Monster Madness: Battle For Suburbia
Smash the undead back to their cracked coffins.
Xbox 360, PC
Monster Madness: Battle For Suburbia has crawled from the grave to your Xbox 360, and B-movie fans can delight as you and your teenage buddies use every object available to smash the undead back to their cracked coffins. Paying heavy tribute to the 90's cult overhead shooter Zombies Ate My Neighbours, Monster Madness matches the gameplay almost exactly, using the Unreal engine to create full 3D environments in which mutant dogs, farting zombies, bovver-booted Bigfoot and of course big brained Martians invade your town with the sole purpose of destroying all life there. Hooray!
"The difficulty is pitched at two or more players playing simultaneously, so gripe number one is, why is there no co-op online play?"
Firstly, this game is meant to be played with friends. Playing on your own is fun for a while, but quickly gets boring. It also seems like the difficulty is pitched at two or more players playing simultaneously, so gripe number one is, why is there no co-op online play? It's inexcusable, especially as the developers have spent time making up fairly useless Deathmatch levels to play on. If you are playing as a single player you need to be very good to keep up the pace even at 'Normal' difficulty. Quite why the difficulty is so overwhelming in a game which is completely devoid of any tactics except "kill the zombie" is beyond me.
Under these circumstances, upgrading weapons is obviously a good idea. Criminally, it's also far too difficult to achieve. Machine parts must be collected by jumping around rooftops picking them up. This does nothing for the gameplay; you will have to kill all the baddies on screen before taking time out to get collecting. It also completely kills the pace of the game, as any time spent collecting is inherently not spent chopping up monsters. As Monster Madness a top-down shooter these platform elements really don't work at all. It can be slightly easier if you bring the camera to behind your character's head, but why could we not claim power ups by killing the baddies?
That's not to say the monsters don't leave gifts for you as they putrefy on the scenery around you. Dead monsters leave jewels behind which can be spent at vending machines (health stations). You'll also use them when dealing with Larry, a hairy biker with a cool Tool Trailer which will supply you with bombs, power-ups and better weapons. Larry takes parts and cash from you to build nail guns, shotguns and rocket launchers, all of which can be powered up throughout the game. His trailer can be found on each level, letting you buy any supplies you need - if you have the parts.
Larry is probably the most colourful character in the game, but your four heroes have plenty of lines to quip as they saunter through town taking care of the unwanted guests. Unfortunately their vocabulary doesn't suffice through the entire game, so their comments do become grating after a few hours play. Carrie, Andy, Jennifer and Zack are stereotypical students; a Goth, skater, cheerleader and computer nerd in turn. Their relationships unfold in a comic book as you progress through the story, which is spread out over numerous levels of Suburban landscape carnage. The graphics are sweet in their own comic book style, with plenty of visual gags (the zombie Chihuahua's are a sight to behold). Unfortunately the backgrounds are quite bland, especially at the school where there is a green smog hanging over the level.
Monster Madness can be a blast, but falls short of today's expectations not only with dated gameplay but glaring bugs. Meant to be played with at least one friend (and lots more fun if you have one!) the game is ridiculously difficult in single player campaign. It is also too big for its own good. Those playing on their own will really struggle to collect power-ups necessary to get the better weapons, and even if you do ammo quickly runs out. Vehicles add a much needed element of depth, however some are ridiculously hard to control. In the car level your steering method changes depending on your viewpoint, which is preset for different sections. On the other hand, the mech Larry builds for you and the subsequent trashing of the car lot is the most fun the game has to offer.
Despite many flaws Monster Madness is a charming game (in a gross way) and great fun with friends. Compared to other, deeper overhead shooters such as the excellent Marvel: Ultimate Alliance however, it looks very much like a B-movie version.