments of buildings and cars and in fact most of the debris which finds its way to the ground (the better of which are found in hard to reach places) and hit other monsters with it. By pressing the same button you did to pick something up (default circle), you can now throw it at a monster!
The whole formula might sound good so far. It is. If they had left the game at that, it would have been pretty cool. Sadly, they didn't.
There is always SO MUCH stuff on the ground here and there that you'll seldom be able to pick up the right thing, and for some reason the game seems to steer you towards picking up useless things like sedans rather than usable items like oil tankers or radio towers. Not only this, but sometimes certain buildings (it seems very dependant on which building it is, rather than how you knock it down) can come careening down on monsters, instantaneously killing anyone stuck beneath it(naturally there is no animation, they just disappear very suddenly). It sounds cool, but all to often you're way ahead in a match when for some reason the building topples down on you. Certain objects can impale monsters when thrown , whereupon you can line them up for some obscenely unfair combo because the other monster is performing some spasmodic jerky ugly looking animations try to remove the radio tower from their chest. Impaling is in fact so good, if a level has radio towers, there is no point doing any other attack. There are also pickups, which restore health and energy(coming in the +5, +25 and +100 variations) and your special attack meter. Pickups are integral to the game, far too integral in fact and so all the fighting is built around getting more pickups then the other guy and making sure he doesn't get any pickups. All this would be annoying, but not condemning for this game. The kicker is that some monsters seem to win disproportionately. While all monsters can jump fairly high, two of them can fly. These monsters will win. Every time. Without fail. This is because their projectile attacks (performed simply by hitting square while a fair distance away from an opponent) are so excellent, their specials cater to fire and forget styles of playing, they move much, much faster and freely than other monsters and stay out of the way of grounded monsters specials or thrown weapons AND they always make it to the best items and pickups. The two monsters I'm thinking of, Raptros (just a big unimaginative dragon) and Preytor (an equally unimaginative giant preying mantis) are not only the least cool of the cast (which is very cool), but make it impossible to play as anyone else (and win). These two turn some matches of War of the Monsters in to what feels like ''Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator'' That leaves you with eight non-flying monsters to play as or nine with the ultra secret monster, which is definitely not a good number for a fighting game (even with the flying monsters, there are only 11 monsters). Some of these monsters are big, slow and tough as nails, whereas some are lighter and faster. In a button masher, this is bad news and you'll agree as soon as you try playing as one of the bruiser characters.
On the subject of multiplayer, this game should have been four player. The developers planned it and took it out because of 'time constraints' or something similarly ridiculous. Nevermind the fact that there can be three CPUs and a player, or two players and 2 CPUs, there cannot be four players. That sounds like a profound lack of effort on the developers part. The Multiplayer modes are all woefully inadequate. In free-for-all you can play a sudden death match, a match played till one player has two kills or a match that just goes on forever. In elimination, you run on lives instead (running from 1-5 lives a player). You cannot do three kills, or four kills and the computers ruthlessly hunt down the human player. You may get the impression that they fight among each other from ''War of the Monsters'', but if you are on the same three quarters of the map they are, they're coming for you (naturally, to the exclusion of any other computer monsters).
The unlockables offered are weak at best, the three mini-games sound fun in principle, but they aren't or are only fun for the first thirty minutes of play (and there are no four player minigames, which defeats the point). Beating the single-player adventure mode (which is the exact same for every monster) yields you 'points' which you spend on unlocking monsters (you only have eight to begin with, you unlock Raptros and Zorgulon), the aforementioned mini-games and new levels. However you have to unlock the first costume in order to unlock the monster. Why that would be the case (and why the game would not explain it) is beyond me. The four new levels are fairly good, except mini-Baytown and offer some extra life to the game. You'll have to beat the single-player adventure several times in order to have enough points to buy anything impressive, which is fine because the single-player adventure only takes 45 minutes to finish the first time through. The FMVs which wrap up the story mode are between 15 and 20 seconds of average quality FMV per monster.
The controls in all three setups are good and fairly intuitive. Unfortunately, the actual response time of the controls is sluggish and comboing is much harder and more imprecise than it should be (many attacks seem to send monsters careening off in to the distance, when you want to be there to beat them down again so they can't grab all sorts of powerups). You may even find yourself standing face to face with another monster trying to do a combo, only to launch a devastating 13 hit in to the building beside you. Actually moving your monster is painful, pulling back on the analog or pressing down on the D Pad sets your monster running backwards while pressing right or left turn and L1 and R1 strafe, giving the game a very unwelcome first person shooter feel, which is amplified by the projectile weapons. You can hold both L1 and R1 simultaneously to lock on to another monster (when say, you are throwing something or doing a special slightly in to the air or downwards or just need a little extra accuracy), but it works very erratically, and some ranged specials seem to travel in a 2D plane; that is they refuse to go up or down, so when a monster is even slightly above an explosive projectile it will miss and continue on towards the edge of a level. As I said, its far to easy to get stuck in a combo and just end up shooting on past a foe and the more useful attacks (the dash and pound attacks) are incredibly hard to pull off until you know what you're doing and since the game gives no help here, you have to figure it out by yourself (pressing forward lots seems to do the trick). The in game help does a nice job of starting you off, but the manual is relatively useless.
The graphics are pretty slick, albeit with some major animation hiccups and oversights here and there (being impaled comes to mind, along with being crushed). Despite the levels having inconsistent design quality (some are definitely inspired and thought out and others look like the developers made them while having coffee) most are fun to play in.
The sound in the game is very limited. Lots of crashing and banging goes on (it might be one ubiquitous sound for all I can tell), along with monster roars or bellows and a repetitive and boring soundtrack playing(the opening title screen is the musical high point in the game).
War of the Monster is all in all a potentially genre redefining game gone horribly, horribly awry. I cannot stress my disappointment. However, I've heard rumors about one with online play... maybe Incog Inc. will redeem themselves? As it stands, it better be one heck of a game to come back from this one (and it better last longer than an afternoon).
I think that it bears mentioning that it doesn't make me happy to pan games. Let alone war of the monsters. I spent $59.99 on this, expecting to be wowed. My jaw almost dropped when I saw what this game was actually like. Please, do yourself a favor, and don't set yourself up for a big let down.

Graphics: 7/10
Gameplay: 1/10
Sound: 1/10
Control: 0/10
Value: 2/10

Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 03/05/03, Updated 03/05/03

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