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Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex
PS2 Staff Review by Aaron Thomas

Naughty Dog was the creator of the Crash Bandicoot series, and developed the marsupials games for his entire run on the Playstation. Now that Crash has moved on to the Playstation2 hes got some new developers, but the same formula that made him famous. Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex plays just the way Crash games of old have, but fails to add anything substantial to the pre-existing games, and as a result comes off stale.

Theres a story here, but it really only serves as flimsy reason for a new Crash game. Tired of losing to Crash for the last few games, Dr. Cortex has harnessed the power of Earth, fire, air and water, and created Crashs greatest nemesis yet - Crunch. Crash must defeat Crunch to get to his nemesis Dr. Cortex and defeat him one lastblah, blah, blah. Yep, its not much, but Sonic the Hedgehogs not known for his deep plots either and he does okay.

Crashs visual style is largely unchanged, but the PS2 has allowed for an all-around improvement to the way he looks and moves. Key amongst these is the games snappy framerate. Its a silky smooth 60 fps whether Crash is jumping from ledge to ledge, or running for his life in one of the classic chase sequences. Crash himself has received a polygon makeover, and now looks better than ever - he now looks as smooth as he moves. Many of the levels, despite an increased polygon count and improved texturing are a little on the bland side, but others, including the underwater levels, look quite good.

The camera is still placed in a fixed perspective, which brings up many of the old problems from the previous games. There are jumps that are hard to judge, and navigating through tight areas can be quite a chore. On a whole, the game does look a whole lot better than it ever has, but fails to push the PS2s hardware in any aspect.

Very little, if anything new has been done in The Wrath of Cortexs sound department. Itd be pretty difficult to discern the difference between this game, and any of the three games that pre-dated it. The same bongo beats serve as the music, and the same sound effects are still here. Of course theyre still in the game because they fit the theme, but a little something new for the ears wouldnt hurt in the inevitable next time around.

At a risk of sounding like a broken record, the gameplay found here is more of the same. Crash has got all his signature moves: the bellyflop, the spin, the chase levels, and the vehicle levels that he had in his last adventure. A few minor enhancements and moves spice things up a little bit, but not enough to make anything feel fresh.

Crash begins his journey in a - you guessed it, hub, where he goes to one of five different worlds. It is here that the games horrendous load times rear their ugly heads. Ive never come across a game that has had such long load times, they make EA Sports load screens seem like they move at light speed. Sloppy programming, lazy programming, half-assed play testing, or maybe having to get the game out in time for the holidays all contributed to these heinous times, and theres no excuse for it. Not only is their no need for it, but it also ruins the flow of the game. If I die, and it takes another minute to load a level, am I going to try and try again? Well I had to because I had to review it. You? Youd go find something thats actually fun. Horrible, horrible, horrible.

Once you get past the god-awful load times (you will someday, keep waiting), the games not bad. In fact, its just as high quality as it has ever been, it just feels old. More emphasis is given on the stages where Crash controls a vehicle, and hes got some new toys to pilot. A mech suit, jeep, submarine, and even a giant hamster ball are all tools in his quest to defeat Dr. Cortex. You can even control Coco, who is Crashs sister in a few platforming levels. As mentioned earlier, love em or hate em, the chase sequences are back as well. The levels are bigger than ever before, but the one hit kill rule still applies - one hit and ol Crash is dead. Some people think of it as a nod to the old school games, some people think its plain obnoxious. Whatever your opinion, theyre still there, so youve got to play each level over and over until youve mastered it.

Its bigger, faster, more colorful, but its just not better. Its hard not to bury this franchise now that its out of the hands of the original developers, but there are a few small rays of hope. The game is still fun to play, and Crash is a great mascot character, but the series is in desperate need of some innovation. If you are a die-hard Crash Bandicoot fan, this game will bring back lots of memories (maybe too many), but anyone who didnt like the series before, wont like it now.

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