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War of the Monsters

Developer: Incognito | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 01/14/03 | Genre: Fighting

It brings back vivid memories of staying up late watching old monster flicks that could only be seen during shows like “The Late, Late, Late Movieâ€?, where that huge, scaly dude was wading through power lines and buildings alike to track down that big bug guy. The bug might look like it had the upperhand for a bit, but you just knew any moment the big lizard was going to breathe some atomic halitosis and roast that pest faster than a 100’ bug zapper. War of the Monsters offers all of the monster-bashing, city-smashing, car-tossing mayhem that you could ever have asked for in those classic B movies without any of the badly-synced English translations.

Unfortunately the makers of War of the Monsters couldn’t use the real names of the giant monsters in the game (Godzilla, King Kong, etc.), so they’ve created an ensemble cast of characters that leave little doubt about who they pay homage to without being outright blatant about it. (At least there isn’t a giant Barney look-alike.) With 10 critters to choose from, I could not think of any major monster that was missing from the game. When you pit a few of these guys together in a crowded city, utter destruction ensues.

Just about anything can be destroyed or used as a weapon in the environment. The first time a computer opponent lanced me with a huge radio antenna I thought I was a goner for certain. While the antenna does a bit of damage, it also serves to temporarily immobilize your monster. Lots of shaking and button-mashing seems to solve that problem. Smacking someone around with a police car turned out to be a lot of fun, though you only get a few licks in before the car is destroyed. While second to only the antenna, tossing a fuel tanker at a giant monkey proved to create an extremely satisfying explosion. Buildings can be climbed to avoid the enemy or to simply get the drop on them. They can also be damaged by combat and brought to the ground in devastating fashion. You definitely don’t want to stand too close to one of the taller buildings when it comes down; it can be hazardous to your health.

Combat is fairly simple. You have a light attack (which will also fire off a projectile attack that is appropriate to who you are playing as), a heavy attack, jump, toss/grab/use, and block buttons. Combination moves can be strung together for massive damage, not to mention each character’s special moves which can be used by hitting two buttons together. One of the special attacks will wreak havoc on a close opponent while the other works at a distance. The effectiveness of these special abilities varies from monster to monster; they range from quick and weak to strong and slow. You’ll often have to disengage from combat to nab some health or energy powerups, unless you want to take a quick dirtnap. Some of the powerups are located on top of buildings, while others can only be found once you have leveled a particular building.

“To level a building or not to level a building, this is the question.â€? While in those classic monster flicks most of the combat took place without either of the combatants fleeing, escaping from no-win situations and having buildings to flee behind is an integral part of the game. If you flatten a building now, you might end up needing it later to scale and flee or to simply put an obstacle between you and your opponent. Keep in mind that you can hit the (L1+R1) buttons to focus on your opponent, which is especially helpful when someone is blasting your backside.

The single player experience leaves something to be desired. While it does give you a chance to get a feel for your chosen monster, the novelty of the mode is quick to wear off. When you end up facing down 3 monsters at once, it is something of a challenge though. The game really shines in multiplay. Throwing down against a friend as a 100’ tall monster really rocks, but unfortunately the game doesn’t support more than two players either via a multi-tap or in network play. While network play for the PS2 is still fairly new, being able to add in additional combatants through either method would have made the game top notch.

If you are a fan of giant monster combat, you’ll enjoy this game; and if you have someone to play against regularly, you will really love it. If you don’t fit that bill, you probably would want to rent it first. Hopefully, they’ll revisit the game with a sequel and address the multiplay issues, but it’s a solid game nonetheless.

By Greg Meadors - 02/13/03
ESRB Details: Violence
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Screenshots for War of the Monsters

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