Altered Beast ReviewCain Dornan
The original Altered Beast, which appeared on the Sega Megadrive all those years ago, sparked mixed feelings amongst the gaming community. Some considered the game to be a pure masterpiece, combining gory-action with some simple puzzle solving to create an enjoyable, worthwhile experience. Others considered the game to be a pile of worthless trash. Then, of course, there is the huge number of gamers who have never even heard of the game before. This is, of course, far from a surprise, considering that the gaming community has experienced an influx of casual gamers into the world in recent years, with classics that appeared on the older systems only being remembered by the true hardcore gamers.
Various game companies, such as Atari and Sega, have recently begun creating remakes of their older franchises. Whilst some of these games have turned out to be solid remakes of the bygone classics, numerous titles have quickly been tossed aside by today’s very different gaming community, as though the classic-styled games are no longer wanted in this casual gamer soaked industry. Sega’s latest attempt at reviving an age-old franchise is Altered Beast; a button mashing, gory and simplistic action title that contains the traditional feel mixed with some solid, modern day graphics. Despite these positives, the various negatives, which easily outweigh all positives that can found in this game, make for a sloppy, half-hearted addition to the classic, yet forgotten franchise.
Altered Beast, also referred to as Project: Altered Beast in some countries, follows the story of an unnamed male, who has undergone a genetic chip enhancement that allows him to transform into various monsters and creatures, struggles to discover the reason for his mutation abilities whilst attempting to escape from the hordes of lethal creatures. The game begins with a realistically detailed cutscene that shows an Army helicopter traveling through heavy clouds during a late-night, top-secret mission. Two pilots complain about their job, speculating upon what the mysterious box that they are transporting contains. The helicopter in which they are traveling in is swiftly attacked by a large, flying demon-like creature, causing the helicopter to crash into the eerie forest below. Only the contents of the mysterious box survives; the half-man, half-creature who we control. We know absolutely nothing about the past, our location or what lives in the region. Once you gain control, you find a briefcase containing some documents on genetically modified mutation. You are given little time to investigate these papers, as you are suddenly disrupted by a large group of rather laughable creatures who do little at raising the fear that the game regularly attempts at creating. You are soon treated to a visually impressive, creative and gory cutscene that showcases your mutation from an ordinary man to a massive, muscular and fearsome werewolf, capable of decimating anything with its large claws and powerful jaw. Despite your new found power, you are soon informed by a mysterious woman that your mutation powers are limited, requiring you to obtain green energy materials from decimated creatures in order to be able to control your mutation.
As the name of the game suggestions, the mutations into various beasts play a major role throughout the course of the game. Although you are capable of performing basic punch and kick combos whilst as a human, many of the enemies will easily overpower you. Therefore, utilizing the transformations into the beasts that you obtain as you progress through the game is essential in order to be able to successfully progress through the game. These creatures can vary accordingly, ranging from the werewolf in whom you begin the game with, through to a large, swimming reptile, a snow-covered ape and a bulky fire-breathing dragon. Each beast mutation offers various abilities and moves, which will need to be utilized in order to defeat specific enemies or solve basic puzzles.
Mutating into a beast is as simple as holding down the circle button and then selecting your desired beast transformation from a honeycomb-like menu. This is then followed by a short cutscene that demonstrates you transforming into the beast. Thankfully, there are several variations for these cutscenes with each beast transformation, which keeps these cutscenes somewhat interesting. However, after being forced to watch these cutscenes after every mutation becomes a nuisance and detracts from the little compelling action that is on offer.
Altered Beast feels like an old game, despite its current generation graphics that anyone would expect to find on an average Playstation 2 game. The way in which the game is presented screams classic arcade style. It may be due to the simplistic, repetitive control that requires you to repeatedly tap the square button in order to attack enemies. Or, the way in which the enemies and main characters have been styled, as if they have been ripped right out of a 1990 arcade classic with some visual enhancement. On the other hand, the storyline feels old, the type of story that you would find in the old arcade machine that has been hidden at the back of your local arcade parlor. For fans of the original 8-bit and 16-bit eras, enjoyment will be ensured as you play this retro remake, and it will likely bring back fond childhood memories. For todays gamer, who has never been a fan of the system that couldn’t produce the high-resolution three-dimensional graphics that are seen in today’s games; Altered Beast will feel extremely outdated and will likely lose your interest rather quickly.
Altered Beast’s enemies aren’t exactly unique. Many of them are extremely similar to creatures that have been found in various other action and horror titles in the past. Even if not based on other games, the amount of creativity that has been spent on each creature has been evidently little, as many creatures are simply plain or unimaginative. Giant rats, different-sized ogres, large bats and carnivorous fish make up an array of creatures that you will encounter, with none of them ever really impressing on uniqueness.
The controls are simplistic yet troublesome. As if ripped straight from a 1990 game using analogue controls, controlling your character isn’t quite as smooth as it needs to be. Attacking enemies is even more frustrating, with the single-button combo making very little variation between battles, essentially resulting in the fighting system being a repetitive, boring affair. The jerky camera further adds to the control problems, with a ninety-degree turn resulting in the camera snapping into position, which quickly becomes disorientating during battles. Sega has managed to soften this blow slightly with the addition of being able to make the camera return directly behind your character.
Altered Beast’s graphics are far from superb, but provide a detailed, atmospheric world. Altered Beast spans over a large range of open and enclosed worlds, taking you from the spooky forest in which the game begins through to an underground ice cavern. Although none of the areas in which you will travel ever impress, Sega has managed to create a world that is equal to the graphics that are featured in many ordinary Playstation 2 titles.
Character models, on the other hand, vary. Friendly character models, such as the character that you control and the various beasts that he can transform into, as well as the mysterious woman who first appears at the start of the game, offer some reasonably solid detail, especially during cutscenes. The enemies, on the other hand, offer rather basic and uninspiring detail, with only the rare enemy catching one’s eye. In general, Altered Beast’s graphics are satisfactory, with plenty of room for enhancement.
Like the gameplay, the sound has taken on a more classic arcade style. The music changes appropriately once you change to your beast form, imitating the style of the creature that you have transformed into. Although nothing revolutionary, the music fits the area and formation perfectly.
Voice acting is also solid, yet far from perfect. At times, it feels rather weak, as if the voices over actors haven’t given it their all.
Altered Beast had the potential to be an excellent game. The ability to mutate into a terrifying beast at the push of a button is definitely an interesting concept if implemented correctly. The storyline could have been compelling if more thought and creativity was poured into it, by increasing the uniqueness of the enemies and adding more twists to the storyline. Unfortunately, Altered Beast fails to impress. It’s numerous problems, in particular the control scheme and boring fighting mechanics, have greatly prevented the game from becoming a worthwhile title. Fans of the original Altered Beast on the Sega Megadrive will likely find a lot to like with the second addition to the franchise, whilst more modern day gamers are likely to get bored of the game rather quickly.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.