"If you want a new-gen Smash TV with corpses other than slightly homosexual-looking guys in body-tight red jumpsuits made from latex, then your choices are already pretty limited. Monster Madness: Grave Danger is pretty much the only way to go, but thatís okay. As long as you donít belong in certain pigeonholes, you could have some fun here."
Not many of you bothered with Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia when it hit the PC and 360 at the end of last year and, really, you werenít missing out on much. There were clever ideas behind the current generationís stab at Zombies ate my Neighbours, but a slightly too prevalent budget title feel and awful controls stopped it from achieving the success some felt it deserved. It was, at heart, a real old-school title; the kind of game that relied on trial and error, harking back to the likes of R-Type where, arguably, memorising the attack patterns of your foes is more pressing than your reflexes and skills. It lacked any real online co-op mode -- something considered odd considering the game was seemingly built upon a heavy focus in multiplaying -- and the rewards and upgrades felt underwhelming. The PS3 strain, Grave Danger goes a long way towards fixing the laundry list of flaws, but still fails to claw its way fully out of its hole.
But not for want of genuine effort. Take SuburbiaĎs dodgy control scheme. No, really, take it far, far away from any form of video game at all; the populace will thank you. Back on the 360, any attack was aimed with the right analogue stick, be it ranged or melee, and then used with a pull of the right trigger, making it impossible to mix and match the two attacks. Not ideal in a game that prides itself on manic screens filled with enemies all closing and attacking at differing ranges. Grave Danger completly changes the mapping. The need for a trigger is gone, melee has its own key and ranged attacks are used, like the much-copied Geometry Wars, with a nudge of the right analogue alone. This allows you to seamlessly change your route of attack, be it defending yourself from attacks that swarm you at close range before pelting advancing rotters with attacks from afar. Allowing range to alter on the fly gives you much more time to concentrate on the little things like dodging and reducing cheap deaths ten-fold. Even if you do die (and, more often then not, this is your skills at fault now, and not precious seconds lost to fumbling with bad controls), this no longer means a trip to the start of the level for you; you can respawn right where you died.
It could be said that this reduces the difficulty factor Suburbia revelled in, and it would be a fair point. In the reshuffle, the new Monster Madness has lost that old-school arcade challenge, feeling less like a made-for-console Metal Slug now and more like a generic mindless button masher. Depending on whether youíre the kind of person who bitches about the infinite continues offered in the home versions of Metal Slug or not (you donít have to use them, dammit!) you could view this as a pro or a con. What you can only view as a plus is that the rewards you gain for completing these revamped missions are unquestionably greater than they were: costumes are unlockable via brief stints in bonus segments involving some of the stronger vehicle segments and Monster Tokens no longer exist just to buff up weaponry and gather items. Grave Danger lets you invest in the character itself, allowing you to improve basic stats like strength to important traits like reload times.
And all that is great. Itís also great that the baffling lack of online co-op has been included, puzzlingly, away from the wonders of Xbox Live and instead on the obviously lacking PSN. Itís not as great that, once again, uncoordinated combative multiplayer aspects have been awkwardly shoehorned in, but itís to be expected. They werenít great in Suberbia, either, and you canít expect Psyonix to fix absolutely everything. But, as much as I can applaud them for working so diligently on what they did improve, complaints can be made for what was left on the cutting room floor.
The end-of-game is significantly worse off due to baffling omissions, and so are some of the better cut scenes, including probably the most poignant Suburbia had to offer. Also gone are some of the challenging shooter segments; segments that would have benefited the most from the change of control scheme. Itís worth noting that if youíve not played the previous title, none of this will bother you, but, I have, and itís my review! After spending time with Suburbia, Grave Danger is a complete cakewalk that I found myself playing in auto-pilot. Gone are the deaths I would want to avenge because the game beat me down; the PS3 strainís undead hold a stake in place over their hearts for you, then lend you a hammer.
With makes the obligitoy wrap-up conclusion tricky. Grave Danger is easily the superior game, but, even a passing trial on the version it vies to make obsolete, shows just how far Psyonixís targets changed. Excuse the trendy buzzwords and categorising, but gone is the attempt to rope in the Ďhardcoreí gamers; difficulty has been thrown aside and fashioned into a huge neon light shouting ďCasual gamers welcome!Ē. All this on top of a game that can, in either vein, still be accused of being repetitive, pointless in solo player and unable to escape an unwelcome budget feel despite its lofty price range. Which leaves me with a very small group of people to recommend the title to. People who enjoyed the first title? The changes are more likely to put you off than draw you in. Casual players? Youíll need your PS3 online or others to play with to get the most out if it. The hardcore? Oh, come on, you donít really exist. And if you do, youíre all too busy meeting in underground bunkers planning the best way to force LucasArts to make a new Monkey Island or designing Doom II wads to care.
If you want a new-gen Smash TV with corpses other than slightly homosexual-looking guys in body-tight red jumpsuits made from latex, then your choices are already pretty limited. Monster Madness: Grave Danger is pretty much the only way to go, but thatís okay. As long as you donít belong in certain pigeonholes, you could have some serious fun here.
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