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McFarlane's Evil Prophecy – Review

Daniel Weissenberger's picture

There's a typo on the back of the McFarlane's Evil Prophecy box. That's how bad this game is. Not a minor one, either. Here's the quote: "Evil Prophecy sets players on an action packed adventure to hunt down the ? Great Monsters." Now, I can't be sure just what was supposed to be where that question mark is—my best guess is that whoever was writing up the back of the box didn't know just how many great monsters would be appearing in the game, and never got around to finding out and replacing the placeholder. How little effort was put into the game that an error that major slipped through?

Frankly, I don't know if I could find a better example of how bad the game is, so I'm going to quit while I'm ahead.

That's it.

No more review.

You can stop reading now.

Oh, fine, I guess I can spend the time laying out everything else the game does wrong, starting with the premise: A group of "chosen ones" have to battle the Universal monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, Wolfman, Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon… Voodoo Queen?) to keep the world from ending. This game seems like it would be a natural choice for Konami to develop and publish, given that this is the exact premise behind their long-running Castlevania series. One might expect that with nearly twenty years of experience would behind it, Konami would be able turn out a decent 3D monster beat 'em up game in their sleep. Obviously that isn't the case, although somnludformatorism (it's just like somnambulism, only instead of walking while asleep, you make video games) might well explain just how such an unbelievably shoddy game was ever produced.

The first thing I noticed about the game was how stunningly ugly it was. There's really no excuse, in this day and age, for a game to look this bad. Take a gander at those screenshots above. No, that's not because I shrunk them too much in the webpage optimization process, the game actually looks that bad. Whether it's the offensively blocky models, the low-res textures or the color palette so uniformly drab and dark that hard to tell where the level ends and the incredibly short draw-distance fogging begins. I long and hard searched for a single good thing to say about the graphics, but then I remembered that the game features giant lobsters and scorpions that could easily have been rendered just as well on the original PlayStation, and I realized I didn't have to.

I've been a vocal opponent of introductory movies that promise a far more amazing experience than the game actually delivers, but this game swings so far in the other direction that I'm almost tempted to rethink my position. The game opens with a mixture of bad cel-shading and worse CGI, then moves on to a nearly three-minute scroll to introduce players to the plot. I'm rarely one to emphasize show over tell in storytelling, but this is just egregious. If it wasn't bad enough that the endless scroll is a word-for-word replay of the plot and character descriptions in the manual, the thing isn't even read aloud! That's right, despite the medium amount of dialogue in the game, there's no voiceover of any kind—even bad phonetic line readings would have been better than nothing at all.

Even the game's most vaunted feature, the characters designed or inspired by Todd McFarlane, are something of a letdown. This is partly because the graphics are so bad they can't deliver any of the intricate detail that his models (especially the Monsters series that inspired this game) are known for. Of course, it's also possible that the disappointment is because the characters try so hard to be revisionist and "edgy" that they wade into overkill. This is because they're from the Todd McFarlane school of design. For those unfamiliar with the school's philosophy, it can be best summed up by this fictional exchange between a professor and a student in Creature Design 101:

Student: I don't get it, teach, I just can't seem to make these werewolves scary enough. I give them metal teeth, doberman heads, exposed bloody flesh… nothing seems to give it that extra oomph.

Professor: (pauses for a moment to smoke his pipe pensively, then...) Try putting them in bondage gear.

Maybe the enemies wouldn't have been so tiresome if there weren't so many of them. The game's six stages are each made up of between five and seven individual areas, which are packed with between one and three hundred enemies. Now, when each area will feature up to four different types of enemies, simple division will demonstrate just how repetitive the game can get. The enemies come in waves of five or ten (any more than ten and the slowdown gets atrocious), and their numbers are refreshed from out of nowhere as soon as they're cut down. It's a little bit like Dynasty Warriors, if all the combat in that game was fought on incredibly restrictive narrow pathways.

Then there's the gameplay. It's pretty standard fare for beat-'em-ups, with simplistic button controls and even more simplistic combat mechanics. There are four characters onscreen at all times, with the player able to switch between the characters at any time. Unfortunately, the partner character artificial intelligence is mediocre at best, and they have an annoying tendency of just hanging around while all the fighting is going on, then suddenly jumping in just in time to use all the valuable MP I'd gathered by slaughtering monsters (all special attacks draw power from a communal pool). Worse yet, the enemy artificial intelligence has an uncanny ability to figure out which hero is being controlled by the player, and focus all of their attacks on him or her.

It's possible that, for all these faults, the game would still be playable, even fun, if the combat were any good at all. It isn't. In a wrongheaded attempt to add depth to the game, they added upgradable moves. The game even manages to get this attempt at longevity wrong. Powering up moves follows something of an industry standard these days: points are procured by killing enemies and/or completing objectives, and then those points can be spent freely to upgrade or unlock whichever move the player wants. Evil Prophecy takes a different tack, powering up moves based on their use—in order to power up one of the character's four combos, it has to be used literally hundreds of times. The game actually forces players to button mash, using the exact same move over and over again to ensure that they're powerful enough to beat the bosses. As if it killing the exact same monster fifty times wasn't tedious enough already…

The farther I delved into the game, the worse it became. From the dull as dirt level design to the ugly graphics to the obscene amounts of backtracking required to power up all the characters' attacks, there's nothing at all to recommend about the game. For the life of me, I can't imagine how this game ever got made. Sure, Todd McFarlane was one of the people most responsible for ruining all non-DC comic books ten years ago, and he's made quite a name for himself in the action figure market, but did someone actually think that that name alone had the cachet to sell such a mediocre, unpolished product? Maybe this is finally the turning point, the nadir of quality that will wake people up to just how terrible an idea it is to assume a license is enough to sell a terrible product.

Maybe, but probably not. As ratings go, this game gets a 1.0 out of 10.

Category Tags
Platform(s): PS2  
Developer(s): Konami  
Publisher: Konami  
Genre(s): Fighting  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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