Developer(s) – Traveller’s Tales & Eurocom
Publisher(s) – Universal Interactive Studios, Vivendi Universal Games, Konami & Sierra Entertainment
Director – John Burton
Producer – Daniel Suarez
Developed at about the mid-point of the sixth generation, and originally envisioned as something much more than what it turned out to be, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, to me, spelt the downfall of the entire series, as it failed to move with the times, and simply gave more of what fan of the series had already grown accustomed to.
Graphics – 6/10
The first complaint I have about it is that the visuals, even though the game was ported to more advanced systems than the original PlayStation, seem to have been considerably downgraded; as if things have not been presented in as great detail as Crash Bandicoot 3 was. Facial expressions of characters seem less realistic, and the settings and design remains largely the same as most other previous games in the series. Even if players didn’t find the gameplay up to scratch, they wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the expected improvements in visual quality, which was the whole point of redeveloping the game’s original plan in the first place.
Gameplay – 6/10
Aside from the graphics not being up to scratch, the gameplay was also severely below par; especially compared to how the developers originally imagined the game. The Wrath of Cortex was initially intended by Mike Cerny to be a 3D open world game similar to that of Jak & Daxter or Ratchet and Clank. The problem was, however, that due to the publishing rights being juggled around left, right and centre, Cerny and Sony ultimately fell out with Universal Interactive, and different developers were brought on board. Alas, what they came up with was yet another game playing out like the original trilogy with considerably less redeeming value, other than it’s slightly more challenging. It’s especially tragic, as I think Cerny’s original plan could have possibly helped to bring the series into the next generation of gaming much more effectively.
Controls – 10/10
As the gameplay is more or less identical to the original three Crash Bandicoot games, there would have been even greater problems in my opinion, had there been issues with the controls. Thankfully, this was the one thing the developers managed to hit the nail on the head with. It plays out like a traditional Crash Bandicoot game, but the established mechanics allow for the inclusion of a much greater challenge than the original games.
Lifespan – 4/10
Lasting around 4 hours, it only lasts as long as the original three games, which especially for the time, was considered to be severely below the industry standard, as open world games were beginning to take precedent, with the arrival of the three Grand Theft Auto games and other and better platformers, such as Ratchet & Clank. The developers were very much behind the times when it came to making this game, and had not the imagination and artistic drive that Mike Cerny had, and so the game failed in most aspects, and therefore, there wouldn’t have been much call for a game like this to last any longer than it did.
Storyline – 5/10
The story is also a mere continuation of the template that the previous three games followed. Crash must collect another 25 crystals before Dr. Cortex, who has created a bulked out doppelganger of Crash named Crunch, who in turn, is assisted in battle by four destructive masks known as the Elementals. Aside from the plot being extremely unoriginal, the voice acting is also particularly below par; despite the fact that is has a pretty standout cast, with actors such as R. Lee Ermey, Mark Hamill and Corey Burton. The opening scene where the stable villains of the series converse is also particularly cringe worthy in my opinion.
Originality – 0/10
When Cerny left the project, the new developers brought in simply stripped the original plan of all its originality, and simply made a game the same as most other titles in the series. There was nothing special about this game, and nothing added to make it stand out from even the original trilogy. There would be other games in the series, which would provide a somewhat interesting twist on gameplay, but to me, this was the point whereby Crash Bandicoot lost its status as one of the most recognizable characters in gaming, and has been left to languish in obscurity ever since.
Overall, Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex was reduced from being a potentially excellent game to a bland and largely forgettable experience. It’s regrettable that history went in the direction that it did, and the rumour that Sony plan to release a new game in the series has since been confirmed, then the end result will have to be a much greater game than this.