Virtual Insanities: Why Does Rampage Suck?

The last time I remember playing that much video games, the N64 was still alive and kicking. I used to spend hours upon hours staying in front of the television with friends popping balloons with Mario Kart 64’s battle mode, wasting nights with Goldeneye’s multiplayer mode, having daily 40-men Battles Royal at WCW Revenge and even having the occasional Hexen marathon. Now, I spend my free time playing with my Wii, its brand new games and most importantly, its Virtual Console. Sure, the new stuff is pretty good, but for some obscure reasons, I am always going back to A Link to the Past, SimCity and F-Zero. The only thing that’s missing is Blades of Steel, and I’ll be a really happy man.

Please note that the above paragraph has nothing to do with the point I am about to make in the rest of this column. However, I just wanted to express my lust and desire for one more game of Blades of Steel.

Rampage: Why Have You Forsaken Me?

One of my first souvenir as a video game player is spending week-end nights going through the original Rampage game using George with my brother playing as Lizzie. We always wanted to go to the end of that game, to the point where we would see a nice screen congratulating us for being such awesome players, smashing our way from start to finish. We always gave up around level 100 because back then, there were no FAQs to tell us that we were only 28 levels away from our goal. I guess that would have been a big landmark for me, might even have been worthy of a cake. Still, I hold no grudge toward that game, and I still have fond memories of these playing sessions.

Now tell me why an 8-bit game can be so much fun, yet suck so much when translated to newer generations of console?

The 16-bit generation was Rampage-less, so when I first got my N64 and heard about a new Rampage game coming for it, I was about as excited as you can be without sexual thoughts being involved. I mean COME ON, there was even a new monster named Ralph! How could it suck? Well, it appears it could suck in many, many ways I couldn’t even imagine. All I found was unresponsive controls, average graphics and poor level design. Wait a minute! I didn’t remember that in the original game. I simply dismissed it as a misstep, and moved on.

This summer, I saw Rampage: Total Destruction for Gamecube on the shelves of my local game dealer. I had to take the chance, I had so much fun with it when I was young. The game case announced a couple dozens of monsters, but with less cities. What the hell, it’s only 30 bucks, right? In the end, I don’t think I regretted spending 30 dollars that much since I bought that Activision Ghostbusters 2 game, and that’s coming from a guy who used to have the entire collection of Real Ghostbusters action figures. And to think I gave it all away. Sure, it was for a charity, but think of how much that must have been worth. I’m guessing “not a dime”, because I remember chewing off the thumbs of nearly every figure when I was about 4 years old.

With my hopes crushed and my heart broken, I comforted myself with the thought of going back to play the original game, which was included with the disk. I took the first controller, my brother came back to play as Lizzie, and we tried once more to go through the entire thing. However, this time, we stopped at level 15. We quickly came to the realization that this game sucked as much in its first iteration as it did in its newest form. How could it happen? How could a game that was so perfect in a child’s eyes amount to nothing more than a steaming pile of crap over 15 years later? Of course, I guess I was easily entertained back then, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. More importantly, I asked myself another question.

How Can You Mess Up A Concept Like Rampage?

Let’s start with the basics: You have monsters. Big, bad monsters who punch buildings and eat people. This should be mindless fun, something as easy to enjoy as a game like Final Fight. Think about it. If you take Final Fight, replace Haggar with a giant ape, and take out Andore to put huge immobile skyscrapers instead, then you’d get Rampage. The problem is that with a game that concentrates on kicking the crap out of stuff, be it baddies of buildings, it has to feel quick. The action should be fast and frantic. Final Fight does just that. You have waves of enemies coming endlessly until the end of the stage, while you try to take them out with your lighting-fast, face-breaking punches. Playing Rampage, however, feels like a chore. The monsters are painfully slow. There seems to be a delay between the time you press the button and the time your giant lizard finally feels like punching a window. There should be explosions everywhere, but all you get is generic background music with the dull sound effects you make when breaking something. Everything is slow, bland and boring.

How can it be that hard to figure out? I know the monsters are big, but why do they have to move like snails on sleeping pills? The way I see it, if you’re a monster, an angry monster at that, you should be running through the city, smashing everything in sight. You should be bringing death and chaos in a swift manner, not plod your way through a hundred neighbourhoods that all look the same as if you were half-assing it. You shouldn’t half-ass devastation. Midway is sitting on a goldmine and it’s like they don’t really know what to do with it.

If we compare it to other games, we’ll quickly see that destruction and chaos can be fun, and it does sell. The Grand Theft Auto series has shown us that there is a market for games where blowing up stuff is encouraged. Another example would be Hulk: Ultimate Destruction. The game is everything Rampage could be in 3D. It stars a big green monster who goes around the city destroying stuff and smashing things with his bare hands. Look at how fun it can be! Why can’t George and Ralph make boxing gloves out of wrecked cars? Why can’t they surf on buses? The fun can only be limited when your only instruments of pain and torture and punching and pounding.

Will we ever get the Rampage game we deserve? I certainly hope so. While it will be a long time before I spend any more cash on that series, I can only weep as I contemplate memories of my childhood that are tarnished by the reality of what the series really is. I guess it’s a lesson I should learn. If you remember something being really fun when you were young, then never do it again. Be it video games or dodge-ball, odds are you’ll feel disappointed. Sure, you might still have fun, but it’s never going to be the exact same thing.

In Closing

I know I can’t be the only one who loved Diddy Kong Racing that much back in the days. This is why I will be picking up its port, Diddy Kong Racing DS, on the first day it comes out. While I will miss the silver coins challenge – which was taken out in favour of a stylus-based balloon-popping challenge – I am already anticipating my first lap around Timber Island with Bumper the Badger. If you like kart racing game, and if you aren’t turned off by colourful graphics and a yellow mouse so cute you want to throw up, then this should be on your buying list.