Narc was developed by Point of View games and published by Midway. It is supposedly a continuation or "rethinking" of the original Narc which was an arcade shooter in the 80s. But where the original Narc was an anti-drug game with the "Winners don't do drugs" message on the attract mode, the new Narc is a pro-drug, corrupt cop story with very little redeeming social value.
You rotate between playing two characters: Detective Jack Forzenski and DEA Agent Marcus Hill. Once partners, they have a major falling out due to different styles. One is a break-the-rules cop and the other is by-the-book. One event in their past made them enemies and ruined their lives. Not a bad premise, but the story doesn't entirely gel and is diluted by the other substories of missions. In this case, I'd say the primary story is a little complex to keep the players attention. They would have been served well by going the GTA route and providing a simple story of coming back to the neighborhood and then letting the missions flesh out the characters. But thankfully, the story is not the worst part of the game...
...And neither is gameplay. Narc is a 3rd person shooter which means that the player follows behind the character running around shooting things. The control scheme is as good as I'd expect from a game that has a surprisingly large amount of things you can do. The basics apply, that is the thumbsticks control moving and aiming your gun. The right trigger is fire and the green and blue are punch and kick. Interestingly, the left trigger is sprint which comes in handy when trying to cruise large amounts of street. Things get a little confusing when you use the yellow button to grapple. Do it while running and you do a flying leap, grabbing whoever was in front of you. Then hit the fight buttons to soften up the perp. A health bar will appear for the person and if you punch too much, you'll kill him. Other wise you can soften him up to the point of arresting him. The perp can fight back and some twitchy moving of the thumbstick to counter will allow you to overcome him. Which leads us to our first...
Lameness Alert: The D-pad switches through your inventory and in order to grapple or fist fight, you have to select the fist. Kind of dumb to have a fist listed in inventory amongst all the other things you could be carrying. This is rather cumbersome.
There is a large arsenal of weapons you can use; all of them pretty stock for shooters. Many are even ridiculous such as the mission in which you must hunt down snipers in the city with a grenade launcher. Yes, you lob grenades on a busy city street hoping to blow snipers off civilian buildings. The designers were just *asking* for loads of dead pedestrians. This almost qualified for a lameness alert, but instead...
Lameness Alert: There is no way to change the control scheme. I'm a person who likes the controls non-inverted (I like to push the thumbstick up to look up and down to look down) and the default is inverted. So for most of the game, everything felt backwards with no way to change it. Gotta love these budget titles.
An interesting feature of the game is the badge rating. Do good things and the badge rating goes up. Do bad things such as grenade pedestrians and your badge rating goes down. You can always view the rating in the upper right corner and if it gets too low, you'll be demoted to street cop. Keep doing dumb things and you'll be demoted to street thug. Strangely, at this level, you can reverse course and move back up the ranks. Once you're a detective you can take on missions and complete the game.
Not surprisingly, the Ai in Narc is rudimentary and stupid. Many times, the bad guys would run directly at me as I was firing. I did notice a baddie do a tuck and roll to avoid fire, but he rolled right into the open for easy pickins. Pedestrian AI is also dumb as it consist of 3 basic modes: Walk, run like a wuss, or fight back. And there are so many! Who knew that South Central had so many people wandering around doing nothing.
The big selling point of the game is that you can do drugs! Yes! Fun for the whole family. As you arrest people, you can beat them until they give you money. The good cop will take them back to the precinct and increase the badge rating. But that's no fun. Instead, we have the option of selling them on them on the street or taking them. The different drugs will do different things and can help you during battles. Marijuana slows everything down and allows you to aim while speed makes you go fast. There are hallucinogenic drugs which makes everyone's head turn into devils. There are a number of drugs and, morality aside, they add and interesting aspect to the gameplay.
This is the worst part of the game. I wouldn't say this is a port of the PS2 version because I know even then PS2 is capable of better graphics than this. There are no hi-res textures, no bump mapping and no lighting effects. Everything is flat and the people are very low polygon. There seem to be about 5 different ped models s you'll see many identical people walking around all at once.
The animation doesn't fare any better. People clip (walk inside things) and interactions can get out of sync. Many times I'd be grappling someone and our gyrations would get out of sync resulting in a comical slamming of heads together. Different animation modes snap together instead of transitioning smoothly.
For those who care, Narc does not support any modes of HDTV.
The audio could have been a bright spot in an otherwise dull game. Boasting an impressive cast of B-list actors including Michael Madsen, Bill Bellamy, and Ron Perlman. All three phone it in. The performances are lackluster mostly due to bad writing. Even the best actors will have a hard time with "Want to get high?"
Another selling point is the license music. They have some Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and some generic death-cop rap. But listening to "Freddie's Dead" didn't sound right. The vocals were there, but the music was some synthesized version. Sounded bland and dumb. Thumbs down on the music and audio. Disappointing since neither the music nor the actors came cheap.
Lameness Alert: Playing the game will periodically result in a loud grinding sound. Obviously some sort of audio distortion. It can be stopped by pausing the game and unpausing it. In addition, many of the cutscenes are much quieter than the game. So how did their QA miss it?
There is no multiplayer support for Narc.
Parents Should know...
Narc is rated M for Mature by the ESRB and that rating is well deserved. There is much violence against innocents, drug use glorification, language and again, bad gameplay.
Narc is a sequel in name only and while the potential for a cool game was there, they dropped the ball. If you like the GTA series, you'll be disappointed in this obvious rip-off.
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