Regardless of what scholars, music magazines and Tenacious D continue to espouse, the finest song ever committed to tape is inarguably "Monster Mash." "Stairway" this, Beethoven that - Bobby "Boris" Pickett's macabre anthem simultaneously made us recoil in fear for our very lives and channeled an unknown desire to cut a rug with Dracula and throw back cocktails with the Wolfman. In that same spirit, we strode confidently into Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia's top-down, third-person blast-a-thon expecting a similar mix of the unholy and pleasant, but alas...
Monster Madness ' singleplayer game is loud, obnoxious and just plain shallow. As hard as it seems to botch the winning scenario of a town overrun with ghoulish beasties and the blood-thirsty dead, apparently all it takes is some horrible voiceovers and the most cringe-inducing foursome of adolescent stereotypes possible. Zack alone is easily the most irritaing character in recent memory.
Above: The GamesRadar office prides itself in being a "nerd friendly" environment, a place where geeks of all kinds can roam free and unmolested. But there's no way we'd turn down the opportunity to punch Zack in the gut and dump his books
Despite the constant references to classic games and movies (Doom, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Die Hard, even Bruce Campbell referred to by name), most of the time your character just loops annoying phrases or prompts you towards something that isn't even happening. (No, you did not improve your melee skill, jackhole.)
As unimportant as the story may be, it's the one thing that may have saved the buggy, floaty, hack-and-slash-fest that is the meat of Monster Madness. We also know a humorous and frantic shooter such as this has little use for accurate physics. And as entertaining as it is to watch a 90-pound geek kick around a giant mecha-robot and see it flop with the same rag doll motion as an undead Chihuahua, it doesn't imply an attention to detail, and similarly, piloting haphazard vehicles is an absolute chore. Except the swan; it was so absurd, we didn't care that it controlled badly.
Even the ability to transform into a monstrous alter ego (werewolf, vampire, etc.) and a variety of weapons couldn't save a solo run through Monster Madness. But then, something happens: another person jumps on, and fun starts to appear. Throwing a friend or three in for co-op, things get a little clearer. Once you get into the Xbox Live play, it all makes so much more sense. The goofy weapons become hot commodities and even the vehicles and turrets perform better under the circumstances.
Above: This summer... you will believe a rocket-mounted, swan-shaped paddle boat can strafe on water
It's still far from perfect, but everything we didn't care for in single player came together as a damn decent online experience. Free-for-all Deathmatches, as well as Capture the Flag and King of the Hill were bite sized doses of madcap hilarity. And Dojo sessions, where four players can square off against wave after wave of mutant hellbeasts, is challenging, fun and fosters camaraderie and teamwork just as much as any other super serious shooter out there.
We didn't care much for Monster Hunter mode, where every human player tries to fight of a plague of monstrous transformations to literally be the last man standing, but plenty of people online seemed to love it.
Which brings us to the game's price. We're far from comfortable with the increasing trend of charging sixty bucks (or more) per game, but it's much easier to accept when the game kicks you in the face with innovative gameplay, and/or unprecedented visuals. Monster Madness offers neither. The fact that the game looks as pretty as it does (thanks to the Unreal Engine) is the only reason we can see why it wasn't relegated to the Xbox Live Arcade.
Although multiplayer can be akin an epic fourth grade birthday party, where the shaving cream never runs out and the water balloons buckets are bottomless, single player is most certainly not worth 60 bucks. Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia really could've flourished as much (much) cheaper online game, possibly scoring up to two points higher. But since the ramshackle single player is all most people will ever get out of it - a six it gets and a six it deserves.