Have you ever come across a game that you really wanted to like, but for some strange reason you just couldn't? That's how I felt about War Gods. Let me put it this way: I'm a huge fan of the Mortal Kombat series, and War Gods possesses enough similarities to make it seem like an old friend at times. It also includes enough changes to give the Mortal Kombat fighting experience a "new" feel. Sounds good, right? Well...let's just say that, ultimately, the new feel I got was one of irritation and disappointment.
The story behind War Gods goes something like this: A really, really long time ago, a spaceship carrying crazy, life-giving ore crashed into the Earth, spreading small chunks of the magic rocks across the planet's surface. Throughout time, various humans have found the rocks and instantly evolved in War Gods. Now they're fighting each other to gather all the stones in the quest to become the ultimate super-warrior. Indeed. It's a dubious mission worthy of this so-so MK clone.
If you've played any of the Mortal Kombat games, adjusting to War Gods should be pretty easy, should you decide to bother. All of the basic moves, like uppercuts, sweeps, and roundhouse kicks, are exactly the same as MK. Moreover, many of the special moves are done in a very similar fashion. The only real difference War Gods can claim is its 3-D environment, which mainly allows the characters to sidestep out of the way of projectiles. War Gods also sports MK-inspired combos, the only appreciable difference being that the combos are longer here. Perfecting these ten-hit combos is just a matter of simple memorization, and they ensure that experienced players will take up to a third of their opponent's life every time they land a successful attack. The game also has fatalities, which range from completely pathetic (Anubis' sarcophagus drop) to completely insane (CY-5's UFO Abduction). These fatalities are extremely hard to do on the N64 controller, as many of them involve simultaneously hitting three buttons and other finger-twisting feats.
On the upside, War Gods' graphics are pretty good. The 3-D arena looks sharp, the characters are fairly detailed, and the backgrounds look good as well. This is probably the first N64 fighting game to hit the market that actually shows off some of the power of this system. The only graphical element that falls short is the blood, which flies out of the character's bodies in huge dollops and manages to look pretty ridiculous in the process. The sound in War Gods is some of the best to come from an N64 game. The distorted, low-quality sound that plagued Midway's Mortal Kombat Trilogy has been replaced with crisp, clean speech and sound effects.
If you're a fan of Mortal Kombat, War Gods is an interesting (albeit unrelated) footnote to the MK legacy. It's a very strange mix, which may leave some feeling unfulfilled. While it has just enough of the MK feel to give it familiarity, the differences will drive purists crazy. However, it is a solid fighter, and probably the best that the N64 has to offer in the fighting arena.