Thursday, 30 July 2015

Robocop - Arcade


"Half man, half machine, all computer game" -Actual advert.


In what was one of the forerunner films of the 80s and finally put the police as the heroes in a "5 minutes into the future" setting of Detroit, Robocop (1987) was something of a breakthrough with violence and story even for an 80s action film. The premise being that a cop, freshly moved in from another precinct, is out on duty with his cop-partner and gets a call to respond to a robbery, shit goes South, things get fucked up and he ends up becoming a shotgun target for the gang that committed the crime.

The less said on this the better...
Rather than leaving him dead, the company OCP which owns hospitals, insurances, banks, the police etc. (Gives us a lovely little privatisation situation possibility there) decides to use the dead officer in a new project that basically gives him a brain wipe, suits him up in titanium and sends him back out on the street as a robot cop... Hence, "Robocop", who is now a walking tank, and systematically starts claiming back the streets while corrupt politicians are throwing money around and trying to keep the crime going.

Enforcement Droid 209 series, the first one at least...

The film is well worth the watch despite also being one of the most violent films of the 80s, nay, all time. The tongue-in-cheek attitude to modern media and the (at the time) current trend of evolving technology and the economy are rather accurately lampooned and seen with considerable foresight in such a way that even today it's clear to see that some of the humour still pays off with the steadily increasing trends that were identified nearly 30 years ago.

Since when did anyone have a chainsaw in this film?

As a game based on a movie, you're going to have to be familiar with the movie to get the references that are used within the game, as the game follows this rather closely and uses locales, weapons, bosses that reference events happening within the film. Although even without the game/movie knowledge, there's still the fact that there's a game underneath the graphics and audio even if some of the references will be rather out of place and seem like they're thrown together for the sake of the game. Such as the first boss being ED-209 which is a giant of a robot walker, but makes sense if you've seen the film as you'll identify what he is straight away and the audio bytes synonymous with its identity. (20 seconds to comply, I think you'd better do what he says Mr Kenny...)

Powerups, while strong, are few and far between

Your game will take you through the city streets with a mishmash of gang members carrying knives and guns to grenades and the occasional use of a motorbike (Given the Emil incident in the film when they blew up a petrol station, see... more references), to the slums of the gang, a working scrap metal factory (not in the film), a drug factory/warehouse (with a very out of place boss) then the involvement of criminals taking over OCP which leads to the 2 more futuristic levels and repeat of earlier bosses but are beefed up for the ED-209 series. So some of the game follows the film and takes liberties with others, the film does have a scene involving OCP HQ but not to the same degree that the game makes out.

There's lots going on at this scrapyard. Fairly certain H&S will complain though.

And where the hell did jet-packing enemies come in? Robocop himself gets a jetpack in the 3rd film which was released WAY after the game was, so it's a bit of a random moment in this instance but fits in with the style and flow of the game.

Pimp my Ride meets ED 209.

Control-wise, Robo moves along at a steady pace for someone weighed down with hydraulics and titanium armour but can jump faster than he walks... fair enough, it's a game. Shooting comes in the 5-way directional flavour in that he cannot shoot downwards unless walking on stairs at that angle, any attempt to aim downwards invariably has Robo ducking and shooting in that direction instead. However, it's functional, gets the job done and the controls and the rate of fire set in such a way that you can almost always avoid gunfire and other such issues if you're careful and don't just charge head-first into bigger issues.

This week on "Shit that never happened" this boss!

Your usual cap-gun (The Auto 9 from the films) does sufficient damage to be useful even if it's supposedly the weak "standard" weapon. You can hammer the fire button and butcher the health bar of bosses quite readily. Alternatively you might find other weapons like 3-Way shots which can be just as lethal up close to the more heavily armoured enemies like the chainsaw-nutcase; armour piercing shots which shoot through items and blockades and does a lot of damage but limited in ammo. The final weapon is the Cobra Cannon from the films, which is a huge blast of a shot that slaughters most enemies and cripples bosses in 2-3 hits but as with most of these weapons, you'll find them at a point where you end up with little to no ammo left to use for the actual boss fight. So most of the fights will be you and a pop-gun Auto 9. Unless you're very conservative.

That's hardly fair! But who cares, bring it!

The music within the game takes directly from the films, the first level being a good rendition of the Robocop theme tune and the boss music taken from the fight between Robocop and ED-209 in the OCP tower from the film. Later levels take tunes from other key points within the film such as the car chases and scenes set within the warehouse. Further sound bytes are taken from the film such as Robo's pseudo catchphrase of "Dead or Alive you are coming with me" during boss battles, or "Drop it" at the start of most levels or against key opponents wielding the heavier firepower within the game, such as the Cobra Cannon.

See above for Jetpack comment in review.

You can power through the game on credits, each time you die you get the chance to continue back where you were with another credit, though it cannot be recalled if there is a maximum number of continues that one could use within a single session, some games for example have a max of 6-7 continues before you get a compulsory Game Over, while others will not let you continue once you get past a set level (usually when on the final level), but in this case for the most part you'll get back up with full health and time and be straight back to the battle. Which is usually enough for the rest of the level and/or boss except on the final few levels when the firepower directed at your can be criminally overwhelming.

Some could say I've played this a bit before.

But you do have some respite, there's 2 bonus levels that act as "shooting ranges" in a sort of first person perspective and gaining high scores here will gift you with extra food/health for the next level, while in levels you can occasionally find the baby-food pickups that will replenish limited health or the even more rare bonus containers that will increase the maximum health Robo can have (and not fill it at the same time) while dying will reset that health level back down again upon continue, making levels harder as a result of failing and PAYING to continue the game again. Not quite a working economy model there.

If you're not careful you CAN kill hostages... If...

Of course, it's not quite enough but then again, that's the whole point of getting cash out of the players. It is however a good game which is quite strange given that a lot of licensed games are not very good and are running solely on the merit of the original film/franchise. In this case however, you've got a very good game which pays homage to the source material in a closer way than a lot of other games would do, is very playable and responsive and keeps in with the theme of the original material. It does take some different routes like the Wrecking Ball (no Miley here) boss that features not in any film (save the 3rd, but again, way after this was made) and the junkyard battle which isn't part of the original film at all, nor are the super-powered ED-209s, or fighting 2 ED-209's at the same time in the last session of the penultimate level only to then take on ANOTHER tower of climbing, ANOTHER ED-209 (with rockets! which you can punch!) and then the final duel with Dick Jones though sadly you can't blow him out a window.

...I win.

It's still a fun, fairly enjoyable and reasonable game, looking very gritty in the right places and fitting in with the gritty theme of the sort-of futuristic Detroit and firmly stylised after the first film. It could have done a lot worse and given that it's made by Data East, which has been hit and miss quite regularly with their games, shines through as a diamond amongst the shit.