Film remakes seem to have a pattern of failing more often than succeeding- ‘Get Carter’, ‘The Stepford Wives’, ‘Psycho’, ‘Solaris’ - all box office flops and there’s much more dross than the gold of ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ and ‘Ocean’s Eleven’. Maybe the Sega folks didn’t think this also applied to games after seeing the success of the Prince Of Persia updates. But a newly released remake of Altered Beast - originally a cult classic almost seventeen years ago - seems to follow the same suit of many ill-fated films.
After the warning about extreme violence and the first cut scene, I was expecting a riveting game full of gore, blood and gruesome werewolf transformations. Instead I was greeted with dogged camera work, game play so boring it would send an insomniac to sleep, and a storyline rehashed more times than I can count.
From the outset the game feels cheap. Little effort, it seems, has been put into updating menus from the Sega Megadrive onto PS2 - all have a distinctly pixellated appearance. It also lacks a multiplayer function - now expected as standard on most games. This severely damages the game’s selling appeal, especially considering that even the original offered two-player action. One of the golden rules of remakes is that they must be a progression and an improvement on the original - not one offering fewer features.
The game has advanced in some aspects. The central character (previously only able to morph into one beast) can now transform into a variety of creatures bearing claws and big teeth. But this transformation becomes incredibly tedious as the same cut scene is repeated every time. As you progress through the game, more beasts are unlocked, with different fight tactics and strengths. This is no incentive whatsoever, as many of the levels can be completed by simply converting to one beast without further changes. Alternatively, you don’t have to change at all.
This gives you an idea of the intellect of the AI. Your enemies tend to lunge at you as if they’re drunk, rather than viciously attack you. That means they can easily be fought away - removing any satisfaction in completing a level - which normally consists of a big battle, some walking, and a boss to destroy at the end.
The lack of originality or quality isn’t aided by the poor graphics and the atrocious camera action. Many areas are littered with invisible walls and barriers, restricting your movement - a trait common in games a decade ago but not today. The maps themselves are noticeably two-dimensional, and dull in colour. They are extremely linear too - the kind of place where a football would look more like a Rubik’s cube. Controls take a while to pick up, but are relatively simple.
Get past dire gameplay and you've got to contend with the annoying camera action: it follows you around with a three second delay - after which time you are surrounded by moronic monsters. This is extremely frustrating and cannot be altered. Similarly annoying are the sound effects, which are like a stuck record - repeating the same ‘growl’ over and over again.
Only one aspect of Altered Beast really caught my eye - the cut scenes - which are spectacularly detailed and realistic. When watching the initial clip of a helicopter flying, I had to squint to see whether it was real video or computer generated. If this game was rated on cut scenes alone, it would get top marks (and a veteran company like Sega should know this never happens anymore).
Overall the game is disappointing, especially after the success of the original. For those new to the series, don't bother buying it. Fans of the original would only buy this to complete a set.