If Bruce Willis has taught me anything, it’s that videogames used to actually be fun.
A bit of back story: about a month ago, all-around excellent film blogger and Tweeter i-Flicks discovered an ad on an old VHS for a Playstation game called Apocalypse, starring Bruce Willis.
Yes that’s right, Bruce Fucking Willis. This caught my attention – I remembered playing the game once in the late nineties and, back in 1998, having Bruce Willis in a game was a big deal. So obviously I did what any respecting film blogger and videogame fan with a backwards compatible blu-ray player PS3 would do, I brought the bloody thing on ebay!
A whole 50p later (plus £2 postage & packaging, grr), and a few days spent eagerly awaiting the postman… this arrived:
Utilising the full power of the PS3 to boot up a 13 year old game, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean film tie-ins are usually rubbish right? But then again, this wasn’t a film tie-in – it was just a game. With Bruce Willis in it.
What I found was a lot of fun. It plays a lot like what’s now described as a dual-stick shooter – you run around using the left stick and shoot in any direction using the right one. These games now are commonplace but again, in 1998, they were pretty rare.
So I find myself running around – AS BRUCE WILLIS – strafing to avoid bullet hell while trying to get a good shot on the hordes of approaching enemies. It’s fast paced and lots of fun. There are a few more platformy sections which are a little frustrating due to an inconsistent jump mechanic, but these don’t get in the way of the core shooting stuff too much.
Plot-wise it’s as straightforward as it gets, but also slightly bizzare: Some dude decides to raise the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, so Bruce Willis decides to break out of prison to fight them (because he knows the evil scientist dude who’s causing all the trouble see). Graphically it’s fairly impressive for 1998. The 3D-rendered environments are blocky but attractive, there are destructible elements in the environment, and there are times when music videos are projected onto large screens in the Blade Runner-esque cityscape. I got a little bit excited the first time I strolled down a street and was greeted by a low-fi System of a Down music video.
Like I mentioned before, Apocalypse wasn’t based on an existing film or franchise. The game developers just thought it would be cool to have Bruce Willis in it. Thus Bruce contributes his likeness, a little bit of voice acting for the cut-scenes – which are short and to the point (modern games, pay attention) and a couple of ‘cool’ action-hero one liners to be heard randomly during combat. These can get repetitive but still, having Bruce Willis shout “Bring it on baby!” or “Oh, you want some?” when you shoot things is fairly satisfying.
What Apocalypse gets right the most is the balance between fun and difficulty. It’s enjoyable to blast your way around the environments but at the same time you need to take care, with only a limited amount of lives per level. ‘Lives’ and ‘levels’ seem like such old-school concepts these days but they really work, splitting the game up into neat chunks and making it a challenge. I get bored with so many modern games, like Gears of War for example, because all the levels blend into one, the cut-scenes are long and pointless, and there’s no sense of jeopardy.
So, Apocalypse is great fun, and certainly worth £2.50. Maybe I’ll start expanding my PS1 collection again? This may make me seem old, but I really wish more modern games could re-capture the simple, naïve joys that games like Apocalypse had.