With the recent release of Brain Age
, there’s been a lot of speculation about whether or not a video game can make you smarter. This is a pretty sharp turnaround from the 80s and 90s when everybody assumed video games had the same effect on a brain as paint fumes. Instead of sharpening your wits with basic multiplication, games were filing them down with senseless acts of violence.
That’s not a hard conclusion to come to, especially if you’ve ever watched anyone play more than fifteen minutes of the original Rampage. Before your very eyes, that game could transform a normally astute, vivacious child into a slouching, glassy-eyed, slack-jawed zombie. But what you were really seeing was the onset of inestimable boredom at the prospect of punching yet more buildings and gobbling down even more shrieking civilians. As Midway’s new Rampage: Total Destruction proves, the only thing that gets dumber over time is Rampage itself.
The way Total Destruction introduces a half-baked plot and then abandons it, for example, is actually worse than having no plot at all. Apparently, thirty test subjects for a new brand of soda turn into giant rams, sharks and rats, then try to wreck major cities for high scores. This lame explanation misses the point – nobody needs to be told why they’re destroying the world. We all have our reasons.
You might also bring a friend and destroy the world together, or compete for most damage done. Then again, if you have a friend you can play bloody knuckles for free. If you don’t have any friends, Total Destruction offers four unimpressive modes of the same bad action. In the single-player campaign, you stomp through block after block of city after city destroying buildings. In King of the City, you compete against another monster while wrecking shop in one place, and in King of the World you do the same, but throughout all the cities in the game. There’s also a Time Attack mode, where you race against the clock and your own growing sense of boredom.
The modes are an illusion, though. None of them require you to alter your play style, making them pretty much identical. The same can be said of the monsters. You can unlock and play as up to thirty, including the original Ralph, Lizzie and George trio. While they have minor statistical differences (the giant rat moves faster but takes more damage), they all have the same moves and play the same way. You walk up to a building, climb it, then punch and kick until it falls down.
In the original, you would proceed like a caterpillar chewing up a leaf. You would climb up one side of a building and down the other, punching out windows the whole way and making sure to jump off when the building started to rumble. You could punch vertically and horizontally, and while the controls were very simple, they made sense and always worked.
Total Destruction tries to improve on this by adding a third dimension, but all that really means is when you knock down one building, there’s another behind it. Even though the game is technically 3D, it still mostly plays like a side-scroller. This just makes it possible to attack and miss the tanks, cars and soldiers running around on the ground, riddling you with bullets and rockets. So even though Total Destruction is slightly more complex than the original, it isn’t nearly as tight or consistent.
For example, now you can climb on the faces of buildings, bashing windows and eating power-ups. So, imagine there’s a speed boost peeking out from a demolished window. You climb until you’re level with it, but your monster is facing right, which means it can only attack to the right. You push left, and now your monster is facing in the correct direction, but has moved on top of the power-up, making it too close to grab. What do you do?
A) Press right
B) Press left
C) Give up on the power-up
D) Find something real to break
E) All of the above, in that order
This is a trick question, because you never
have to climb on the faces of buildings – if you hang on the side and repeatedly kick the same spot, the building will quickly fall down. Where the original required you to both climb and attack, in Total Destruction
you just kick. You have other moves like a punch, charge punch, and roar, but simply kicking a building will tear it down faster than any other means. The kick is so powerful it destroys your current building, the fragile play mechanics, and the reward system at the same time.
To prevent you from kicking your way through the game, each building contains one or two collectible items. Collect enough of these you will unlock new moves and point bonuses. That’s a lousy incentive, though, because none of the special moves are as powerful as the kick. Instead, we recommend finding the hidden receipt and unlocking a refund at your local retailer.
And while you’re there, pick up something with current-gen graphics, because both the PS2 and Gamecube versions of Total Destruction look like they hit bargain bins six years ago. The framerate is steady, but the animations are stiff, the physics are awful, and the textures are too simple. There are a few over-the-top sound effects along with screams, explosions and roars, but most of these repeat too often, much like the incessantly looping music.
You can get a lot of things for twenty dollars, and almost all of them are better bets than this budget-priced wreck. The game’s best feature is its inclusion of the twenty year-old version of Rampage, which is actually smarter, deeper, and just plain better than Total Destruction. That's sad. Flee in terror.