America's 10 Most Wanted (Playstation 2)
I had this one almost written. The weather has played a bit of havoc with my calendar, with parcels that should have arrived ages ago still not being here. There's been some re-juggling, some re-playing and some re-writing, with new games being chosen, mainly as safety backups, but sometimes as replacements. The game for December 10th was going to be 10th Frame, a ten-pin bowling game by Epyx on the Commodore 64. I'd looked forward to playing that for quite some time, but I couldn't help thinking it seemed a bit of an obvious choice.
But then, on my first random shopping trip for three weeks, I spotted America's 10 Most Wanted.
Look, put that thing away. You'll have someone's eye out.
Before I say anything else, I will just mention that on the game's own website it states, quite boldly and proudly, that "In game music is provided by members of So Solid Crew who will also make guest appearances in the game.". Can you tell which direction this article's heading in?
America's 10 Most Wanted (Fugitive Hunter: War on Terror in the US) is (mostly - more on that later) a first person shooter. Now, if you know me through this blog, you're probably aware that the FPS is not my favourite type of game, but a good one will catch and hold my attention. This one... shall we say, it's not a good one.
The game starts in 1999, with you being sent into Afghanistan on a mission to fuck with Osama Bin Laden's shit. Your helicopter is shot down by a terrorist, the bastard, and you're the only one to survive, so you have to fight your way to an area where another helicopter can pick you up. This won't be easy though, because Afghanistan, in case you hadn't heard, is crawling with bad guys, and they'll stop at nothing to make sure you don't get away!
"You go first." "No, you go first."
Fortunately they're a pretty careless bunch, and they dish out weapons, armour and health like sweets. Most accommodating. It's very difficult to fail to make it to the end of the level, unless you blow yourself up. The game has a lock-on system so you really can't miss an enemy, and you'll absolutely never, ever run out of ammunition, what with all those terrorist guns lying around waiting to be picked up. And occasionally you'll find a US flag... picking this up grants you a temporary period of invincibility. Fuck, yeah!
In the first level, once you get to the end, you'll see Osama Bin Laden! Yep, he's there, waving a gun in the air and shouting abuse. And then, rather than stand there and accept justice, he runs off into a cave, leaving one of his henchmen to stand in your way. And that's when the game gets really bizarre, and is why I said this is mostly a FPS. It turns into a fighting game.
That's why we haven't wrapped this up yet. Our Boys aren't using Super Combos.
You probably don't believe me, because that doesn't make any sense. But it's true... having shot to death all his comrades, you resort to the spirit of fair play and mixed martial arts, and square off against each end level boss in a Virtua Fighter-type brawl, complete with energy bars at the top of the screen. Actually, that's unfair... to mention Virtua Fighter is to imply there's a level of quality here. There isn't... your moves are; left punch, right punch, kick, block. Mash the buttons and run away occasionally, and you'll win, at which point you have ten seconds to hit the X button fast enough to subdue and capture the guy. It really is that mental.
Is that... a ninja? Oh well, no matter... DIIIIIIEEEE!!!
If you beat the guy at the end of the first level, you... run to the waiting helicopter. No matter that Bin Laden was there just two minutes ago and can't have got far... you're off. So because this is 1999, the World Trade Center attacks are YOUR FAULT. If only you'd gone after him when you had the chance...
Because you let him escape, you have to capture America's 10 Most Wanted fugitives before you're allowed to go after him again... I'm sure some of them are made up, but the one before Bin Laden is Saddam Hussein... I know he was a real guy. Anyway, you start off in Miami. Actually, no you don't, you start off in a shit-looking generic city. Your first couple of fugitives are holed up there, and from then there's no stopping you, baby! You'll take in such terrorist hotbeds as Paris, the Caribbean and, umm... Utah.
You have to take this guy down. You don't know what he's hiding in his cardboard pants.
As if the whole premise wasn't offensive enough, you actually get points for kills, and bonuses for headshots, “Splats” (close-up shots or messy grenade/rocket deaths), and so on. So they've turned global terrorism into a high score battle. There was one moment where a guy said he'd give me the key to the warehouse where a fugitive was hiding, if I paid him instead of shooting him. My guy just said, “Here's some cash. Now get outta here”, at which point the cutscene ended. But instead of getting outta there, the bloke just stood, rooted to the spot, while I emptied my shotgun into his stupid face over and over again, racking up the Splat points.
Sneaky, these terrorists. Absolutely anybody could be one.
What else? As you'd expect, the music is shit. Some of the lyrics to one song, playing as you're running around Miami, go, "It's America's Most Wanted, baby. Osama Bin Laden, you're next". Now, that's how to set an atmosphere.
There's some choice dialogue in the game, too. If you can imagine Duke Nukem without the irony, you'd be on the right track. Mostly, your dumb guy pretty much states the obvious about what he picks up. But I'm not entirely sure how many soldiers or special operatives would, whilst using a flame thrower in the general direction of the enemy, shout "Time to torch you up". Doesn't seem like something you'd say in the heat of the moment (did you see what I did there?). Pull off a headshot, you might say "See ya". Or in the fighting bit, you might come out with "How's your ribs?" I don't know if it's an attempt at James Bond-style humour, but it really doesn't work.
Simon Cowell decided that Bin Laden wouldn't make it past judges' houses.
America's 10 Most Wanted is a shocking game in every respect. I mean, it's a really poor game in terms of quality, and if it's trying to make a statement or offer American teens some kind of revenge or closure, then it's horribly misguided at best. If they'd gone for all-out satire in a World Police-type affair, it might have been better thought of. Instead it's a waste of money in every aspect, unless you want one last ditch try at getting rid of a case of lockjaw.