Review by Lisanne
"Vacuous R Us"
War of the Monsters is a fighting game that features - you guessed it - monsters. And to be honest, that's a fair summary of the entire game. See, unpretentious as it may be, nothing can detract from the fact that this game is supremely vacuous. There isn't a single intelligent thing about it, nor is there anything that can remotely explain the reason why it's flying off the shelves faster than a very fast thing.
It's an anarchic fighting game, based on the principle of arena-based action rather than set ''rounds'' of ordered combat. If you've ever played the Powerstone games on the Dreamcast, you'll know what I'm talking about - War of the Monsters very much draws influence from Powerstone and very obviously as well, but where Powerstone succeeded in providing a highly enjoyable and original gaming experience, WOTM has sadly failed.
The monsters you can use and fight are incredibly reminiscent of the old B Movie characters of bad 1950s horror films (think of King Kong, The Blob, etc). This is what initially drew me to this game - I'm a fan of films that are so bad they're hilarious, and 1950s ''horror'' certainly falls into this category, especially when viewed with a healthy dose of irony and possibly beer. This may be why the game is selling so well, who knows? It's a reason, and the only one I can think of. I'm certainly glad I didn't have to pay money for this game - I would have rented it rather than bought it.
So, the main attraction has to be the monsters - it's the definition of the game. Problem is, they're just so ugly! I know that monsters aren't exactly supposed to be prime eye candy - that's why they're monsters and not just large, pretty people. They're not particularly well-animated though and they show little ingenuity in their designs.
As you'd hope from a game like this, the ability to squash things is indeed present and accounted for. What's the use in being a monster if you can't tread on people? You can walk on local populations and destroy entire cities if you want to all in the course of battle. However, depending on the type of game you've chosen to play, you need to bear in mind that you may have to have several fights in the same location, and if you've destroyed it, then you're left with an empty space to fight in.
So, as a fighting game, fighting is fundamental. Heck, it's the entire game! You have different options here - you can fight against the AI, against a friend (just one - multi-tap doesn't work with WOTM) or a combination of both. My first point here is that the AI is absolutely ridiculous. It will obtain every single special item in each level and will automatically be locked onto you constantly. They made it too good, basically, although it's still quite easy to beat. Fighting therefore takes far longer than it should, and you'll be left without any decent items to help you along.
That said, you'll understand why WOTM is really more enjoyable when played as a multi-player game. The only problem being, as mentioned previously, that you can't use multi-tap controllers and therefore can only play against one other person at a time. Had they saved WOTM to be an online game, it would have been so much better (imagine!), but as it is, it's really lacking in an area that would have been easy to resolve.
This is a reasonably well designed game that looks very sleek, although the monsters themselves are occasionally badly animated. There's a curious sense of the camera moving slower than the action of the game here - sometimes you're left wondering what's going on around you, especially after destroying a building. Overall though, it's an attractive game that serves its purpose well.
I can't say that the graphics are anything new or groundbreaking, though. Actually, it's really unoriginal. Whilst this is a unique addition to the PS2 catalogue of games, there are other (better) monster fighting games out there - the arcade game ''Rampage'' being the perfect example. Whilst Rampage may not graphically be as attractive as WOTM, the rest of the game is far better. Which leads to the sad conclusion that WOTM is a game for those who prefer good graphics.
Now, graphics can make or break a game, yes, BUT they should only really be treated as a great addition to a game rather than the main draw of the game. A great game with good graphics that enhance the experience is better than a great game with bad graphics that detract from game play. But WOTM is a bad game with good graphics, and no matter how pretty something is to look at, that's not a reasonable excuse to neglect what's below the surface; which takes me to the tag-line I used for this review - WOTM is vacuous. There's nothing to it other than good graphics.
Is it worth it?
I'd say ''no''. It's not so bad to dip into very occasionally and only for short bursts. For example, get home from the office or school angry, have a huge ape thing destroy a building a pretend it's the aforementioned office or school. Errr... that's it. It's a short-term stress reliever, but there are far more and far better short-term stress relievers out there.
With so much choice on the market, there's no point shelling out for this. Ultimately, you can do far better, and so could the developers.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 04/15/03, Updated 04/15/03
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