"It’s hard, sometimes. Exterminating the human race, I mean. Wiping out random people can be a fun, fulfilling pastime, but there are just so many ways to do it. High voltage electrocution, laser beams, fiery explosions, zombie outbreaks… technology provides so many different possibilities. It can be tough choosing the most satisfying method of slaughter, especially if you’ve got a good imagination. Actually killing a person, however, is easy; the bodies are ridiculously fragile. The real ..."
It’s hard, sometimes. Exterminating the human race, I mean. Wiping out random people can be a fun, fulfilling pastime, but there are just so many ways to do it. High voltage electrocution, laser beams, fiery explosions, zombie outbreaks… technology provides so many different possibilities. It can be tough choosing the most satisfying method of slaughter, especially if you’ve got a good imagination. Actually killing a person, however, is easy; the bodies are ridiculously fragile. The real problem comes with the disposing of the victims. Since the mankind’s annihilation is still a covert operation, the alien forces have no choice but to keep the mass murdering a secret. Can you imagine trying to hide thousands of charred, mutilated corpses? It’s not easy.
Krypto and Pox, however, have come up with a solution to the problem. Rather than hiding or disintegrating the bodies, they pack away all their victims into crates and use them as the primary ingredients for their new fast food franchise. Remember the last time you ate a Big Mac or a Whopper? How about a Baconator? Hot dog? Though the calorie count may be your first concern, the labels lie; those meals are made of human flesh. Never mind death rays and body snatching; with this plan, the aliens get to murder humans, feed them back to the population, slowly kill their customers with unhealthy food, and make a nice profit on the side. It’s a wonderful setup, isn’t it? Creative and lucrative. With the alien-run Big Willy restaurant chain reaching its 500th opening, the human race is going to devour itself into extinction.
Like any growing business, however, Big Willy has run into a few snags. Not all of the humans are as stupid as Krypto and Pox think; a brainwashed activist named Patty Wurst has uncovered the aliens’ scheming and is trying to raise public awareness. Despite having the support of the Nixon administration, it won’t take much for Big Willy to be exposed and run out of business. In case you didn’t catch the significance of the cultural references (you’d better read up on your American history), the game is set in the latter half of the 1970’s. The streets are littered with student protestors, Starsky and Hutch wannabes, and polyester-clad disco dancers. It doesn’t really matter how these people are portrayed – they all die the same way, after all – but you might get in a few laughs from the countless spoofs of all the aspects that made the decade so memorable.
Considering what public awareness did to Soylent Green’s popularity, it’s obvious that the aliens want to protect their business venture through any means necessary. Much of the game is spent trying to prevent outsiders from learning the franchise’s secret, killing targets, and hindering the competition. Patty Wurst may be a spoiled rich girl, but she can be fragged just as easily as any of her lackeys. If the cops are snooping around the corpse-filled storehouses, a little hypnosis can work wonders. The best way to get rid of competition isn’t to buy them out, but to wipe them out with city-leveling smart bombs and laser cannon fire. Despite all of the destruction and bloodshed, defending the franchise is unsatisfying; none of the missions are particularly challenging or engaging. With a limited amount of stages and objectives to explore, it won’t take long before the story goes stale.
But hey, who needs the story? If you’re not into the assignments, feel free to wander around the city and wreak havoc to your heart’s content. Though searching the stages can yield some helpful pickups, you’ll likely spend more time killing as many unarmed people as possible. The game boasts a small but potent assortment of weapons and abilities. While zapping foes with an intergalactic tazer isn’t very entertaining, infecting everyone with a zombie virus and unleashing them on the police certainly is. The same goes for firing off a barrage of anal probes, flash-frying targets into cindered skeletons, or vaporizing entire crowds with your overpowered bombs. Using psychokinetic abilities are even more fun; targeting a foe (and engaging in a brief minigame involving shooting moving icons on the screen) allows you to possess the body or force your prey to start disco dancing for a few seconds. Since most of the weapons are upgradeable based on kills and items collected, you’re going to have plenty of reasons to get your guns off.
The most prominent weapon, however, is Pox’s Big Willy. Obvious sexual jokes aside (the game gives you countless variations of the same line), the Big Willy is actually a giant mecha designed after the restaurant’s mascot. Climbing into the machine grants you the power to annihilate nearly anything in your path. Is that army of activists in your way? Grab them by the handful, squeeze their bodies until the brains pop out of their skulls, and consume the rest for fuel. If you prefer something with a little less finesse, the laser beam eyes, vomit cannons, and the ability to use vehicles as weapons should be more than enough to satisfy you. Killing people by the dozens on foot may be fun, but terrorizing the entire city is one of the most entertaining aspects being offered. While the Big Willy is no Godzilla, it still has the power to crush tanks, buildings, and anything else being thrown at you.
If you can control it, that is. Big Willy Unleashed may have some awesome weapons, but using them is in a pain in the ass. The motion sensor aspects work great; you can levitate enemies and objects, throw cars like giant footballs, and shoot with precision. While the WiiMote and Nunchuck combination works well enough (basic movement, jumping, and shooting are easy to perform), it’s the camera control that kills any potential entertainment value. In order to make a turn, you have to aim the targeting cursor to either side of the screen and wait for the camera to adjust. The problem is that the game is either too laggy to keep up when you need it the most, or it just ignores you entirely. Take the UFO missions, for example: you’ll be asked to abduct trucks, haul cargo, and destroy buildings, but you’ll spend more time struggling to turn the ship than actually completing your objectives. The same goes for the on-foot challenges; you could raze the city streets with your fancy weapons, only to fall into the lethal pond of water you missed because it was just out of camera range.
It’s not like there’s much to look at, anyway. Despite its gruesome themes and expansive levels, Big Willy Unleashed makes little use of the console’s graphical abilities. The buildings are little more than colored boxes with a few different splotches for windows, doors, and other little details. Thanks to the poor draw distance, you’ll get used to the occasional pop-ins and blurry objects far away. Either your alien powers give you the ability to walk through walls, or some of the programming was poorly crafted. That’s beside the fact that your enemies can simply vanish before your eyes, refuse to take easy shots at you, or simply mimic each other with identical animations. Sure, the costumes are designed to fit the time period, but they get old after you’ve seen the same afros, bell bottoms, and cheesy suits for the umpteenth time. The only thing remotely detailed is Krypto, but his metallic blue head, blocky spacesuit, and expressionless face do him little justice. But hey, at least the bad jokes, cultural references, and upbeat disco music keep things somewhat interesting.
It’s a shame. Big Willy Unleashed has some great ideas, but the game is hindered by a few major problems. Its brevity doesn’t merit the fifty dollars you’ll have to shell out for it. The missions are a simplistic mishmash of killing, transporting, and exploration. The sheer amount of weapons, abilities, and the Big Willy mecha are the only things keeping the game from going stale. Wandering through the massive levels can be fun, but the horrendous camera and laggy controls can make even the easiest tasks a chore. Considering what’s been seen on the Wii, the graphics are a joke. The cultural references and hilarious plot are certainly clever, but the overused “Big Willy” jokes are beyond irritating. But hey, you get to make people’s heads explode with an anal probe. That’s got to be worth something.
Featured community review by disco (April 01, 2008)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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