Smash TV + 3D platforming = a fun, if slightly flawed ride.
I can easily remember reading 1-page previews and small snippets about this game in all of the big name magazines of the day. At the time, all of the press regarding Apocalypse stated that it would be a 3rd-person action game with a twist. You would be in control of the main character who was accompanied by a wisecracking sidekick, whose voice and likeness were contributed by the one and only Bruce Willis. Whether by time constraints, hardware limitations, or pressure from the powers that be, the sidekick became the hero, and the rest is history.
You play “renegade” scientist Trey Kincaid, wrongfully imprisoned in a future thrust into madness at the hands of a rogue President, who is now in league with a vile religious leader. Together, they are creating their own Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. After getting up to speed with the intro, it’s time to start firing without letting off of the trigger.
Fans of Smash TV and Robotron will feel at home, assuming they are using a DualShock or 3rd-party equivalent, as the left stick controls movement and the right stick controls firing. Other functions, such as jump, crouch, weapon switching, etc., are handled via the shoulder buttons. Once you’ve settled in and have gotten used to the movement, you’ll no doubt be dancing circles around many of the minor enemies.
The sounds in general are great. The weapon sounds are fitting and the things the enemies scream out as you mow them down may get a chuckle or two. The soundtrack is a plus as well. System of a Down makes an early appearance, both in music and video form. Poe also makes multiple appearances. Her song “Control” appears here (this version being FAR superior to the butchered version that appeared on her long-delayed album, “Haunted”), and she voices Trey’s former girlfriend.
The level design isn’t too bad (we’ll cover the bad later). From futuristic prisons to graveyard nightclubs, you’ll see it all. Neversoft took the Robotron gameplay into free-roaming territory far better than Total Carnage set out to do, and even managed to throw some platforming into the mix while they were at it. Of course, you’ll have to contend with a changing camera view at nearly all times during the game, but that’s really part of the game’s charm. I will say that there is such a thing as too much zoom out, especially at the PS1’s resolution.
As stated earlier, Willis’ character was originally meant to be the sidekick. The lines you hear here were recorded for the earlier vision, and were not altered. Ever wonder why it sounds like he’s either talking to himself too much or talking to some invisible person? Now you know. And some of the things he’ll say will grow tiresome. Grab a few health powerups, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Of course, I’m not sure the game would have felt the same if he hadn’t been spouting a line from time to time.
Now, this game is a total blast. But the further you get, the more frustrating some of it can be. The control scheme and camera views can make later platforming a living hell. In fact, you may find that the first half of the game is actually the better part, as there’s less platforming to contend with. That’s not to say that the platforming segments are bad, some just seem needlessly difficult.
The Bottom Line
In all honesty, I could never figure out why this game wasn’t a bigger success. Granted, it wasn’t the game that was covered on-and-off for a year, but everyone seems to have gone off and forgotten about it too easily. If you need a good carnage fix, finding this game used for $5 isn’t difficult. If you can get past some of it’s flaws, you’ll be glad you did.