Preview: Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon

When word first broke that Comedy Central was producing a game based on Ugly Americans, their animated series about a New York City filled with co-habitating humans, demons and other creatures, I had a hard time coming to grips with it. Sure, the show is funny but I couldn’t see how it could translate into a gaming experience (short of an adventure title which, admittedly, has a fair bit of potential in the setting).

Of course, I am a fool. Just about anything can be turned into a dual-stick shooter or a brawler. Ugly Americans is a dual-stick shooter, but it’s one which is at least attempting to add some depth to well-worn formula. 

Ugly Americans

Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon [Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network]
Developer: Backbone Entertainment 
Publisher: 345 Games
To be released: August 30, 2011 (PSN) / August 31, 2011 (XBLA) 

Featuring a story penned by the writing staff of the show, Ugly Americans sees the city of New York on the verge of the Apocalypse when a demon rock star plays the city. With only the Department of Integration to save the world, players can choose to fight as Mark, Callie, Leonard or Grimes. Making each character unique seems to have been a major goal in the game, and they all have different strengths and weaknesses from base performance to weapon skills and special attacks.

Characters can be improved over time by spending experience points earned in the stages on six stats, but there’s no making Grimes fast or gifting Leonard with good taste (his in-game dialog is shockingly crude at times) as stat caps remain in line with the base ratings. 

Ugly Americans also features a lot of weapons. Armed with a gun which turns any common item into a deadly projectile, you’ll find all kinds of crap to shoot, from baseballs to demon genitals. Every type of ammunition has its own firing pattern and damage level and characters have an affinity for specific types of ammo, granting bonus effects when you use them, such as slowing enemies down or increasing damage.

It makes for a fair bit of depth. It’s fun to experiment with the various weapon types, though the weapons preferred by characters generally seem to be the best choice when playing them. And since those weapons accentuate the traits of the individual characters, they do feel quite different.

Ugly Americans

And there are many enemies to kill with decent variety. Zombies will make up the bulk of your targets but a few types of of manbird and demon mix things up. The strategy for dealing with enemies seems to consist of walking backwards and holding the shoot button until everything is dead or your special meter fills up and lets you make everything dead.

The game supports up to four players in local or online co-op and playing with other people feels like the way to go. The game felt downright brutal when I was playing alone but teaming up with one or two people really lightened the load. And with abandoned babies and missing case files to collect, there’s something to be earned by playing stages you may have already completed with a new group of friends.

In terms of visual design, it looks a lot like the show. Backbone has done a pretty good job of rendering the show’s characters to give them some depth without utterly destroying their appearance. Of course, if you think the show is unattractive you’re not going to be impressed by this either.

It feels like Ugly Americans is going to make for a decent couch game to play with a couple of friends and a few beers. Like the show, it’s crude in a number of ways but there’s a hidden charm with a bit of cleverness that does distinguish it. You can check it out for yourself tomorrow on PSN and August 31st on Xbox Live Arcade.

Conrad Zimmerman