Its 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 Dragons 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 Segas
Hologram Time Traveller, just to name a few. Weve 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.
these games back to life? First of all, its something that relatively
few people got to experience. You may have seen some of these, such as
Dragons 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. Lets face it, probably many of the folks reading
this website werent 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 theres
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.
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, Im sure they were much more impressive
back then. Its 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 youve cleaned out Sierra County, its off to the "big city," which
is Chicago. Some fat guy packing a pork sandwich is in charge, and he
berates you until youve 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 weve ever seen. Finally youll 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.
it. Once youve cleared out all the drug dealers, theres no more
problems. Forget about the homeless, or kids whose parents dont 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, its 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. Whats 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 were well on our way to a more culturally sensitive period,
if not a more sane drug policy. But "chou" aint never heard such bad
Latino accents since Miami Vice went off the air. And thats 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
important to see material like this. I dont want to go overboard here
I dont 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 games camp value.
videogame it is interesting that this immediately preceeds on-rails
shooters that use computer graphics to create a fantasy world. Its 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.
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 havent explored so much here is
the satirical interpretation, mainly because thats the reading that
makes Drug Wars the most fun and youll 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 youre assembling a videogame museum, but thats about it.