Todd McFarlane's empire is built on the back of Spawn and other such comic books, but success has allowed McFarlane to branch out into other areas. One of his most prominent ventures has been McFarlane Toys, a company that specializes in ultrarealistic action figures based on various licenses and original concepts. In the past, McFarlane Toys has created several action figure lines based on video games, and now, Konami is making a video game based on one of McFarlane Toys' own original series. The McFarlane's Monsters line is being used as the basis for a new brawl-heavy action game called McFarlane's Evil Prophecy, for the PlayStation 2. We recently played a work-in-progress version of Evil Prophecy to see how the toys have translated into pixel form.
The story in McFarlane's Evil Prophecy begins in the early 19th century when all manner of terrible happenings begin to occur around the world--the dead rising from their graves, dogs and cats living together, that sort of thing. People the world over begin to fear the end of the world has come, but one man, Dr. Hans Jaeger, knows that the situation is even worse because a book in his possession foretells that these events are the beginning of an eternal age of darkness on Earth. And as we all know, there's no better way to stop the onslaught of evil than to charge out and beat the hell out of it. Toward that end, Jaeger assembles the best monster hunters the world has to offer: Logan, a pirate and strongman; Delphine, a lithe female gunslinger; and Sundano, a mystical warrior from northern Africa. Together, the four will fight against legions of evil creatures, including the six creatures from McFarlane's Monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, the werewolf, the mummy, the sea creature, and the voodoo queen.
The basic gameplay in McFarlane's Evil Prophecy ought to be fundamentally familiar to any fan of beat-'em-ups. In the main single-player campaign, all four heroes will be fighting at all times, although you'll control only one (the other three will be played by the AI). Right off the bat you've got a ton of attack options. You can hammer on the basic attack button to produce a combo string that's pretty good at cutting through the horde of enemies. There are a number of other canned combos you can use that have varying effects, such as knocking enemies back or popping them up in the air so you can hit them with another combo. Each character also has a unique special attack that drains a special meter--Logan throws grenades, for instance, while Delphine uses her pistols and Dr. Jaeger electrocutes enemies with a special backpack weapon. Finally, each character has a powerful magical ability, such as Logan's fire attack or Delphine's full-heal ability.
Shirking the longstanding tradition of AI allies that like to stand around and watch you die, your companions in Evil Prophecy will actually pitch in and do a lot of the fighting for you. Each of the characters gains attack experience independently, so you can level up your various combos to add hits and make them more powerful. Thankfully, the other characters will gain experience even when you're not playing them, so if you want to switch off later on, you won't have to worry about using a gimped fighter. You'll basically be brawling your way through (literally) thousands of enemies in various sinister locations as you try to reach the six aforementioned Big Bad Guys.
Though the main game is for one player, McFarlane's Evil Prophecy has some meat to offer those looking for a solid multiplayer experience as well. The dungeon mode lets up to four players fight through a linear progression of levels, killing as many monsters as humanly possible before they buy the farm. The battle mode is more of an all-out competition mode where up to four players choose their character and fight it out in an enclosed arena. There's also a time attack mode where you can play the single-player levels (by yourself, alas) over again in an attempt to finish them in record time.
The designs for the six figures in the McFarlane's Monsters series are extremely creepy--Frankenstein carries the corpse of his creator strapped to his back, for instance--and the visual presentation of the game follows suit. You'll fight through all sorts of dark locales, like graveyards and the mummy's tomb, as you try to vanquish the evil plaguing the land. The four player characters are pretty nicely detailed, and the game manages to cram a ton of enemies onto the screen at once without any slowdown at all. There wasnt a whole lot of audio in our build of the game, though what we heard was serviceable; hopefully Konami will add more music and some voice to the game before its release.
So far, McFarlane's Evil Prophecy looks like a solid little brawler with a pretty good amount of depth. The game doesn't seem to offer any radical innovations, but for those who like to bloodily plow their way through wave upon wave of monsters, this should be just the ticket. The light character-building aspects add a nice incentive to keep going so you can power up your attacks and kick even more rear. McFarlane's Evil Prophecy is currently slated for release in June, and we'll bring you more on it before that time.