Oh Todd, you devil.
At their worst, action figures and video games can share the dubious honor of being little more than merchandising gimmicks, coveted by children who don't know any better and old kooks who really should. Unfinished games bearing the moniker of the animated film du jour litter store shelves, while unwanted Treasure Planet figures are piled high in a Burger King factory somewhere. But even though such games usually stink, at least gamers take pride in enjoying a product that's better than a chintzy, plastic toy.
McFarlane's Evil Prophecy is, amazingly enough, a game based on a toy line known as McFarlane's Monsters. Todd McFarlane's toys are some of the coolest on the market; large, hideously detailed monstrosities that make all the other toys on the shelf look wimpy and dull by comparison. McFarlane's Monsters are similarly grotesque interpretations of classic monsters such as the Werewolf and the Mummy. Does Evil Prophecy actually build upon the designer's ghoulish creations, or is it merely meant to help popularize a line of toys?
Well, it doesn't matter either way, because once you've played this train wreck, you'll forget all about the intricacies of toy merchandising as you heave the disc out the window. From its garbled, dark, blocky graphics to its dull, repetitive gameplay, McFarlane's Evil Prophecy is simply an evil, awful game.
In the main Story mode, you command a ragtag team of monster hunters led by renowned scientist Dr. Hans Jaeger. Joining you in your quest to save the world from utter inanity is the buxom werewolf hunter Delphine, Logan the pirate, and the African warrior Sundano. Since there is no voice work whatsoever in Evil Prophecy whatsoever, the plot plays out through lots and lots of dialogue boxes in which Delphine says saucy things, Logan says grouchy things, and the Doctor and Sundano take turns telling both to shut up. You'll do the same.
The story arc is shockingly dynamic. In the beginning of the game, your party must destroy all the monsters. Towards the middle things suddenly shift, and your party's motivation becomes one of persistence: keep killing all the monsters. This then morphs into the more subtle obliterate all the monsters, followed by eradicate all the monsters. It's got as many layers as an onion! So don't be worried when you start crying.
The button-mashing mayhem works, at least. You control one of the four monster hunters at all times and can easily switch between them by pressing Left or Right on the D-pad. In the early stages of the game, you can simply run around mashing X with just one character in addition to a weak and a strong special attack. Each character has an elemental alignment: Logan is Fire, the Doc is Lightning, Sundano is Magic and Delphine is Light. Enemies also have elemental alignments, which you'll want to try to exploit through combination attacks. If you press the R2 button and the analog stick towards one of your teammates, you'll execute a combo attack that will potentially do massive damage.
Just about everything in Evil Prophecy gains levels: your combos, specials and characters all level up. Unfortunately, the mindless core of the game is immune to these pretend RPG elements. Whether you're level 1 or level 20, you simply whack at monsters over and over again.
The game's environments start off bad only to get worse. The early levels have you walking down straight paths killing monsters as they pop up. Random objectives crop up along the way, but they are, without fail, retarded. As you advance deeper into the game, the levels get maze-like with more objectives and scores of more powerful, constantly respawning enemies in your way. The game winds up going from too easy to frustratingly difficult as you get lost for no good reason in redundant labyrinths.
The repetition is so pervasive that the game turns into a totally pointless mess in no time at all. There's no discernable AI, just waves of things attacking you mindlessly. It gets to the point where you can stop looking at the main screen altogether and focus instead on the mini-map, which at least shows off the location of your comrades. There's no sense of drama, danger or depth; rather, it's a marathon of mashing X while aiming at the bad guys.
Evil Prophecy's crummy graphics sure don't help. The four hunters are made up of about 30 polygons apiece, the environments are (surprise!) repetitive and boring and the game is way too dark, making it nearly impossible to see what you're doing. The framerate never dips despite the presence of tons of enemies, which is nice, but the screen gets cluttered quickly and you'll often lose track of the action.
I mentioned the lack of voice-acting, but if you consider the quality of the sound effects, perhaps it's a blessing in disguise. Besides, it's more fun to just add your own voices, which thankfully can contain as many expletives as you can rattle together before tearing this out of your PS2 and hurtling it into the abyss.
Though the game claims to include co-op multiplayer, it's really a lie because you cannot play through the Story mode co-operatively. Rather, you and some friends can play Dungeon Mode, where you just fight monsters until you all die, or Battle Mode, where you just fight each other until you all die. Fortunately for you and your friends, the unrated Director's Cut of the new Dawn of the Dead makes a pretty good Plan B for your Friday night apocalypse.
I can't really beat around the bush any longer: there is no reason to buy or rent this tragic mess of code, and while it's not the end of the world, it's damn close. Evil indeed.