Written by Cyril Lachel on 5/12/2005 for Xbox  
More On: NARC
I hate NARC!

It’s not because of the horrible graphics and sub-standard game play. It’s not because of its subject matter, of which it’s full of offensive behavior and despicable acts. It’s not even how limited the game’s scope seems to be. What I hate about NARC, Midway’s long overdue update to the 1988 arcade smash hit, is that it lacks anything even remotely resembling fun. It’s a joyless experience that could have you reevaluating why you play games in the first place.

You alternate between playing Marcus Hill (voiced by MTV alumni Bill Bellamy) and Jack Forzenski (Michael Madsen of Kill Bill vol. 2 and Reservoir Dogs) on missions that have you taking down drug dealers, drug users, and really anybody who happens to be around the action. There is a little more depth to these tasks, but for the most part it’s your job to power your way through multiple thugs and beat facts out of prisoners to continue getting leads for your quest.

There’s a story here, one that has to do with taking down the people that are providing a new super drug to the town, a drug known as Liquid Soul. Unlike most of the drugs on the streets that will send you to an early grave, this Liquid Soul seems to be able to keep people alive … something you might want if you’re trying to create unrest or an army or something. The various plot points are really nothing more than an excuse to keep you going to new areas and roughing up new baddies; something that doesn’t take long before it just seems pointless.

Much of the problem with NARC can be associated with the locale; it’s just not very interesting. Scratch that, “interesting” was three exits ago … NARC is just plain dull! No matter what part of the game you are in, the environment is pretty small and no fun to look at. It’s filled with mostly bleak images mixed with poor graphics and a lack of detail. Unlike other free roaming games that make it fun to adventure around your surroundings, NARC seems dead set on killing any hopes of excitement.

NARC does have one gimmick going for it that no other free roaming action game has done yet … drug use! In this game you aren’t just tempted to use the drugs; it actually rewards you (in a sense) for taking them. Most of the drugs on the street make some aspect of the game easier, either by slowing everything down, speeding everything up, or making you next to invincible. But all this comes with a drawback, because the more you take the more withdrawals you will have, eventually hampering your performance.

This gimmick could have worked had it been handled better, perhaps by a company that understood the depth of the material or even its seriousness. But that could be said about almost every facet of this game’s design. Every part of the game feels like it was tossed together as quickly as possible to earn a quick buck from people who can’t wait for San Andreas. Had this not been announced nearly two years ago, I would have thought it was thrown together in a matter of a couple months.
Although the original NARC was a war ground with non-stop ultra violence, it was also bright and colorful … something completely missing from this updated NARC. Here it appears to be only night, as if we live in some strange parallel universe that is imitating the 1998 movie Dark City. Things are so dark and dreary that there are times where it’s almost impossible to see where you’re going or who you’re after.

The control scheme also comes up short, with a flawed aiming mechanic that sometimes allows you to lock on, but won’t at other times. You actually get a chance to use a lot of hardware, from sniper rifles to rocket launchers; pretty much all your bases are covered. But like everything else in this game, it’s usually not that much fun to use these guns since the enemies rarely put up much of a fight. There are a number of other hang ups that come along with NARC’s control, but chances are you’ll lose interest in the game long before you have a chance to hate the controls.

If you grow tired of doing the same thing in every mission, you can run around the streets looking for criminals to bust (or people to sell drugs to). Since the criminals in the world of NARC are all brain dead morons, it’s easy to find people to arrest performing illegal acts right in front of people. Had this aspect of the game been fleshed out it might have been a fun alternative to the repetitive mission objectives, but as it is there is no point in dealing with these hoodlums.

NARC runs on the same engine that powered State of Emergency, the 2002 riot game that was met with mixed reactions. No matter where you stood on the merits of that game, it’s hard to imagine making a full out Grand Theft Auto-style game out of this old, limited technology. Unfortunately when you see NARC it all makes sense; the characters are blocky and ugly, the world is small and poorly detailed, and nothing ever looks quite right. I’m not surprised they were able to make NARC with the State of Emergency engine; I’m just shocked anybody would even try.

The problem is that NARC isn’t just unmemorable, it’s that even very bad games do these aspects better than Midway’s free roaming opus. Games like DRIV3R and True Crime: Streets of L.A. weren’t considered classics by any means, but compared to NARC they shine as bright as their creators originally wanted. Heck, even State of Emergency ends up looking good compared to this poorly conceived waste of time.

The soundtrack is made up of just over a dozen songs, ranging from old school funk to modern day rap. Just about every song found in the game has something to do with drugs, so it shouldn’t surprise you to see Curtis Mayfield’s Pusherman or anything from Cypress Hill. The problem with the music is that it is set to represent a section of the city, so you’ll run from one part of town to another and hear parts of several songs. This leads to putting up with a lot of the same music over and over, which I found to be kind of obnoxious after awhile.

To be completely fair to Midway, there are aspects of NARC I am completely ignoring in order to complain about the game’s shortcomings. I haven’t brought up the badge rating, which can turn you from a tough investigator down to a street cop busting perps around town. I have completely ignored the second half of the game, which is really more of the same … only with one major difference. I haven’t commented on the supporting cast, who are mostly annoying (except for Ron “Hellboy” Perlman, who I just feel bad for). Nope, I haven’t touched on a lot of the game’s nuance, but after you play the game it’s hard to think about anything but my complaints. This game is a disaster; it’s simply no fun to play at all.

I know a lot of people will be tempted to pick up the game at its $20 price point, but don’t do it; this game isn’t worth it even if they give it to you for free! Wait for San Andreas, because NARC is one drug that is tough to get out of your system. I’m not saying everybody is going to hate it, but I would hate to meet the person who loves it.
In the world of NARC it’s fun to take drugs and shoot hundreds of people, unfortunately in the real world no part of Midway’s updated NARC is fun. Just say no

Rating: 3 Bad

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
View Profile

comments powered by Disqus