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War Gods Review

Publisher - Midway Home Entertainment
Developer - Eurocom
Platform - N64
Type - Fighting
Score - 7/10

The Nintendo 64 console is a powerful little box. Anyone who has played Mario 64 or Turok has seen that the N64 can push a lot of polygons and still look incredible while doing it. Ever since the N64 hit the shelves in September '96, I've been waiting for a 3D fighter. Now we have War Gods, and all I can say is, "It's about time!"

Midway has had some hit and miss title up to date, but War Gods (in addition to NBA Hangtime and Doom 64) proves that Midway is shaping up. War Gods isn't the best fighting game ever produced, but it's ranks highly in the annuls of three dimensional pound-somebody-to-a-pulp-games.

While you may not be able to tell from watching the game, anyone playing the game can tell it's based off the Mortal Kombat fighting engine. All the ingredients of Mortal Kombat are intact: tapping keystrokes for special moves, using a block button instea d of pushing backwards, extremely overpowered uppercuts, and fatalities. Even with all of this evidence, War Gods is a bit more than a Mortal-Kombat-in-3D clone.

It looks like Midway fixed some of the fighting engine problems that plagued Mortal Kombat Trilogy. The first improvement is running. Mortal Kombat Trilogy used an awkward run button, but War Gods uses an extremely intuitive method- tapping forward twice. This seems like a minor change, but it drastically affects gameplay. Running in Mortal Kombat Trilogy was a profound error, but the same maneuver in War Gods is tactically sound. Another improvement is the combo system. The combo system in Mortal Kombat Trilogy seems like it was tacked on as an afterthought. In contrast, War Gods' combo system is well integrated. Combos are not peripheral to the engine (see Mortal Kombat Trilogy) nor the totality of the game (see Killer Instinct Gold). Even without knowing the combo mechanics, anyone can pull off simple 3 or 4 hit sequences. A final enhancement to the Mortal Kombat engine is the push maneuver. This is accomplished by pressing block twice in succession. This seems like a minor addition at best, but it robs your opponent of pulling off moves which require that they stand very close. It's also great in a two player match as it is un surmountably insulting.

In addition to polishing the ailing Mortal Kombat engine, this game explodes it into three dimensions. War Gods is a true 3D fighting game, not a 2D game masquerading as a 3D game, such as Tekken or Killer Instinct Gold. If you've played War Gods in the arcade, you couldn't have missed the gargantuan button labeled "3D". The 3D button is essentially a shift key that changes up and down on the control pad from jump and crouch to move right and left in 3D. An improveme nt in the home version that the arcade game lacks is the ability to assign 3D jump buttons to the N64 controller. If you don't like using a shift key, then you can use simple one button presses to leap into separate parallels. War Gods also keeps you facing your opponent at all times. The use of a 3D modifier button (or separate 3D jump buttons) and the fact that you automatically face your enemy frees War Gods from movement problems that other 3D fighters suffer fro m. Both Soul Edge and Virtua Fighter are plagued by movement problems that interfere with game play. War Gods may not give the player quite as much freedom as other 3D fighters, but it makes trade offs to keep the action lightning fast and manageable.

War Gods made a smooth transition from the arcade to the N64. The Nintendo 64 doesn't seem to have any problems keeping up with the arcade machines graphics or the speed at which it spits them out. There are some minor graphics improvements in the home ve rsion. The characters appear to be the same as in the arcade. They are composed of polygons, yet they have a smooth, rounded appearance. The characters don't move quite as believably as they do in Turok: Dinosaur Hunter . It doesn't happen very often, but you may catch characters falling in the wrong direction or see two fighters stepping into each other. As far as background graphics go, the N64 version fixed some problems the arcade game had.

The background in War Gods is separated into three sections: the arena floor, the wall, and the backdrop image. In the arcade game, the floor of the arena easily becomes over-pixelated when the camera zooms in. N64 never has over-pixelation problems. The wall, which always partially obscures the backdrop had some trouble rotating in the arcade. The wall appears to segment during rotations and other transformations. The N64 cart doesn't have any trouble whipping the wall around the screen. And finally, the backdrop images have not lost any detail in the port.

The background music also survived the transition. The scores in War Gods don't hold a candle to other N64 games. There are considerable gaps in musical transitions. While there are problems, the music doesn't really affect gameplay. The grunts, screams, and sounds of combat are also less then fantastic. When you knock someone to the ground, the bass speakers should rumble. End of story.

War Gods is a fun, exciting game, but there are some problems that keep it from becoming a truly great game. The characters in War Gods may look very different, but they all have similar secret moves. It seems like everyone has a capture and a fireball ma neuver. Granted the designers adapted each move to a particular character's motif, but a rose by any other name is _still_ a fireball.

Another glitch is the depth of game play. It won't take a single player very long to play through the entire game. War Gods pits you against all of the ten fighters plus two bosses. This is still more characters than early fighting games had, but War Gods lack many of the ploys that extend gameplay. The original Mortal Kombat stretched gameplay with endurance rounds (rounds in which you face two opponents in a row), and most every fighting game has shows of strength (breaking blocks, destroying cars, etc. ). This isn't an incredible weakness of the game, but you may find yourself at the end thinking, "Is that all?"

In spite of all its problems, War Gods still meets the fighting game formula:

no plot + lots of blood + 2 controllers = a good time

War Gods is definitely one of the better games Midway has made for N64, and it may be the best fighting game currently available for the console. I do have two warnings. The first one is to parents. Parents, if you buy this game for your children, it will mess them up for life. This game is for mature players only. Warning number two is for the people playing this game. Midway doesn't tell you how to do ANY of the special moves in the instruction manual, so I've decided to include some of them here.

The bottom line is that War Gods is a fun game. So, if you want to kill your friends, use this cart and not a blunt object.