It’s good to be bad – remembering Rampage, the bonkers video game that inspired the new Dwayne Johnson movie

Who do you call when a giant crocodile, a massive gorilla and a huge wolf are running rampant in your city? Why, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, of course. That’s what happens in forthcoming movie Rampage, which hits cinemas on April 11. But did you know that the monster movie spectacular is based on a 1980s arcade game that, at the time – and possibly now – is one of the bonkers ever made? Here’s what you need to know about it.


You played the villain

Gamers of the 1980s would generally play a plucky collection of pixels who would occasionally take on a big baddie in a boss stage. Rampage was the first game to put you in control of one of those bosses right from the start – you were the one controlling the big monster, leaving chaos and destruction in your wake.

It was all about destruction

Where in other popular games of the time you were Mario rescuing Princess Peach, or Link rescuing Princess Zelda (what was it with princesses in those days?), the goal in Rampage was quite different: playing the role of a monster, the aim was simply to kick seven shades out of the cityscape you were walking through – including the people, police, helicopters and cars. Happily for the monsters, this was a landscape of highly rubble-worthy skyscrapers, and a round wasn’t over until the whole thing was leveled. Great fun for the players, less so for the residents, who would jump out of windows and run away squealing.

Three of you could play at the same time

Rampage started out as an arcade game, and you and two mates could team up to smush brickwork simultaneously – or simply beat each other up instead of the buildings. It was ported to home consoles and computers too, but in a time where most systems only had two inputs, the chance to gang up in a three was rare.

The monsters had weirdly sweet names

Yeah, that ravenous wolf with the teeth and the claws? That’s Ralph. The Godzilla-like prehistoric meanie? That’s Lizzie! And the big gorilla is, of course, George. In the game, players could only grab hold of a certain type of person: George can hold women, Lizzie can hold middle-aged men, and Ralph can hold businessmen. No. Idea. Why.

There was an eco message (of sorts)

In the game’s backstory, the monsters were normal humans transformed by some kind of environmental carelessness. Lizzie was forged in a radioactive lake, George was the result of an experimental vitamin and Ralph was the accident of a new food additive. Don’t mess with mother nature, kids.

There were real life locations

Ever been to Peoria, Illinois? No! Wanna destroy it? Sure!

You could eat anything

Sometimes, when bashing your way through a building, mystery items would pop up. Some good: food, money. Some bad: bombs, electrical items and cigarettes, which are apparently as harmful to monsters as they are to the rest of us.

Dying wasn’t so bad

When the various attackers got the better of you and your energy bar ran out, your character would transform back into a puny human and run off the screen naked, desperately trying to cover their modesty.

Rampage is released in UK cinemas April 12

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