Hollywood and video games have always been perceived like a match made in heaven, yet it has never been able to reach its full potential. Since the days of the Atari 2600, there have been soulless video game adaptations of films. As the technology progressed, the possibilities of how the stories on the screen could be extended also continued to evolve.
The 3DO tried an ambitious undertaking with Demolition Man, developing the game while it was being filmed. This version of the game also included specific scenes shot solely for the game:
Nowadays, technology has allowed videogames to take on a more cinematic quality, and a number of high profile actors have been included in the production of games:
Back in the long, long ago of 1998, NeverSoft, the company that would later develop the Tony Hawk Pro Skater Series, captured the talents of Bruce Willis to star in their action-platformer, Apocalypse.
Originally, Willis was intended to be a sidekick for the player, having the duo traipse through the game together. This was eventually scrapped and the game was redesigned to have the player control the Willis character, Trey Kincaid. Outside of looking like a mid-90s Bruce Willis, Kincaid also spouts various one liners during gameplay to show that he’s a significant bad-ass.
The game is fairly basic, playing like an overhead Contra-clone. Fortunately, there aren’t a terrible number of camera issues or tedious jumps that make progressing difficult. The one exception being a part on the street level where the player has to jump across moving taxis over a river of lava; overall, it’s still better than my daily commute.
Along the way there are plenty of powerups to collect in the forms of different types of guns and health. The only drawback is the small amount of voice samples Willis provides quickly becomes irritating. The cringe of hearing “I feel GOOD!” over and over almost makes me want to forgo health pickups.
There are a few bands, namely System of a Down, that contribute to the game’s soundtrack. Some levels even feature giant screens playing video loops of the bands because that won’t stick out like a sore thumb at all:
I’m not the biggest metal head, but the selected songs fit the atmosphere of the game nicely.
Kincaid begins the game by breaking out of prison and fighting his way through some less than savory locales. One would think a nightclub in the middle of a cemetery would be a memorable scene, but in execution it is just bland and uninspired.
In between levels, the loading screens imitate Biblical passages to try and make the game feel more epic. There are quotation marks around the words, but they aren’t attributed to anyone, so I wonder which member of the team was forced to say these ridiculous phrases.
Along the way, Kincaid will fight each horseman of the Apocalypse who is sometimes in the disguise of a would-be ally. Again, these fights are fairly basic with just minor variations of blowing up everything on the screen.
Ultimately, the game leads to the White House and the final boss is in the guise of the President of the United States. Today this would be ripe for social commentary, but seeing as this was 1998, no one gave a shit.
Once the final boss is dispatched back to the gates of Hell, we get the final plot twist where our hero is possessed by evil. Roll Credits…
The game is competent enough, but it relies too much on its hardcore attitude to work. In 2018 it just comes off as trying too hard. Overall, the gameplay comes off more like a tech demo, which is probably fair, as the game’s engine went on to power some of NeverSoft’s later releases.
I was impressed with it back when I was 15 and easily infatuated with the celebrity endorsement and over the top ‘tude. Today, my cynical ass sees the fingerprints of the suits who knew how to get teenage males to dole out their hard-earned cash in order to feel they were supporting something made to feel counter-cultural.
In its day, the game garnered slightly above average reviews. Today, though, it has been largely forgotten which is odd considering the high profile star attached to it.
Used copies can go for around $5.00, and I would say it’s worth that just as a curiosity piece. There are also cheat codes that make finishing the game a cake walk, so players can easily see all the game has to offer in a little over an hour and then forget about it for the rest of their lives.