Monster Madness: Grave DangerESRB:
Category: Action Games
Developer – PSYONIX Studios
Publisher - SouthPeak interactive/Artificial Studios
1-4 Players Offline
2-12 Players online
PLAYSTATION Network compatible
1 MB hard disk required
A little over a year ago gamers were introduced to a zombie-smashing title on Xbox 360 called Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia. While the premise behind the game was solid the execution was flawed and the somewhat sloppy controls left much to be desired. Well the developers listened to the complaints and shortcomings from the community and they have now released the definitive version of Monster Madness, but this time for the PS3. With a brand new control scheme, a new online co-op mode and a host of new challenges and options, can Monster Madness: Grave Danger overcome the mistakes of it’s past?
Grave Danger adds nothing really new in the graphics department over its Xbox 360 predecessor. The colorful and cartoony style is perfect for the subject matter, but the overall campy style does get a bit boring at times. Textures tend to repeat and the games engine can bog down and run poorly at different points in the game. The game can also suffes from very noticeable screen tearing and framerate jitters which plays havoc on the eyes during long periods of play. I must note that the older Xbox 360 title is far worse for framerate issues, so it’s nice to see that the development team has addressed some of these problems. I also found that the odd paced and somewhat weird cut scenes were a little out of place; they just didn’t seem to be in the same vein of the overall graphic style of the game. That being said, although they seem a bit odd, they may appeal to the cult hardcore gamers of similar ilk. Overall I think the game in this incarnation could have run on the PS2, and it’s somewhat disappointing considering the amount of power the PS3 has.
The sounds and voice over work do enough to convey the games overall campy horror theme of the game. The voice work is quite laughable at times but this is due to a terrible script. I can’t help but wonder if this is the style though as they may be pushing this whole ‘B’ movie aspect to the max. I suppose the game is all about carnage though so it’s not going to win any awards for dialogue. The mostly female voices are annoyingly squeaky in pitch and grate on your ears after some time. The music is not anything special, running mostly in the background. I really didn’t pay much attention to it as the action on screen can get heated. The music consisted of mostly a gothic blend of pipe organ music of the horror variety. As for the rest of the sound effects, the do the job, but unfortunately they are not spectacular.
Monster Madness: Grave Danger is your typical top-down hack and slash. It is a game that is infested with zombies and it reminded me of the popular retro title Zombies Ate My Neighbours. You can choose from one of four characters and set out on a path of death and destruction using both melee and ranged weapons. One of the biggest complaints on the Xbox 360 was the loose and sloppy control. You were forced to use the right analog stick to aim for both melee and ranged attacks while pulling the right trigger to pull off the actual attack. It was tough to do this in rapid succession and quite cumbersome to deal with. The PS3 control scheme has been streamlined with both forms in mind. The melee attack button has now been mapped to the circle button making it feel more like a traditional hack and slash, while the right analog stick now fires ranged weapons automatically, with great fluidity I must add. This new scheme makes the gaming much easier to handle and of course less frustrating.
Another huge improvement I found is the new spawning system. Gone is the frustration of having to start all the way from the beginning again. Grave Danger’s developers have opted to allow instant respawns exactly where you died. Sure it ratchets down the challenge factor a few notches, but it also opens the game up and makes it more friendly to casual players. For the hardcore obtaining ‘S’ ranks on all levels is still challenging and holds plenty to work for.
Fans of the Xbox 360 version, along with new gamers, will be pleased to hear that Grave Danger has a solid amount of new costumes and challenges. These new challenges combine the best moments found in the game, including my favourite: the vehicles. The bonuses don’t come easy though as you unlock them in small segments as you progress through the game. Completing the segments with certain ranks will eventually unlock new costumes for your characters.
The ability to upgrade characters is also a somewhat new feature. Anyone who played the original game remembers Larry's Trailer where you upgraded weapons and purchased items, but now you can also beef up your characters themselves. Spending your collected Monster Tokens allows you to improve such things as strength, mobility and gun reload times. This reward system makes hunting for tokens all the more rewarding. In my time with the game I found the tokens pretty easy to find and quite plentiful.
My favorite part of almost any game I play is the online component. The Xbox 360 version sadly lacked any online modes, and its gameplay suffered because of it. I’m glad to say the PS3 game has an online mode and even better a co-op mode. You can join up to three other players online and blast through the quite meaty campaign mode. I experienced some lag in the games I played, but it was nothing that couldn't be overlooked. Unfortunately the voice chat on the PS3 was quite a bit less than I hoped for. I am not so sure if the chat problems can be placed squarely on the developers’ shoulders though. Voice chat in PS3 games has had a hard life, from being omitted on some games to not working properly on others, and in Grave Danger it continues to be an issue. I also think that some of the problems lie in the fact that the game runs on Gamespy’s network as opposed to the PLAYSTATION Network. During most online sessions you could hear one or two people shouting "Can you hear me?" as they were trying to communicate with other gamers to no avail. Rarely did anyone ever hear me talking let alone asking for help. I suppose the PLAYSTATION Network isn’t far enough along in it’s development to have a well-implemented chat service therefore the developers implemented the use of other servers.
Monster Madness: Grave Danger for the PS3 is a definite improvement over Battle for Suburbia for the Xbox 360. Fans of the original version will most likely love the game and its new control scheme, and there are enough hidden goodies, mini-games, and new online modes, to help the replay value. The online co-op is worth the price of admission, but the lack of proper voice chat hurts the enjoyment factor a great deal. So at the end of the day even with the notable improvements, there are still concerns that effect my overall recommendation as a must buy title.