On one fateful day when I was an impressionable 14 year old, I was sleeping over an Aunt’s house while my mother went to the hospital to receive some kind of scan that made her radioactive for 48 hours (which may or may not have been the truth; she might have just wanted a couple of nights to herself, a bottle of vodka, and a man named Antonio). In order to distract two teenage boys, my Aunt did what any of us would have done. She marched us down to the local video store and let us rent a movie (for the short term) and a video game (for the long term).
My brother and I rented two things that day. The first was ‘Rushmore’ from director Wes Anderson and the other was ‘Apocalypse’ for the PS1. Along with these rentals came two life discoveries. The first was that I REEAAAAALLLLLY didn’t like Wes Anderson movies. It wasn’t enough that ‘Rushmore’ was boring, it had the audacity to be pretentious too. The other thing I learned is that despite being in four movies in 1998, Bruce Willis must have been hard up for cash since he modeled and voiced a character in a B-List video game.
We all have those defining moments in gaming. These are the times where are game makes some kind of lasting impression, something that ingranes itself not only in you memory, but your life. Most of the time it’s a game like ‘Super Mario 64’, ‘Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’, or ‘Halo’. Sometimes, just sometimes, a game like ‘Apocalypse’ sneaks in there.
HERE’S WHAT I REMEMBER:
Bruce Willis and guns! I know, that’s like remembering cake and frosting or LJN and sucking, it’s pretty generic. Can I be a little more specific? Uhhhhhhhhhhh… Sci-fi? That narrows it down to ‘The Fifth Element’, ‘Armageddon’, ‘Twelve Monkeys’, ‘Looper’, ‘Vice’, ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’, ‘Surrogates’, and ‘Apocalypse’. What else makes this stand out? Ummm… I remember cutscenes made his head look squished.
And like those knock off G. I. Joe’s we all bought at CVS.
Alright, so the game itself didn’t have much to make it stand out, but I still managed to remember it because I was surprised at how much fun I had. I had no expectations going in. I don’t remember reading any reviews for it since I’m pretty sure I rented it the same week it was released. There were some previews before then, but other than “it’s an action game” and “Bruce Willis”, I didn’t have much to go on.
The only feature I can remember specifically was the shooting mechanics. I was used to action games playing a certain way (move around screen, shoot whatever’s in front), yet when I finally took control of good ol’ Brucey boy, it didn’t quite work that way. I remember that the face buttons all fired in a different direction, similar to the twin stick shooters we know today. I wouldn’t say it was revolutionary or anything, you don’t hear ‘Apocalypse’ brought up in the same sentence as ‘Metal Gear Solid’ or even ‘Duck Tales’, but it was different…enjoyable. It’s like finding out that you can make hot cocoa with milk instead of water. It makes Christmas mornings more enjoyable, but not as memorable as, say, Grandpa getting into his yearly fist fight with the neighbor’s dog.
HOW DOES IT HOLD UP?
It’s a twin stick shooter. All these years I thought that the face buttons were the only way to shoot…all these years I wondered why they didn’t just use the other stick like ‘Smash TV’…
I’m a fucking moron.
There are times, like these, when I legitimately wonder how I played video games in the past. How did I come to accept FPS controls before the modern era? Was I conditioned by older systems to simply accept a simpler control scheme if they were available? All I had to do was touch the second thumbstick and answer a question I had in my head since I first played this game, yet I didn’t.
Dumbness aside, a whole flood of memories came back the moment I picked up the controller.
The first memory I was hit with was how violent the game is considering that it’s rated “T”. Yes, it’s cartoon blood and there are many instances where a Teen rated game contains blood, but how many of them contain decapitations complete with fountains of blood spewing out of the neck nubs? How many of them involve enemies being blow into kibble, complete with streaming tails of gore? Don’t get me wrong, it’s fucking awesome, but there’s less blood in ‘Metal Gear Solid’ and that game earned its “M” rating.
While having a blast shooting countless enemies, and blowing up everything and anything in my way, I started to wonder what was it about this game that made me agree with the mediocre reviews? It was mindless, sure, but within seconds an explosion knocked the upper body off one dude (which still tried to walk around) while his buddy called for a medic after becoming chunky fireworks. This is the exact definition of an entertaining Bruce Willis movie (or video game… whatever), but it didn’t take long before an old “friend” reared its ugly, Hep-B riddled face.
The person who thought it was a good idea to add a fixed camera to platforming deserves to be shot. If they’re already dead, then the corpse should be dug up and molested by unfixed dogs. In ‘Apocalypse’ the camera sometimes remembers that it needs to go above you in order to show you the distance you need to jump and/or the size of the platform; other times it falls in love with Bruce Willis’s ass and hugs the ground allowing you to either take a leap of faith or run back and forth hoping that the movement from one camera angle to the next is enough to give you a clue as to where you’re about to toss your digital meat bag.
The camera doesn’t do you any favors when you’re shooting either. As long as whatever I was shooting was right in front of me, I had a blast. The second there was an enemy to the side or behind me, they might have well have been invisible. Half of my playthrough was shooting at stuff that may or may not have been there due to the camera refusing to pull back far enough to show me who was shooting me. Double the annoyance when the camera decides to switch to a side view as if it suddenly wanted you to relive ‘Contra’. This allowed me to “enjoy” shooting enemies I couldn’t see from three directions, jump across gaps that I couldn’t see nor judge the distance, and accidentally fall off the platform I’m on because I can still navigate in 3D despite the being camera fixed to a 2D perspective.
On the whole I enjoyed my playthrough, it’s just that when ‘Apocalypse’ did something wrong, it made sure that it did it in the worst possible way. I’m not sure if I saw all these issues when I was younger, after all, coming off a Wes Anderson ball kick anything would seem more entertaining, but I do understand the lukewarm reviews now. It’s good fun, more than it has a right to be, but when it gets annoying, it makes sure to enrage you to a point where you’ll throw the nearest controller / remote / baby to vent your frustration.