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June 7, 2005
Altered Beast - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
17/3/2005THQSega WOW1MMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
355KBStereoYesYesSmallNo

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One of the opening levels.
Wind the clock back somewhere between 15 and 20 years ago to when Sega were in their prime and some of you will remember a game by the name of Altered Beast. It was a side-scrolling platformer meets beat-em-up, which many people would have received bundled in a small stack of games with their Megadrives. While it was quite a credible co-op game at the time, like many of the games from yesteryear it suffers quite a bit from the old remember-it-better-than-it-actually-was syndrome. Anyway, we now return to reality for a moment where Sega have injected some life into this aged title, whilst simultaneously sucking out the strong points that it used to have. Think of the new Altered Beast as an old man that magically looks like an 18-year old; on the surface he looks fine and full of life, though the arthritis and bowel problems on the inside soon tell a different story.

The story begins with an accidental toxic mist that has spread over an area in North California, which has killed animals and humans and made their corpses return as strange twisted creatures. You play the role of the nameless hero flying in a plane above the accident, whose plane is suddenly attacked by a flying creature. The plane crashes in a small field, and surprise surprise you’re the sole survivor who has lost his memory and is now surrounded by zombie creatures. Just before you get a chance to run away, something in you twigs and before you know it you’ve turned into a were-wolf; in your new killing machine form, the zombie creatures are no match and are easily dispensed with.

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Blood, lots of blood.
The gameplay in Altered Beast then follows through your typical survival horror mould; finding out about your past, what’s going on, and how you’re going to get out of there. Unfortunately the harshly linear progression of Altered Beast makes this more of a chore than most other survival horror titles. Gameplay consists primarily of wiping out the creatures from an area, swearing at the camera (more on that later), walking until you reach an invisible wall, killing a bunch of new zombies, then repeat. The combat system, which is really what the game is based around, is too simple; single button combos are frustratingly hard to control, and more often than not end up with you swiping at the air.

Altered Beast’s main drawcard is the ability for you to transform between human and ‘beast’ states; while in the human state you are pretty much zombie fodder, however at the press of a button you transform into a werewolf (and numerous other ‘animals’ later on in the game). Each time you transform, you’re treated to an FMV cutscene of your transformation from human to whatever animal you transform to at the time. At first it’s kinda neat, but because you transform so often and hence are subject to this cutscene time and time again, it soon becomes aggravating. You can only skip this once the first second or so has played, and it really does get on the nerves.

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What the fu..
If the transformation irk doesn’t raise your blood pressure though, the camera control (and the lack of AI running it) will definitely boil it. Hands down no questions asked, the camera in Altered Beast gets my ‘Worst in-game Camera’ award for this year to date; it’s like the Emotion Engine inside the PS2 started feeling ‘extreme annoyance’ and then let loose on the camera, spinning around your character at all the wrong times just when enemies thought they’d spawn in it’s blind spots. There’s manual camera controls, but I’m convinced they’re ‘placebo’ controls; they’re there to put your mind at ease, yet physically do nothing to help the situation.

Altered Beast’s graphics aren’t anything to be proud of; the textures are generally shabby and bland, and the character models look more like something from the early generations of PS2 games. Cutscenes have a grainy low-sampling-rate look to them reminiscent of PSOne FMV; I’m still unsure as to whether this was an intentional style decision, or if the developers were really that out of touch with what can be done with the system.

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It looks good - if it was PSOne.
The final nail in Altered Beast’s coffin is long, rusty and pointy, and comes in the form of the in-game audio. It’s a shambles with a jumbled collection of second grade effects that give minimal atmosphere. Moving through grass for instance results in a strange loop of a single grass footstep; which not only doesn’t correspond to what you’re seeing on screen, but sounds the same no matter whether you’re walking, running or moving around. It’s hard to explain, but it just sounds ‘wrong’. To make matters worse the voice acting is dismal. I’d suggest that you listen to a CD or something while playing Altered Beast, but I’d be surprised if you got past a song or two without turning off the PS2 in disgust at the remainder of the game.

You would think that with all their intellectual property and games from the past, Sega could have resurrected just about any other game from their sizable collection and done a better job than this. Their Sega Ages collection, available in Japan only at this stage, shows that they are capable of restoring games from the 8- and 16-bit era, but they obviously tripped over their two left feet and served this up for the western world (that’s only PAL territories too; the US release got canned, and rightfully so). The old saying that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” doesn’t even hold true here either; the collective disappointment of all aspects of this game overwhelm any positive feelings you may have had for it. I’m normally one for nostalgia, but I’m sorry to say that Altered Beast doesn’t make the grade in the slightest.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSThe words ‘Average’, ‘Ordinary’ and ‘Meh’ spring to mind.
62%
SOUNDQuite embarrassing actually; be sure to use the ‘mute’ button.
48%
GAMEPLAYWalk, kill, transform, kill some more. Then repeat 20 bajillion times.
61%
VALUEIt’s only value is that you’ll appreciate your other games more.
45%
OVERALLAltered Beast is a below-par game which is made even worse by the fact that it has a heritage from an earlier gamer generation. If you played the original and are considering the PS2 reincarnation; run. Run away and don’t look back. Some things are best left in the past.
46%

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