Review: Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon (Sony PS3)

Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon
Publisher: Comedy Central Games
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Genre: Stick Shooter
Release Date: 08/30/2011

Ever since I heard about this game (which was probably only a few weeks ago), I’ve been anxious to try it. Ugly Americans is a great TV show that has filled the void that recent South Park episodes left in my funny diet. As the mighty begin to fall, new challengers rise to take its place.

It seems inevitable then that Ugly Americans would get its own video game. It was even more inevitable that said game would be released as download title only. After all, tons of games are getting released that way.

The only thing that wasn’t inevitable was the game’s quality. Given a chance, a game based off of the franchise could be something truly fun, provided it kept the series’ sense of humor while offering a solid gameplay mechanic. One can easily picture a great adventure game in the making. Perhaps even a puzzle game or an RPG of sorts.

What? It’s a stick shooter?

This should be interesting.

Story

The plot of this game runs pretty much like an episode of the show. It starts with a cold open, picks up with a problem for the Department of Integration, and ends with all kinds of chaos, blood, and craziness. The primary characters are each given moments to shine, though a lot of the minor characters such as Doug, Randall, and Great Brain, are given due justice. This is to be expected, but unless your favorite is either Mark, Leonard, Grimes, or Callie, you might end up disappointed.

As far as the plot goes, it rehashes some plot points used on the show. It basically involves a previously unknown adversary of Callie’s attempting to take her place and bring about the end of days. In the midst of all of this, the city has gone nuts and its up to the D.O.I. to get things back in order. While Mark considers this to be a chance to help a great number of people, Grimes thinks of the situation as the world’s greatest shooting gallery.

There is plenty of humor here, but the plot isn’t fleshed out enough. There are a handful of cut scenes in the game that add up to a few minutes of actual time. The motivations of various characters aren’t ever clear, the rehashed twists don’t do anything exciting, and there are a few oddities. It’s hard to imagine Mark resorting to shooting the masses in order to bring about peace. He doesn’t even protest the mass slaughter.

As far as modes to play, all you get is the basic story. You can select any mission for replay, play online or off, and check the leaderboards. There’s also a mode to purchase unlockables via in game cash. However, the options are limited apart from an episode of the show.

With a lackluster story that doesn’t provide nearly as many laughs as the actual show, and a one real mode to play around with, UA:A isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. However, fans of the show will likely find enough to like here.

Graphics

The game proper utilizes simple three-dimensional models and a heaping of gore. The art style fits with the show thanks to muted colors and and a dreary look. The animations aren’t much to write home about, but all the characters need to do is move and shoot. They do that well enough. Backgrounds are pulled from the show’s many locales, including streets, parks, and hell itself. You even get to battle in a chapel. Enemies are sadly generic and even the boss didn’t stand out. It looks OK, but nothing really stands out.

One thing should be noted. This game is designed to work with four players. However, when you have that many players as well as all of the enemies on screen at once, chaos ensues. I often lost sight of my character under a hail of rampaging zombies and projectiles. Obviously, this isn’t ideal for a game. However, the chaos does look pretty cool.

The cut-scenes, however, are pretty dismal. While they use show-worthy art, the animation is pretty much nonexistent. Instead, it looks like someone took a flip book and ripped out every other page. Characters talk without moving their mouths, arms are in different places from one second to the next, and it just never looks right. I mean, I’ve seen ads for the game that use full animation, so why does the game itself get the shaft?

Overall, this isn’t a very good looking game. The translation from 2D to 3D doesn’t fit this art style very well, and I’ve seen plenty of better looking PSN games. This is such a shame, as some more detail could have helped this game stand out.

Audio

With the cast of the show, all of the voices are appropriate. That’s good, as they do a pretty decent job of bringing the characters to the video game world. There are some hiccups, such as a poorly delivered line and awkward dialogue, but this is the exception rather than the rule. The constant chatter during missions rarely gets old, and they have specific phrases they use depending on what partners are available. Callie will call Mark “sweety” when he revives her, etc. With some better writing, this would have been awesome stuff, but it still manages to be pretty good.

The music is pretty much nonexistent. There are tunes, but they are purely background. In fact, I halved the audio for the voices and effects, and could still barely hear any tunes. They almost reminded me of subtler versions of the songs in the Ratchet and Clank games. It had a very light sound and a mid ranged tempo. You’ll hardly notice it.

The effects are various and interesting. This is due to the variety of weapon types you come across. This allows a myriad of different sounds to be going off at any one moment. Add it zombie groans, ribs from demons, and the sound of someone stepping in man-bird shit, and things become a cacophony of sound. I wouldn’t call this a good thing though. The sound can get annoying at times. If it weren’t for audio cues that aid in gameplay, I might have been inclined to mute the game all together.

That’s just not good.

Gameplay

The controls for this game are pretty simple. You move your character with the left analog stick while shooting in any direction with the right. Beyond that, R2 activates your special attack, R1 allows you to switch out a weapon for one on the ground, triangle is for when you need to revive a fallen ally.

The game plays like most stick shooters. Seemingly endless hordes of enemies come charging at you, and you need to dodge while blowing them to hell. The game borrows elements from beat-em-up in that you move along a scrolling path and have to clear out enemies before a giant blinking hand ushers you forward. Often, a midboss will appear to give you trouble, there are plenty of things to smash for goodies.

The weapons in this game are numerous and absurd. Thanks to a special gun called the BSU 2000, every day objects can be used as deadly projectiles. You’ll fire off baseballs, hammers, knives, paint cans, rubber chickens, desk lamps and even crazier stuff like zombie arms and demon teeth. Each weapon has its own stats and method of firing. For example, baseballs get fired like machine gun bullets, while you lob a propane tank like a grenade. Also, most weapons add bonuses to specific characters. That propane tank is an explosive with a damage radius. In the hands of Grimes, the radius is greatly increased. This allows you to find a favorite for each character. In between missions, you can switch out for any weapon, provided you’ve collected it. You can also choose one of four babies. These add buffs to your characters, such as a shield or extra experience. The baby in question ends up strapped to your back and makes funny noises during gameplay. Like I said, this game is absurd.

The four characters are Mark, Callie, Leonard, and Grimes. Each gain experience as they fight and level up. In between missions, you can spend allotted points on various stats. To keep the characters feeling different from each other, they have different maximum stat levels. For example, Leonard has the lowest base damage in the game, but his special attack is the best in the game in terms of damage and recharge speed. The only issue I have is that somehow Callie ended up with the lowest health. She’s a freaking demon for Pete’s sake!

Speaking of special attacks, each character has one. They can be used at anytime, but have a cooldown period that you can decrease by leveling. Each of these is different and best in specific situations. For example, Callie’s attack hits everyone on the screen for massive damage, while Mark stuns a great number of enemies with a warning shot. These become life savers when you get caught in a corner.

The gameplay is mostly all right. The game controls well, is responsive, and the action is constant. Still, it isn’t very deep and often drags on due to long levels or a really huge health bar for a boss. Speaking of which, the bosses were a bit of a letdown. Two of them are practically the same and the final boss was a pushover that relied on spawning annoying enemies rather than landing attacks of her its own. Overall, the game is a competent stick shooter with borrowed elements from other genres.

Replayability

With four characters to master, dozens of weapons to find, and online multiplayer, this game had definitely got some length to it.

In order to get each character to max level, you’ll need to spend several hours playing the game. This is true even if you try to farm levels on one of the harder missions. Each character can gain something like seventy levels. It takes a while.

The reason you wouldn’t want to just level up one or two mains is because of the online multiplayer. Only one person can use each character, meaning you could get stuck using someone you’ve put no levels into. I know on several occasions this happened to me. Also, no one wants to play as Mark. In a four player match, three of us chose characters, while the fourth helplessly flipped back and forth because he didn’t want to use Mark. I finally had to relent just so we could get the game going. Mark isn’t even a bad character. He’s even got the best chance of finding loot in the game. Go figure.

All told this game will take you roughly seven or eight hours to do everything. If you really like the game, you can go for hard to get trophies or you want to climb the leaderboards.

Balance

This game is all at once too easy and too hard.

The easy part comes in that enemy attacks are easy to avoid, and unless you’re packing a pathetic weapon, they’ll go down reasonably fast. Even if you get into trouble, you can rely on your special or have someone revive you.

The issues come in that the game was clearly meant to be played by four players. Any time you play with less, things can get hairy very fast. Soloing the game is nearly impossible, as you’ll eventually get mobbed down and killed. Playing with just one other person means that they’ll have to clear the screen before they can think about reviving you. Otherwise, there’s a high probability they’ll get killed in the act. Even if they managed to save you, you’ll start in the middle of all those enemies and likely get killed within a couple of seconds.

There’s rarely a good sense of balance in this game. It often feels cheap, but it often feels like a snoozefest. The lack of consistency is jarring at times, and certainly doesn’t do the game any favors.

Originality

While we certainly haven’t seen a huge glut of stick shooters recently, and ones based off of TV shows at that, I couldn’t dream of calling this game original.

The biggest change from the norm in this game is the leveling system, and that kind of thing has been done in similar games as well. I did find the ability to choose your weapon and equipment before levels interesting, and the arcade feel was well appreciated. It is certainly competent and comparatively different from the usual action games that licensed games become.

As such, I can give this game a few points here, but just don’t go into this expecting a truly original experience.

Addictiveness

You’ll pretty much do only one thing when playing this game. That is, you’ll move around and keep your thumb constantly pressing on the fire button. Reflexes aren’t required for the most part. You can even circle opponents or get them trapped behind items in the environment. Since you’ll likely find an ideal weapon for each character, there’s a small chance you’ll bother to switch out weapons. I found myself intentionally taking random weapons just to mix things up.

The only time I found myself enjoying the game enough to say it was addicting was when I was playing with other people who had mics. Then, I had conversation to keep me interested. That’s hardly a huge feather in the game’s cap. In fact, we played several levels without even paying attention to what we were doing and came out on top.

Look. I’m a fan of the show, I have nothing against shooters, but this game is pretty monotonous.

Appeal Factor

The game sells for ten bucks, which is perfectly reasonable for this type of game. That’s sure to help it turn some heads, especially for fans of the show or the genre. If you really like stick shooters, it isn’t like the current market is flooded with them.

If you aren’t a fan of the show, the story isn’t going to make a lot of sense. There’s no introduction to the characters, and even the special attacks won’t make any sense unless you’re an avid watcher. For example, Leonard’s special involves him turning into a self destructing lion. This is a reference to an early episode where he tries to become a famous magician. Also, non-fans will simply not get that the manbirds are not always telling you to suck your balls. They could simply be asking you for directions. It is a special language they have.

For fans, there are plenty of references scattered throughout, and this is the only Ugly Americans game on the market. That should peak interest a bit. If the animation and story were up to snuff, it might have even been a must buy. Instead, it services well enough.

Miscellaneous

A big thing I should mention is that the trophies for this game are messed up. You earn them alright, but they don’t sync at all. You can view them, but every time you want to view your collection or compare with a friend, the system will perform a trophy synch. And, each time, the UA:A trophies will not show up. It becomes extremely annoying.

The extras I mentioned before aren’t that great, but they are nice additions. There are several character collages accompanied by voice samples. The big treat is a full episode from the second season that is included. Of course, I haven’t figured out how to unlock it yet.

Overall, the game has it ups and downs, but is fairly solid.

The Scores
Story: Below Average
Graphics: Mediocre
Audio: Enjoyable
Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Enjoyable
Final Score: Mediocre Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon is pretty much par for the course when it comes to licensed titles. It has its positives and negatives, and tries to be solid fan service. It does OK at this goal, but it isn’t a very fun game despite solid mechanics. If you’re a fan of the show, this game might be worth it to you. If not, go watch the show first to see if the humor is right for you.

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