Todd McFarlane sure seems to have his hands in the cookie jar of the videogame industry a lot lately for someone who doesn’t actually play videogames. Although if my theory, my ‘evil prophecy’ if you will, holds true and McFarlane’s Evil Prophecy for the PS2 proves to be less than profitable, his hands-on influence on interactive digital media may not be so frequent. In any case, what we have here is Todd McFarlane Productions and Konami’s first (and maybe last) collaboration to create a game based on McFarlane’s drawings and his Monsters line of big-boy dolls. McFarlane’s Evil Prophecy is a blood-soaked beat-em-up in the vein of a Hunter: The Reckoning or its ilk. It’s pretty standard button-mashing fare that can be mildly entertaining but is just too repetitive and generic to be considered anything beyond another McFarlane fan’s novelty toy.
One aspect of the game that has benefited from McFarlane’s inclusion on the project is its storyline. This is McFarlane’s domain and has been ever since he made Spider-Man a badass. The setting is the 19th century and four unrelated ass-kicking humans have banded to combat an Evil Prophecy, a Prophecy that foretells of the end of mankind. The forgotten tome talks of the dead rising from their graves, unexplained disappearances at sea, vampires and werewolves set loose on the population; all things that are currently concurrently occurring. Enter Logan (no relation), an impossibly bulky pirate whose ship and crew were attacked and obliterated by mysterious sea creatures; Sundano, a shaman warrior whose tribe was enslaved by the evil Voodoo Queen; Delphine, a silver-bullet wielding werewolf hunter who desires vengeance for the death of her brother and father; and the one who brought them all together, Dr. Hans Jaeger, a renowned scientist whose work in the field of free manipulation of electricity and acquisition of an ancient book of evil prophecies led him to form this team of fate-defying monster hunters.
Gameplay is loose and chaotic, and it does a pretty good job of earning its beat-‘em-up classification. You’ll stare down hordes of undead monsters and bowl them over with a single devastating strike, or launch them up into the air with a comically powerful uppercut as your AI controlled teammates do the same. Then you’ll do that some more until it gets boring. Then you’ll be bored until you destroy enough monsters to reach the boss.
While the potential for repetitive stress injury may be present, the perpetually reoccurring fighting dynamics are pretty solid. You can move your character around with the left analog stick jamming on the X button to execute basic three-hit combination attacks, or mix in the circle and square buttons for additional tri-hit combos. Hitting the right trigger button will unleash your character’s special move, which takes the form of various elemental properties depending on the character you’re controlling. Pressing a different direction on the d-pad along with R1 results in an elemental team attack consisting of two characters unleashing their standard special attack.
The problems with the game do not lie in its combat system but rather the repetitive nature of how it’s put to use. The environments you’ll run through are little more than flat plain battle arenas in which identical monsters inexplicably appear over and over again. Some of these battle plains require that you kill a certain number of monsters, numbering in the hundreds, before you can progress to the next monster infested area. Sometimes you’ll be tasked to complete objectives before you can move on, like running around the battle field and picking up 4x4s to cross a chasm, or killing a specific monster that holds the gatekeepers profoundly missed McFarlane collectors card. Doing these things is about as much fun as it sounds.
Had Konami integrated multiplayer support for story mode, the game may have been more entertaining, but this component is strangely missing and you’re forced to fight alongside computer-controlled teammates. Maybe that’s why they included a few throwaway multiplayer modes such as dungeon mode, where you and your friends can lay waste to floor after never-ending floor of monsters, and the competitive battle mode that allows you to go head-to-head against a human opponent or compete in a how-many-monsters-can-you-kill contest.
Visually, McFarlane’s Evil Prophecy suffers from all sorts of clipping issues and recycled enemy character models, though the bosses and FMV intro are aesthetically interesting like only a McFarlane creation can be. The playable characters and the bosses look and animate very well, but the environments and the monsters in them are boring and uninspired. Unsurprisingly, the camera system continually stifles your progress, zooming in so close you can only see a few feet in front of you or spinning to an illogical angle that doesn’t allow you to see what you’re fighting, or even getting hung up on the edges of environmental barriers. The sound doesn’t fare much better. Voice acting has been usurped by ugly white text fields, the music is run-of-the-mill spooky themed stuff, and the sound effects are entirely forgettable.
Overall, McFarlane’s Evil Prophecy is a solid beat-‘em-up built into a liquid loose foundation of repetition and pointless progression. If you simply must own everything McFarlane branded then go ahead and get it. I can’t stop you. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.