When it comes to the modern-day crop of big-name comic book artists, few among the pack have developed the rabid following that Todd McFarlane has. The creator of the Spawn series has enjoyed enormous success over the years, and, in turn, he has parlayed that success into a number of other areas of entertainment. One of McFarlane's biggest cash cows has been his various lines of action figures, including the McFarlane's Monsters line that features his own interpretations of various classic horror monsters. McFarlane's Monsters are also the inspiration for McFarlane's Evil Prophecy, a PlayStation 2 beat-'em-up game developed by Konami that features these many grotesque creatures as its primary antagonists. It's an interesting concept, but it's ultimately a concept whose appeal will largely be based on your particular level of interest in McFarlane's designs--and on your ability to put up with some rather clunky gameplay and production values.
Thanks to Dracula and his many monstrous minions, it's the end of the world as we know it. So it's up to you and your ragtag crew of monster hunters to stop them.
The time is the 19th century. Strange things are happening all across the globe. Vampires, werewolves, and other assorted creatures are attacking the populous; ships are being lost at sea to swarms of ghastly sea creatures; and in some areas, the dead are literally rising from their graves. (real wrath-of-God type of stuff) People are, predictably, freaking out. But one gentleman, in particular, is most concerned that this could all be part of an "evil prophecy" leading to the end of the world. That gentleman is Dr. Hans Jaeger, a brilliant scientist in the field of electricity studies who also happens to possess a book that tells of the end of times and of the signs that point toward it. Apparently, these are all signs that are beginning to come true. After coming to the conclusion that he simply cannot allow this to happen, Jaeger recruits some of the world's most renowned monster hunters to take evil to task. They include Logan, a brute of a pirate whose crew was slaughtered at the hands of evil sea creatures; Delphine, a gunslinging expert in killing werewolves; and Sundano, a mystical warrior from Africa. The four don't make for the friendliest of teams, but they can still take out a whole lot of monsters.
Of course, the plot is mostly just an excuse to set you up to beat the living hell out of as many monsters as Evil Prophecy sees fit to put in front of you. The game is primarily just a big, dumb beat-'em-up--and it's unapologetically so. In traditional fashion, much of the gameplay simply relies on the age-old mechanic of walking in one direction, beating up a bunch of bad guys who spawn in front of you, walking another 10 feet, and so on and so forth until you eventually get to the boss character. Then you beat him or her up too. This is effectively what Evil Prophecy does best, in that it stays fairly consistent in its style and methodology of action. What, unfortunately, bogs the game down is its occasional forays into the realm of exploration and puzzle-solving, in addition to some problematic team-based elements.
In most of the game's levels, you'll have to perform at least one kind of special objective to move on. This can range from simply finding a way to traverse a gap in your path to actually locating and rescuing kidnapped villagers. Sure, it's absolutely not a bad idea to try to break up the semi-monotonous beat-'em-up action, but the objectives the game puts in front of you aren't fun or interesting. For example, having to run around inside a labyrinthine maze of sewer tunnels to specifically try to locate one of several kidnapped children while being constantly pummeled by hordes of spawning monsters is far more frustrating than fun. As the game goes on, the objectives get more complex, and the enemies get much, much tougher, thus making later portions of the game downright maddening.
Throughout Evil Prophecy, you will work as a team with your monster-hunting cohorts. Thankfully, they fight mostly as well as you do.
The one aspect of Evil Prophecy that moves away from mere typical beat-'em-up fare is its team-based element. During the game, all four of the hunter characters are fighting at once. You can quickly shift through the roster of hunters to pick your particular warrior by using the left and right buttons on the D pad, and the remaining three characters are controlled automatically. They don't just stand idly by, though; they fight right by your side and are often just as adept at plowing through enemies as your average player. That said, there are definitely some artificial intelligence issues to speak of. Periodically, teammates will get hung up in certain areas, either stuck in a blocking animation or otherwise just immobile for no discernible reason. Dead spots will sometimes appear in the action, where neither your teammates nor the surrounding enemies will attack, thus leading to a stalemate until you start up the action again yourself. Additionally, when one of your teammates gets too low in health, he or she will immediately switch to an almost entirely defensive mind-set. While this does make a certain level of sense, you're still basically losing a teammate prematurely, since he or she won't attack any enemies unless an enemy specifically goes after him or her. Ideally, having your teammates fight to the bitter end would probably have been a more welcome solution.
On the plus side, the basic fighting mechanics in Evil Prophecy are actually pretty good. The X button acts as a basic attack button, which, when pressed in rapid succession, performs a basic combo attack. The circle button is your jump button, and the square button performs a low-level, character-specific special attack. Holding the R1 button and pressing X performs a more powerful special attack. Special attacks drain a meter that represents your entire team's special abilities, so when one member performs an attack of this type, the whole team's ability to perform a move decreases. The meter builds itself back up as you inflict more damage on enemies, so it usually doesn't stay depleted for very long.