I love going to the movies.
I love the whining kid who always manages to sit right behind me. I love the basketball player who always manages to sit right in front of me. I love getting up after the whole thing only to find assorted bits of popcorn and candy on the bottom of my shoe. And I love--and this time I really mean it--the plenty of chances I get to waste my laundry money on the arcade machines in the lobby. It was my grand plan to someday find a way to merge a video game like Virtua Cop into a full-length action motion picture flick, better than Clue and less cornball than Smell-o-vision.
Too bad, it seems like Cryo and Virgin Interactive beat me to it with Hardline, their new game for the PC. Taking up a whopping three CD's, the game features over two hours of video, mixed in with a good old-fashioned first-person shooter. Chock full of really cool weapons and big exploding thingees, it really is just like Virtua Cop, only with digitized graphics and lacking a gun.
The story behind Hardline takes place in that oh so trendy genre, cyberpunk. (Thanks a lot, William Gibson.) Yes, it's your run-of-the-mill technocratic gothic terror plot, complete with meaningless graffiti, grenadier drones, and bald men with really thick Chinese accents. You, as our intrepid hero Ted, bounce around 1998 America, a nation caught in the middle of a turf war between a militant quasi religious group called the Sectoids and their separatist rebels. (Why is it that whenever there's an oppressive, far reaching regime there always has to be a rebellion just pesky enough to never go away? I know I put that formula script somewhere. . . .)
But it wouldn't be a true science fiction game if we didn't break a few laws of physics, now would it? Yup, you guessed it, kiddies, Ted starts discovering that he can do some really funky things with his mind. I mean blow stuff up, a selling line that Virgin uses extensively in their packaging. Though it doesn't come through much in the actual game play, the video sequences develop this slowly unfolding mystery of Ted's psychic powers, and there's a bit of neat footage of a bad guy going down with a bloodcurdling scream. Kenny Kingston, eat your heart out.
Unlike other games, the video shorts merge in really well with the action scenes. Virgin touts this as the sign of an action game AND an adventure game, but I don't see anything wrong with calling it action/adventure. Whatever; it works for me. Even without a 3D card, there is very little jerkiness during the gunfight scenes. We got the best results running it in 16 colors with very little loss of picture quality. Unfortunately, Hardline lets you save your game only during the action sequences, and the save point isn't very definite, sometimes throwing you back a couple of frames to where it wants to be saved. This can be difficult when the computer starts you up in the middle of a fire fight, but that problem can be circumvented.
Oh, and one more thing: Hardline really is the embodiment of an interactive Hollywood action film, complete with all the trappings. Uh huh, the game seriously earns its 'M' rating for "strong sexual content." (Do we have to spell it out for you?) Yeah, it may be shameless, and it may be a little gratuitous, but that's Hollywood fer ya, folks. So grab that bag of popcorn, close the blinds all the way, crank up the surround sound, and go play a movie.