The folks over at 1Morecastle have shut up shop, meaning there’s no one to administer Review a Bad Game day this year. Ooh eck!
But while there are still bad games that need reviewing, we might as well continue to review them, yes? Let’s take a look at Megadrive (or more precisely, Genesis) title Technocop.
Originally released onto the home computer market in 1988, Technocop is one of a number of titles that blended three dimensional driving sections with 3rd person shootin’ sequences. The Genesis version followed a couple of years later, and (thanks to the bad guys’ unfortunate habit of exploding into a satisfying shower of gore,) can proudly claim to be the first Genesis game to carry a warning about the violence of its content. Blimey.
Unfortunately for Technocop, I don’t think there’s really a way for me to describe it without drastically raising your expectations. At a conceptual level the whole thing is pretty sound: Set in a dystopian future, Technocop proudly wears its strong Judge Dredd/Robocop influence on its sleeve by casting the player as a lone futuristic lawmen. Your mission in this case is to cruise around dilapidated landscapes, arresting or executing a scale of increasingly hardened criminals.
Armed with a non-nonsense handgun that doubles as a net-launcher, and driving a car that looks like its escaped from the imagination of hyperactive eight year old, every aspect of this game screams ‘success.’ On paper anyway.
In fact, this theme of EPIC SUCCESS carries over to the title screen. The theme music probably wouldn’t feature on any Megadrive ‘best of…’ collections, but it does a fair job of showing the Megadrive’s FM chip at its spiky metallic best. When coupled with an impressive “Technocop!” speech sample and artwork that features our moody-looking hero against a dark futuristic cityscape, its easy to see how you could be fooled into thinking you were about to embark on a premium experience.
Sadly things change the second you start the game, as from the off the driving sections seem massively at odds with the rest of the experience. You see, while you may expect to open the game cruising round dilapidated Old Detroit or the neon-lit futuristic streets of Mega City One, Technocops driving sections all take place in much greener and more pleasant surroundings:
It’s completely baffling – as if the person producing the backgrounds wasn’t told what kind of game they were creating art for. Worse still, the background featured above is the only one used throughout the driving sections, leading to a repetitive experience that immediately crushes any sense of immersion.
Things could have been salvaged, perhaps, if the vehicular controls had been up to scratch, but there are major issues here too. Unfortunately, Technocop inherits a flaw here that was common in the home computer era: the driving controls seem to have been set up exclusively for Joysticks.
Due to the (presumable) clumsiness of having to keep the stick pointing upwards while steering, a common solution was to have the acceleration and brakes act more like cruise control settings than pedals: You don’t hold up to accelerate, you hold up to set the speed you want the car to accelerate to on its own. If that sounds weird, well it’s because it is. It doesn’t really feel like driving a car at all.
Once you’ve got your speed set up though, driving really isn’t much of a challenge. You don’t have to worry about on road obstacles (such as Roadblasters’ mines,) and the dastardly automotive criminal fraternity who occupy the roads don’t really put much effort into trying to stop you. Especially after you’ve blown them to pieces with your remarkably inconsistent roof-mounted cannon.
You might be driving against the clock, but all of the driving segments feel too short for the amount of time given. You’re never really in danger of either running out of time or wrecking you vehicle. Crumbs.
Inevitably then, you’ll reach your destination and pull over (not that there’s a physical destination to arrive at, mind you, your car just randomly pulls over randomly into green space,) and this is when the fun really begins.
Finally arriving into some run-down distopian surroundings, it’s your job to bust into the building in front of you and either kill or arrest the target – neutralizing anyone who gets in your way (though this doesn’t include score-deducting children and grannies, sadly.)
Visually, things are a tad disappointing here. for a start, half of the screen is dedicated to a view of the Technocop’s arm computer. Though as a HUD this does provide you with some useful info (such as your health, stamina, and semi-useful radar that tells you where the target is,) it’s hard to see it for anything other than it is: a cheap hangover from the 8-bit era which allowed Speccy/C64 developers to cram the action into a much smaller number of pixels.
On top of this, the Technocop himself looks a little odd (if you’ve ever imagined what David Hasslehoff would have looked like had he stood in for Michael Jackson in the video for Thriller, this might well be the game for you,) and the interior artwork is only ever so slightly less repetitive than the driving locations. This isn’t looking good, is it?
Sadly, the gameplay doesn’t always help matters either. In fact, the on-foot sections are as difficult as the driving sections are easy: Perps spawn both too close to the player and ready to pounce, making it very difficult to rattle enough shots into them before they’ve already had a chance to send some your way. This is especially true of the bosses, some of whom can kill you in one hit.
Time limits in these sections are also punishing. Sure, the level designs start off relatively simple, but by a couple of stages in a single wrong turn up one of the red-herring lift shafts will rob you of the time you need to catch your mark before they make their getaway.
This could possibly be forgivable if the Technocop controlled convincingly, but here too there are problems. From the canned, unwieldy leaping animations to the difficulty of executing a simple crouch, fire and reload manoeuvre, the game feels like it largely under-delivers here too. Especially since the Techno cop has such a weak arsenal. Though the kill shot/net shot dynamic is interesting, the game desperately cries out for the opportunity to upgrade to something either as powerful as Robocop’s Auto-9, or something that provides the variety of Dredd’s Lawgiver.
Oh dear, that’s quite a list of complaints isn’t it?