home > review > Crime Patrol 2: Drug Wars Review (DVD, Xbox, PS2)
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ups: Interesting snapshot of early '90s gaming; definitely some camp value here.
downs: Slightly offensive; not much fun without a light gun.

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Crime Patrol 2: Drug Wars Review (DVD, Xbox, PS2)
game: Crime Patrol 2: Drug Wars
two star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: Digital Leisure
developer: Digital Leisure
date posted: 09:10 AM Mon Sep 16th, 2002
last revision: 01:06 PM Thu Nov 17th, 2005

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It\'s easy to forget just how long the optical laser disc has been a part of gaming. We tend to think of the 3DO and PlayStation as the pioneers of disc-based gaming, but there is a bigger history. Since laser discs, those LP-sized behemoths, came on the market, people have been using them to make games. Perhaps the most famous of these classic laser disc games is Dragon\'s Lair, which spawned a Saturday morning cartoon in the 1980s and has seen numerous iterations over the past 20 years. There are other laser disc games, too: Space Ace, Mad Dog McCree, and Sega\'s Hologram Time Traveller, just to name a few. We\'ve covered these titles over the past couple years because one company, our Canadian friends at Digital Leisure, has put a lot of effort into resurrecting these titles.

Why bring these games back to life? First of all, it\'s something that relatively few people got to experience. You may have seen some of these, such as Dragon\'s Lair, Space Ace and Hologram Time Traveller, in arcades, but odds are the lines were too long or you were just too young to get your full time on them. Let\'s face it, probably many of the folks reading this website weren\'t alive when these games last saw the light of day. Some of them were released for home laser disc players, but how many folks had one of those? The laser disc was an expensive format. I was lucky ? I had a friend whose father was way into laser discs, and that meant we got to play old laser disc games until our eyes bled, or at least until we got bored and turned on the Intellivision. But there\'s more reason to revisit these laser disc titles than pure nostalgia ? they shed some light on gaming and certainly are emblematic of the time in which they were produced.

Take, for example, the latest title resurrected by Digital Leisure, Crime Patrol 2: Drug Wars. This is a live-action, on-rails shooter, and it plays a lot like House of the Dead or Area 51, but with less \"wow\" factor. Created by American Laser Games in 1993, the original arcade version of Drug Wars ran on an Amiga 500 hooked up to a Sony Laser Disc Player. The results were, well, I\'m sure they were much more impressive back then. It\'s interesting to note that as American Laser Games released more titles in the early 1990s, they switched to a 3DO format. Now, Drug Wars is available for your home DVD player, which means you can play it on a standard DVD, in your PC DVD-ROM, or on your Xbox or PS2. What a deal.

Drug Wars is composed of four acts. You begin your career as a rookie in Sierra County. Your job: Mow down every biker you see. Ostensibly these bikers are trafficking drugs, but the scene looks more peaceful than Sturgis, South Dakota in the middle of January until you show up with your cop buddies. Some of the long-bearded biker dudes and chicks draw weapons, but mostly you just shoot \'em in the neck before they get the chance. Once you\'ve cleaned out Sierra County, it\'s off to the \"big city,\" which is Chicago. Some fat guy packing a pork sandwich is in charge, and he berates you until you\'ve shot every drug dealer in town. Hell, if it worked in Shanghai it can work in the Big Windy, right? Of course, your work in the city brings you to the attention of the illustrious border patrol. You go to the border and wax a bunch of the whitest Mexicans and illegals we\'ve ever seen. Finally you\'ll end up in South America, hunting the big boss, and this guy deserves to die if for no other reason than that his \"South American\" accent is absolutely horrid.

And that\'s it. Once you\'ve cleared out all the drug dealers, there\'s no more problems. Forget about the homeless, or kids whose parents don\'t love them ? sure, you could shoot them just as easily and solve those problems, too, but this is just one game in need of many sequels. To be perfectly honest, it\'s tough to take Drug Wars seriously. It so thoroughly represents the Reagan-Bush take on drugs and curbing drug use that it seems as ludicrous as just saying \"no.\" It makes perfect sense that American Laser Games got their start building simulators for law enforcement agencies. What\'s more, Drug Wars represents all of the social and cultural cliches the 1980s associated with drugs, and it does so in the early 1990s. By the time Drug Wars is released, Clinton is in office and we\'re well on our way to a more culturally sensitive period, if not a more sane drug policy. But \"chou\" ain\'t never heard such bad Latino accents since Miami Vice went off the air. And that\'s exactly what Drug Wars seems to be going for: a reconstruction of Miami Vice, except interactive and with much lower production values. To top it off, the live action makes some segments especially offensive. I really feel for any Latinos watching these white guys with slicked hair posturing as cartel leaders.

But it\'s important to see material like this. I don\'t want to go overboard here ? I don\'t think anyone playing Drug Wars is going to go out and shoot junkies or Latinos on the streets, and it was never the dominant influence in our entertainment culture. Still, it brilliantly and unknowingly slaps us in the face with attitudes and presentation that seems very archaic, and the realization that the game is less than 10 years old is revelatory. The poor video quality and horrible acting just makes the whole thing that much creepier, which is definitely a bonus to the game\'s camp value.

As a videogame it is interesting that this immediately preceeds on-rails shooters that use computer graphics to create a fantasy world. It\'s much easier to mow down zombies or aliens or even computer generated terrorists than real, live, white guys pretending to be brown guys. The whole \"avoid shooting the hostage\" element of gameplay is here, as well as the first person perspective and dynamic camera movement. There are scenes that have you scanning windows in a building, and other scenes where you ride in a vehicle shooting bad guys in another vehicle. These elements immediately remind you of similar segments in better-known on-rails shooters. If you squint really hard it almost looks as good as House of the Dead.

Ironically, Digital Leisure is a Canadian company, and at the time of writing this review Canada contemplates complete legalization of Marijuana. Certainly the hard-nosed approach to substance abuse is best suited to over-the-top videogames. One reading I haven\'t explored so much here is the satirical interpretation, mainly because that\'s the reading that makes Drug Wars the most fun and you\'ll be able to figure it out on your own. Crime Patrol 2: Drug Wars is worth a spin for the retro-shock value, or if you\'re assembling a videogame museum, but that\'s about it.