System: PS2 (Also On: X-Box)
Developer: Point of View
Release Date: 3/22/05
When the original N.A.R.C arcade game came out in 1988 it was controversial for the ability to let you play as a futuristic cop who mowed down armies of dealers and addicts and let you collect drugs and money in exchange for points. This year Midway tries to capture some of the feeling and the controversy from the original game with NARC, a game that advertises the ability to not just bust dealers and take their drugs off of them, but gives you the chance to use those drugs in the game as well as giving the player a choice as whether or not to play as a good cop or a bad cop. Is the new drug system just a controversial gimmick or a revolutionary step for games of this type?
The games story revolves around two cops, one who is known for being a loose cannon and has a history of drug abuse and a DEA agent who is much more of a straight arrow. The two used to be partners and are now forced to team together again to tackle a new drug that has hit the street called Liquid Soul. Sounds like the plot to half the police dramas out there, doesn’t it? Liquid Soul is right away introduced as a threat as they shoot a guy half a dozen times point blank, and he drinks the stuff and BAM he shrugs the bullets and pain off and turns into a drug raged maniac. The only thing Red Bull does is give you wings.
Most of the game will involve running to different objectives to get a lead on who is behind the sales of Liquid Soul and shutting their operation down. Within each mission you’ll have an objective that most of the time when completed will reveal more story and another objective to complete. The characters are never really developed and the story is nothing we haven’t seen before, there’s no motivation to be a good cop or a bad cop other than the fact that if your badge rating slips too low you can’t proceed with the game. Getting the rating up again is a piece of cake though so it’s nothing to worry about. If they had factored in the good cop/bad cop decisions into the story the whole game would’ve been a lot more interesting.
There is free roaming in the game, but don’t expect anything like GTA. In fact while I’ve heard people claim this game is a GTA rip off it’s not even close, the game shares more similarities to a Playstation game called Urban Chaos, right down to the loose cannon police officer and the responsible one.
The game is as ugly as a hooker with open sores on her face. The two cities are both very small, dark and ugly. While the dark and dirty part fits into the games theme, it goes beyond looking dingy as an intentional part of the settings. There is very little definition on any of the building or street corners so that almost every part of the city looks the same with the exception of how many neon signs are on the street or a couple of slightly different looking buildings. The game uses the same engine to render it’s graphics as the game State of Emergency, and for an engine that didn’t look that great when State of Emergency came out, it’s age is extremely showing in this game. There are always a lot of pedestrians lurking on the street, some just walking around and others selling drugs or committing other acts but the they all have one thing in common, they all share the same handful of ugly character models ensuring that if you’ve seen one guy steal a purse from a lady, that it’ll look like the same two people the next time you see it happen. I thought if we had cloning we’d get rid of all the ugly people? The character models for the main character share the same fate as they too are blocky and lacking in detail or texture. Then there are some clipping and collision detection issues for whenever you happen to be close to a building or wall.
Some of the most interesting graphical changes occur when you use some of the drugs in the game. For example, smoke a little weed and the screen will blur around the edges and the screen will start moving around a little or take some LSD and the screen will turn different colors and the pedestrian models will change into large jester looking heads, or if it’s a bad guy into a demon head making criminals easier to recognize. These effects are fun for the first couple of times but they get old pretty quickly.
There are some well chosen songs from Cypress Hill and Grandmaster Flash that work great with the heavy drug theme of the game, but a lot of the music appears to automatically turn off or on depending on which area of the city you are in. Seeing as it’s a very small city and you spend a lot of time running around it you’ll constantly hear the music in the background cutting out or starting up with the only exception being the song that plays when you are smoking weed. The voice acting is all pretty much phoned in, although I thought that Michael Madsen does a decent job with the voice for his character.
Other than that there’s the random chatter of pedestrians and some pretty big sound bugs that will either surprise you with a screeching noise or cut out all of the sound completely.
The game uses the same set up as a lot of other similar games, you run around with the left joystick and aim with the right. There is an automatic auto aim in the game that will change colors and center on an enemy as long as you move the aiming reticule over them, sometimes this makes it harder to get headshots with a regular gun. Pushing in the right joystick gives a closer over the shoulder view for better aiming. When a gun is not equipped the square button punches, X kicks, and Triangle to grapple, when equipped X reloads manually. Circle shows your badge which will make some criminals give up, or just shoot you, whichever they feel like at the moment. Triangle is context sensitive, R1 shoots or blocks, L1 is for running, L2 is to kneel and walk silently, and R2 is for jumping. Jumping isn’t an exact science in the game, there were times I meant to jump straight up and dived instead, which wouldn’t have been so bad if I wasn’t on the top of a roof.
So far nothing too bad right? Pretty much the basic controls for any third person game of this kind with a couple of flaws. The real problems lie in the inventory system. The extremely retarded inventory system. All done in real time, to equip a gun you press up on the D-pad and can then press left or right to scroll through the guns, in order to scroll through your inventory of drugs you need to unequip your weapon and press left or right to choose cycle through your drugs and money. See the problem? Whenever you want to use a drug effect in combat, you have to first unequip your gun. This is a complete pain in the ass to deal with when trading bullets with the enemy and a confusing way to do the inventory system when the biggest gimmick in the game is using drugs for status effects.
Arresting criminals on the street is kind of fun at first since you can grab one and lay some well placed knees to their skull before arresting them, though occasionally they toss you in a way that you can defend and it will do some good damage. Better to rough them up first. Then the game goes into a meter that wouldn’t look out of place in a sports game where you have to quickly tap the triangle button to fill a meter, then the meter will slightly change and you’ll have to hit the X button when the meter gets into a white square.
It’s mostly functional, but how the inventory is set up is flawed for using drug effects while also fighting which is one of the major things advertised for this game.
I swear there are thing in the game which are so unbalanced that I have to assume it was done intentionally as some twisted joke by the developer. As an example in a special mission that isn’t required for the main game you have to go around and kill a certain amount of snipers in the city. Know what weapon you’re given to accomplish this with? An infinite grenade launcher. Hitting a sniper on a roof with a grenade launcher isn’t so much difficult as just completely absurd, during it I killed waaaaay more innocent people that the sniper ever would’ve. I’m talking a rain of body parts here. It’s easier to just use a pistol. Another mission the game tells you to use a sniper rifle in order to pick off guys who are attacking someone. They come in large waves that makes the slow sniper rifle nearly impossible to use for the mission, especially since with the auto aim you can break out an assault rifle and go to town instead. Or an escort mission where the person I’m escorting walks right in front of me while I’m shooting!
And those are the missions with clear objectives! Sometimes you’ll go into an objective not quite sure what you are supposed to do and without much help from the game. In order to figure it out you’ll likely have to keep trying a few times. Luckily most objectives have checkpoints that you can restart from if you fail. The game does try and throw a limited variety of shooting, surveillance, escort, and following objectives, and there are some that are fun but they are few and far between the rest.
The good cop/bad cop system? Pointless. Killing civilians hurts your rep as does drug use and other things but it’s so easy to arrest a couple of people or turn in a couple of drugs to fill it again that it’s just an annoyance more than anything.
The drug effects can help when in a difficult part as the different effects can range from weed giving you a bullet time effect, or crack making aiming easier and giving you the ability to literally kick off someone’s head, or speed giving you the ability to run 10x faster and throw punches like Jackie Chan. However as said above it isn’t easy to use the drugs when you are backed into a corner, most of the time it’s easier to just try and finish a mission without using any then getting killed while scrolling through your inventory, but there are times when the numbers will be so overwhelming that you’ll need to use them. You can get addicted, and if you don’t feed that addiction you’ll go through withdrawal effects followed by an easy minigame to clean yourself up. Go through this on a mission and you’re screwed. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be a way to OD, take too much and you just black out.
The game is more frustrating than difficult as you fight your way past the controls and the unclear objectives.
Other than the main missions you will be able to access a couple special missions, and there are 25 hidden stashes to collect. Other than that there is no real reason to replay the game, there is free roaming but the only thing you can do other than look for the hidden stashes is to arrest random criminals, which you’ll likely tire of the first time the first time through. The cities are too small and there’s nothing to see that’s worth exploring for.
I’m kind of torn how to rate this area since at it’s core NARC is an extremely generic game with an unoriginal storyline with the only original thing thing being the ability to use drugs which are just powerups by a different name. As I mentioned near the beginning, the game is a lot like a lackluster Playstation title called Urban Chaos, even the city looks slightly similar, but with drugs.
Short, generic, and lacking almost any of the fun of the original arcade title. Instead of being as addictive as the drugs featured in the game, it’s like hitting yourself with a hammer, only those that like pain will keep doing it.
Here’s where the media watchdogs come in. This game is so overloaded with drug references that I’m amazed there hasn’t been as many people protesting games like GTA complaining about this game yet. You can not only beat up prostitutes but you can sell drugs, violently interrogate people you’ve already arrested, and also graphically use drugs and getting clean is easy!
Sadly that’s also the only thing that is appealing about this game. If you want to play something that simulates drug use and lets you be as bad of a cop as you want to be but don’t really care if the game is any good than this is the game for you. It reeks of Midway trying to get a piece of the attention with a game assured to be controversial and it will likely force watchdog groups to try and pressure politicians more into less mature content in video games. What’s depressing is that games like this and BMX XXX just help these groups when instead of helping to prove that you can make a well made game that maturely deals with subjects like drug use and addiction and police corruption.
As a bonus you can unlock the original N.A.R.C arcade game when you have located all 25 secret hidden stashes. Since the arcade game is a lot more fun to play you would do better to spend your $20 on Midway’s Arcade Treasures game where you can play it right away, along with other games that are also more fun to play.
Overall Score: 31/100
FINAL SCORE: 3.0 (BAD)