sunnuntai 9. lokakuuta 2011

REVIEW - Predator (1988)

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: March 1988
AVAILABLE ON: Amiga, Atari ST, C64, MSX, NES, PC
DEVELOPER(S): Activision (Amiga, Atari ST), Source (C64, PC), Pack-in-Video (MSX, NES)
PUBLISHER(S): Activision, Pack-in-Video (MSX)

John McTiernan's Predator arrived in theaters in 1987, and although critics' reception to the film was mixed, sci-fi, action and horror fans embraced it as a classic on arrival, a fine spiritual sequel to the first two Alien movies. As the years have passed by, Predator has become an iconic movie across several genres, and is still considered one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's finest. In 1988, the success of Predator spawned a video game - a bad one.

Get to the choppa!

Major Dutch Schaefer of the Special Forces is hired to lead a rescue mission in a Guatemalan jungle. He soon discovers that the rescue mission is all but a ploy, but the nature of the mission is the least of the worries of his whole group, as they start getting hunted down, one by one, by an invisible extra-terrestrial killer.

Those rocks are up there to keep the dumb
bastard from running straight into a pit.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is my favourite action star of all time. Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, The Running Man, Total Recall, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Last Action Hero, and of course, Predator, are some of my favourite genre flicks of all time. There used to be a day having Schwarzenegger's strong name and hard face on a movie poster promised good things. Having them on the box art of a video game never promised anything good. I bet you still remember the Terminator marathon I did a while back. Total Recall (the notorious NES version) and both Nintendo versions of Last Action Hero are some of the worst games I've ever played. The game they made for home computers based on The Running Man sucked. True Lies on the 16-bit consoles is probably the only half-playable game based on an Arnie flick, if my memory of its playability serves me correctly. I'm really an optimistic fella, so I took on Predator on the NES with a positive attitude, forgetting all about prejudice and bad vibes. Maybe after all these years, I'll finally find a good Arnie game - or, maybe after all these years, I could finally face the damn truth.

Overall, the graphics are not exactly horrible, but the character and enemy design is amazingly bad. Dutch leaves me downright speechless in his appearance. Besides the Predator himself, the rogues gallery consists of guerrillas with zero A.I., all sorts of animals from scorpions to sea horses (?!), some flesh-eating plants that spit out fireballs, and as the cherry on the top of the cake, ghosts or at least some ghost-like creatures. A movie with one villain that wasn't even actually seen before the end of the movie wasn't a good base for a video game - but apparently one had to be made just to teach developers this fact the hard way. To my surprise, the music is actually quite good and there are a lot of different tunes. I feel like the music was one of the only reasons for me to keep attempting to beat this ugly motherfucker.

All we need is some freakin' fish flying about.
Predator starts off looking like a poor man's Contra, but Contra's far from its true face since by default, you don't even have a weapon - although you seem to be carrying a rifle the whole time! You must guide Dutch Schaefer - or some extremely poor Dutch Schaefer caricature wearing a pink jumpsuit - through 36 relatively short levels filled with impossible-to-avoid enemy fire, constantly respawning swarms of enemies, wide chasms, thin platforms to balance on and last but definitely not least, traps from which the only escape is suicide, either by jumping down a chasm or pausing the game and pressing any other button than Start - so the suicide option WAS invented in a video game before Adventures of Lolo, how about that! Sometimes, you square off with the Predator, who apparently goes to the same tailor as Dutch, and is a total bitch to deal with since apparently there's just one weapon that works on him. Big Mode levels are side scrolling shooting levels in which you simply need to shoot everything that moves, and once again, fight the Predator - a larger version of him, a concept that has "facepalm" written all over it.

Doesn't sound so bad, huh? Well, let me tell you a few things about the game. First, the controls are bad, no huge surprise there. The laser rifle (don't ask) is the only decent weapon in the game, and the only weapon that seems to work on the Predator... and of course, rare as a good comedy flick by Arnie. The grenades are useless. Even your basic punch works better, and you cannot change back to it if you pick up grenades. The first couple of screens in the game are almost legendary: you start off on high ground, and are given the option to jump down to a lower ground level, pick up grenades and use them to blow up a wall in the other end of the stretch to be able to proceed. If you don't pick up the grenades, there's no way for you to continue if you decided to jump down there in the first place. Well, even if you do pick up the grenades, there's no way for you to proceed - see, blowing up the entire wall is impossible. You can only blow up a tunnel you could pass through if crawling was possible in this game, but it isn't. Basically, this is a trap, placed in the second damn screen of the game - but it was probably not meant to be one. Apparently testing a product before letting consumers have at it wasn't part of Activision's M.O., especially if the product happened to be merchandise spawned by a blockbuster movie. What stands between Predator and all other Pack-in-Video movie licenses of the time (some of which were published by LJN, by the way) is that the game succeeds in being mild, generic fun with good music, despite the usual flaws in gameplay... up until you realize just how faint your chances of survival are.

The first Predator fight, and I ain't got a chance.
Having no more than four lives and no password system in a game this full of trial and error is the final nail in Predator's coffin. For example, in the third level you might not even realize that you can actually fall through the "walls", straight into a chasm, before it happens to you. Accidentally stepping into the Predator's way without a laser rifle leaves suicide as the only possible option - and the laser rifle in one particular level with a Predator fight in it is nearly impossible to obtain. Then, there are the traps, thin platforms over bottomless pits coupled with the icky traction... it's not impossible to beat this game, it's just unlikely for you to have enough interest and energy to go at it after being forced to start over two or three times. The "Continue" option in the title screen is a complete fake - it has no purpose at all. For some odd reason, though, after you beat level five, you no longer have to do the first four if you lose all your lives. However, it is the ONLY checkpoint in the whole game. Again, there's a total of 36 levels for you to curse at.

Predator is definitely one of the more entertaining video games commercially tagged with the name Schwarzenegger, but that ain't much of a compliment since most of them are utter garbage. At least the music's fair enough, and upholds interest a little while longer.

SOUND : 7.5


a.k.a. Predator: Soon the Hunt Will Begin

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