GameCube Reviews Q-R

Rampage: Total Destruction
Grade: D-
Publisher: Midway (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/2/19
Rating: Everyone (violence)

screenshotSince 1986, the Rampage franchise has allowed gamers to fulfill the common fantasy of decimating major cities with enormous beasts like King Kong and Godzilla. But the series has aged poorly. It seems as if the more its graphics improve, the less challenging and more pointless it becomes. In Total Destruction, the action has gone fully 3D, and is all the worse for it. Stage locations include Las Vegas, San Francisco, London and Los Angeles, but they're just one set of boring buildings after the next. The goofy monster animations provide sporadic comic relief, and the gratuitous damage you can inflict is satisfying - for the first five minutes or so.

The controls are erratic and imprecise. Kicking and punching is no problem, but picking up cars and latching onto buildings is problematic. It's really hard to do stuff that should be easy. Bringing down a 10-story skyscraper is a piece of cake, but trying to damage a single-story building is nearly impossible. Why Midway assigned "jump" to the "A" button is beyond me, because it's generally worthless.

Total Destruction's lack of difficulty is another major issue. The game goes on forever, and you'll quit out of sheer boredom long before you'll run out of lives. Ironically, Total Destruction renewed my appreciation for the first Rampage (1986), which is also included on the disk along with Rampage World Tour (1997). I was never a big fan of the original back in the day, but at least you can play the game in a few minutes, and its graphics have an old school charm. Rampage Total Destruction just goes to show that "more" doesn't always mean "better", and in this case at least, it means much worse. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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Reign of Fire
Grade: C
Publisher: Bam (2002)
Reviewed: 2003/7/20
Rating: Teen (Violence)

screenshotBased on a movie that nobody has even seen, Reign of Fire places you in an all-out war between dragons and humanity in the year 2024. It begins with a series of missions in well-armed jeeps and tanks, but later actually lets you play the role of the dragons! Reign does a fine job of making you feel as if you're in the middle of a large-scale conflict, with raptor-like "jackyls" attacking from the ground and huge dragons swooping in from above. Your arsenal includes rapid-fire machine guns, rockets, and heat-seeking missiles.

Since you are part of a larger fighting force, you don't need to do all the work yourself. In fact, the key to surviving most missions seems to be: a) Keep moving, b) Keep shooting, and c) Don't wander too far off. Unless you have guided missiles, it's hard to tell if you're inflicting damage, and the dragons will sustain many hits before they die. Your vehicle is constantly set on fire, requiring you to find water ASAP, which can be a real pain. A small scanner identifies enemy positions, but you can't distinguish if they're approaching by air or land.

Reign's graphics are surprisingly detailed, and the post-apocalyptic earth looks both desolate and beautiful. The dragons look so realistic that if they did in fact exist, I'm betting they would look exactly like these. It's quite a rush to see one of these huge beasts turn around in the distant sky, lining you up for their next attack run. Some dragons will even pick up large objects and drop them on top of you! I once did a double take as I watched a boat fall onto one of my tanks! The fire effects are completely convincing, and a dramatic musical score fits well with the explosions and rampant carnage.

Reign of Fire lacks polish however, causing my mood to alternate between excitement and agitation. The difficulty of the missions is wildly uneven - some are incredibly hard while others require little effort. The frame rate gets a little rough when things get hectic, and the load times are easily the longest I've seen on the GameCube. Clips from the movie are interspersed with the stages. Despite its lack of polish however, Reign of Fire's visually compelling action is exciting enough to keep you coming back for more. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Resident Evil
Grade: A-
Publisher: Capcom (2002)
Reviewed: 2002/5/18
Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Violence)

screenshotThe granddaddy of survival horror has returned to reclaim its crown! The original Resident Evil (PS1, 1996) was (arguably) the first genuinely frightening video game. Trapped in a house full of zombies, traps, and puzzles, you had to brace yourself for each new room. Several sequels expanded the scope of the original but rarely matched its level of hair-raising thrills. In light of that, remaking the first Resident Evil makes a lot of sense.

Even those who played through it the first time around shouldn't hesitate to pick this up. With dramatically improved graphics, new room layouts, relocated monsters, and better puzzles, it's practically a new game. For horror movie buffs it's kind of like the difference between Evil Dead I and II. The cheesy live-action scenes from the first game have been replaced with some jaw-dropping CGI work. The mansion interior is spectacularly detailed and magnificently gothic. Lightning flashes and shadows from trees reflect on the walls, and new areas include a decrepit old graveyard.

The scenery is pre-rendered which is both good and bad. On the positive side, pre-positioned camera angles allow for some downright creepy cinematography. For example, at the end of one long hallway you may see the faint image of a mysterious figure. On the other hand you can't adjust your view and that's occasionally frustrating. The music effectively builds tension and improved voice acting makes the awkward dialog sound halfway credible. Shrill screams and ominous groans will send tingles down your spine.

While the graphics and audio are stellar, you still have to deal with a rather clumsy control scheme that really hasn't changed much since 1996. The targeting system makes it easy to locate monsters but aiming at close range can be maddeningly difficult. As with past Resident Evil games you'll need to juggle a lot of items, and your carrying capacity is very limited. It seems like whenever I find a new item I need I don't have any place to put it!

One clever new gameplay element is the "defensive weapon", which let you subdue enemies after they've gotten a hold of you. Just don't confuse the defensive dagger with the knife like I did. Also new is the ability of certain monsters to follow you from room to room, removing what little sense of security you had. The monsters don't go down easily, so remember: they aren't dead until the music stops! Resident Evil is an all-time classic and you're sure to be terrified by this slick, updated two-disk edition. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Resident Evil 4
Grade: A+
Publisher: Capcom (2005)
Reviewed: 2005/3/10
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence)

screenshotNo game is perfect but Resident Evil 4 (RE4) comes about as close as you can get. While playing it I was actually thinking "this is the best video game ever". A masterpiece of great length and substance, RE4 is such a huge leap for the series it doesn't even feel like a Resident Evil game. Cleverly conceived with originality to burn, the game is madly addictive and supremely satisfying.

What makes RE4 so compelling? Well the rural mountainside conjures up films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blair Witch, and Night of the Living Dead. The desolate forest is practically a character in and of itself. Although your movements are limited to a predetermined path you'd never know by the natural-looking surroundings. The dilapidated old house you stumble upon looks authentic and foreboding. Later you explore an old church on a hill surrounded by a graveyard, and it just doesn't get much more Halloween than that.

Your adventure begins on a dark cloudy day and only gets scarier as night falls and a thunderstorm rages. RE4's audio track adds to the sense of urgency with harrowing sound effects that seamlessly meld with a haunting musical score. The gameplay offers brisk pacing, reasonable difficulty, and extraordinary variety. Don't rest during the cut-scenes, because "quick action events" prompt you to hit buttons at critical moments to escape injury. The game keeps you on guard but you never feel hopelessly stuck. Even when you die you continue close to where you left off.

Your mission is to rescue the President's daughter from a cult, and you'll spend a large portion of the game escorting her to safety. Instead of conventional zombies RE4 opts for chanting monks and brainwashed townsfolk armed with pitchforks, torches, and axes. The violence is unflinching. When a farm woman freaks out after being shot in the face, it's actually quite disturbing. But nothing strikes more fear in this game than the sound of a chainsaw.

RE4's control scheme may seem awkward at first due to the lack of a strafe button, but the limited mobility just adds to the challenge. The over-the-shoulder view is a nice compromise between a first-person shooter and third-person adventure, and the jumping is practically automatic. Your firepower is so astounding that a shotgun can blow several attackers across a room with a single blast. The game incorporates a surprising amount of sniping action, so before you enter a new area you'll want to weed out as many enemies as you can from a distance.

Unlike previous RE games item management is not tedious at all, and a mysterious cloaked figure appears every so often to buy and sell goods. A testament to RE4's greatness is how many memorable moments are packed into this single game, including a battle with a giant "troll" monster, a wild encounter on a ski lift, a crazy mine cart ride, and a row-boat sequence as thrilling as the movie Jaws.

It should be noted that the game is definitely intended for mature audiences due to excessive violence and gore, along with some profanity. While it never takes itself too seriously there are some genuinely intense moments and gruesome images. Resident Evil 4 is one for the ages. The bar for survival horror has now been set very, very high. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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Resident Evil Zero
Grade: B+
Publisher: Capcom (2002)
Reviewed: 2003/10/15
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, violence)

screenshotGamecube owners are fortunate that these excellent Resident Evil titles are exclusively available on their system. Resident Evil Zero and the original Resident Evil remake released last year (2002) are two of the very best Gamecube titles. Although I didn't find this chapter as terrifying as most, Zero still delivers its share of thrills and is quite enjoyable. Zero is actually a prequel, revealing the backstory of the first Resident Evil. While the narrative is somewhat interesting, the main draw here is the classic gameplay we've come to know and love.

Zero features fixed-camera angles and pre-rendered scenery. The level of detail is absolutely stunning, but a major drawback is how you can't adjust the view. These graphics surpass anything I've seen in a survival horror game, with driving rain, aged wood furniture, and subtle lighting effects that are nothing short of spectacular. Even the characters move with a certain grace rarely observed in a video game. The story begins with Star Team member Rebecca Chambers (very cute by the way) in a train full of dead people - an intriguing setting to say the least.

Walking down aisles of dead passengers, you know it's just a matter of time before they get up and start shambling around. After the train moves and eventually derails, the action moves to more familiar surroundings - a research center which resembles an old mansion (oh no - not again!). Zero may tread on familiar territory, but at least its puzzles go beyond the standard "find the key and unlock the next door" variety. You often have to examine and combine items, as well as work together with a partner.

That's right - Rebecca must join forces with an escaped convict. Having a partner backing you up is comforting, but it reduces the scare factor being isolated. Often your partner fights right alongside you, but occasionally he'll just stand there like an idiot. You can switch between characters on the fly and even exchange items. The helpful map feature not only displays the room layout, but also tracks objects you've found or dropped. One new innovation is how you can now drop an item anywhere - you no longer have to search for a chest. As an unwanted side effect, it's easy to pick up the wrong item when too many are lying around. I don't like how each character only has six item slots, with some weapons taking up two of them! You'll need to do a lot of item juggling to stay well-equipped.

Like past RE games, you'll use ribbons and typewriters to save your place, which always provides a feeling of relief. Control is a bit clumsy, and this time there's no auto-aim - you'll need to turn slowly towards your target. But these are minor issues. Resident Evil Zero is like a good book - it's absorbing and hard to put down. I have to confess I didn't feel the same degree of fear as I've felt in past games, perhaps because I've become too familiar with the series. I've seen dogs jump through windows and zombies burst out of closets before - you almost come to expect that kind of thing. Newcomers are in for some surprises however, and long time fans will feel right at home with this well-designed game. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, Nintendo.com, Sega.com, Moby Games, Video Games Museum