The only thing more depressing than a remake of a classic game that isn't very good is a remake of a classic game that simultaneously isn't good on its own merits, and also manages to bring you to the realization that the classic game on which it's based isn't as good as you remember it being. Midway's Rampage series took arcades by storm back in the late '80s, providing players with the ability to storm through various metropolitan areas of the world and destroy them with gargantuan monsters. It was the kind of simplistic, button-mashy fun that could fly in a simpler time, a game designed specifically for mindless entertainment and to keep you inserting quarters. There actually hasn't been a new version of Rampage in half a decade, and after playing Rampage: Total Destruction, the newest installment in the series, it's not tough to see why. It's not that Total Destruction is terribly made; if anything, for a $20 budget game, it's pretty well produced and effectively captures the same spirit of silly destruction that the old Rampage games did. The problem is that the gameplay simply hasn't evolved over time. You wander around the same types of two-dimensional environments (though now they're in pseudo-3D), punching the same buildings and eating the same people that you did back in the '80s. Now, that style of gameplay simply feels punishingly repetitive, rather than goofy and fun. Adding something, anything new to the formula might have helped stave off the cold grasp of obsolescence that Total Destruction is caught in. As it is, Total Destruction is just a pretty new saddle for a dying horse.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2006/068/929424_20060310_embed004.jpgYour fond memories of the original Rampage not withstanding, trying to play what is, in essence, a prettied up version of an ancient arcade game in 2006 is not much fun.
The premise for Rampage: Total Destruction is as simplistic as any of the previous games to bear the name. Giant monsters roam from city to city, busting down every building that comes into their path so they can move onto the next block and do it all over again. Total Destruction toys with bringing in a bit of a plot to the proceedings, setting up the creation of the game's various monsters via a failed taste test of "Scum Soda," which mutates all its subjects horribly. But that story never extends beyond the opening cutscene and is completely secondary to you busting tall buildings as if they were chiffarobes, or something. The three main monsters from the old games--George, Lizzie, and Ralph (a gigantic gorilla, lizard, and werewolf, respectively)--are on hand for this version, as well as a whole host of other monsters, like a Cyclops, a giant fishman, a giant squidman, a big rock thing, something that might be a jackalope, and others. However, no matter what monster you choose, you're basically playing the same character throughout. Each monster has a few specific stats that supposedly make them better for jumping, running, or smashing, respectively, but the tangibility of these differences is minimal at best, and the moves are the same across the board for every monster.
Those moves include, and are basically exclusive to, climbing up and punching/kicking/stomping buildings, picking up and smashing cars, picking up and eating people, and a few special moves that can be earned as you spend more time playing as a specific monster. Each block has anywhere between four and 10 buildings to bust up, and all the while, cops, SWAT members, and military types will come after you with guns, helicopters, tanks, and the like. Apart from the occasional breaks you'll need to take to bust up the helicopters and tanks, there's really not anything more to the gameplay than simply breaking down buildings, moving to the next block, and repeating the process over and over again until you've destroyed the entire city. The attacks aren't even that interesting. You just hammer on a button, hold down a button until it charges up a more powerful attack, or press a direction on the analog stick with a button to do a directional attack. That's about it. If the game gave you more to do with these attacks, that might be OK, but it doesn't. The 2D-plane environments give the game a constantly recycled feel. You don't feel like you're destroying a unique environment every time--you feel like you're destroying the same environment over and over again, because in effect, you are.
While the game really isn't much fun at all from a single-player perspective, there's enough multiplayer action to make things at least a tad more interesting. Up to two players can play the main campaign mode cooperatively, but there are also king-of-the-city and king-of-the-world modes available for up to four players on the GameCube (it remains two-player only on the PlayStation2). Both are basically the same thing as the main campaign, but with the specific goal of competing for the highest score. In any multiplayer arena, you can go up and attack fellow monsters to try and knock them off their game, but there's not much you can do save for punching in their general direction. No cool special attacks or anything for some good, old-fashioned monster-on-monster violence. Again, the multiplayer only adds a bit of distinction to the overall experience. It's just inherently more fun to destroy things with someone else in the room to help out. It doesn't make the gameplay any less repetitive or inevitably dull.
Total Destruction does do a decent job of presenting itself. The monsters look quite good. They animate well, move nicely in the context of the environments, and are creatively designed. The pseudo-3D environments also look nice enough. No high-res textures or special lighting effects are to be found, but the buildings break apart well, and things explode nicely. The audio is a little more hit-and-miss. There are plenty of monstrous roars, thunderous smashes, and obnoxious belching, but it all repeats way, way too much. There just aren't enough sound effects to offset the amount of repetitive action going on, leading to constant and incessant repetition of the same annoying sounds. The soundtrack is pretty generic, though it generally jibes with the action pretty well. Voice acting is barely present, but what's there works well enough.
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/2006/054/929424_20060224_embed006.jpg Multiplayer keeps things a little fresher than they'd be otherwise, but the painfully repetitive gameplay is still painfully repetitive, even with multiple players.
Perhaps the saddest thing about Total Destruction is its inclusion of the original Rampage and Rampage: World Tour arcade games as bonus extras. It's not sad because they're bad emulations of the original games; in fact, they're pretty spot on. The problem is that being able to directly compare these ancient games to the new one, and seeing so little forward progress between the two, is just crushing. Not to mention that these old games simply don't hold up that well in this day and age.
There's a certain irony in the fact that Rampage: Total Destruction was developed by longtime Godzilla developers Pipeworks Software. For as dull as the action in those games tended to be, at least they gave you more to do with wide-open 3D environments and more in the way of angry monsters fighting each other with cool-looking moves. Total Destruction didn't necessarily have to turn into some kind of carbon copy of those silly Godzilla games to succeed, but the fact that it can't even quite measure up to the flawed giant monster games of the recent past is a pretty damning thing. At best, Total Destruction is a brief distraction. At worst, it's an obsolete relic from too many years ago.