Around the early 1990s, some video game developers decided that the future of game technology was filming a bunch of no-name actors for peanuts and having them act out a game that looked and played like a late night infomercial. These were known as full-motion video (FMV) games, and, by and large, they were expensive and terrible.
But there was a silver lining to the video game industry's attempt to emulate Hollywood -- FMV games were a gold mine of unintentional comedy. Here are five of the weirdest FMV titles ever made.
5Crime Patrol: Bad Acting and a Cruelly Deterministic Universe
Laugh all you want, but in an era when most games looked like grainy cartoons (at best), gamers shit their pants when they saw a game that, holy crap, guys, looked like a real movie! Of course, that's until they inserted the game and realized they had just spent a month's allowance on what was essentially just an interactive video of somebody shooting unemployed community theater actors.
Like they weren't doing that already in real life.
See, there were two main types of FMV game back in the day: games where they digitized real people and turned them into spasmodic androids who owned time shares in the Uncanny Valley, and games like Crime Patrol, an early 1990s shooter that used pre-filmed scenes of actors (local drama students?) that the player had to interact with. (For a historically significant example of the latter, see Dana Plato's star turn in the Sega CD game Night Trap.)
Here's one of the game's earlier stages, where a gunfight erupts in a strip club. Do note the gangsters' entirely bloodless death pantomimes. It's like Martin Scorsese was hired to direct an episode of Who's Line Is It Anyway?
Because these games were basically just a string of digitized video clips, they had to keep things simple. So in Crime Patrol, 99 percent of being a police officer amounts to killing criminals who leap out from behind objects. There's no paperwork, no due process, and no Miranda rights -- only drug dealers dawdling just out of eyeshot, ripe for a-murdering. For example, in another level, the player had to shoot a bunch of hippie drug dealers -- armed with Uzis and a half-semester of Improv 101 -- at the exact same spot.
"Great job, actor No. 1228. You can pick up your payment of McDonald's coupons at the front desk."
So yeah, Crime Patrol was essentially a game of nothing but glorified quick-time events, or maybe a hell dimension where nobody has free will (and everybody has painfully 1990s haircuts).
4It Came from the Desert: Ants Devour Regenerating People
It Came from the Desert was a reasonably well-received game that came out on the defunct Amiga system back in 1989 and was re-released in 1991 on the similarly not-around-anymore TurboGrafx-CD. On the surface, it seems like it should be corny fun -- it's a tribute to 1950s sci-fi flicks in which a meteor lands near a desert town and releases a swarm of mutated ants.
But then you realize that much of the action involves watching the townspeople get slowly eaten to death, one chunk of flesh at a time, as they lay helpless in the desert. Throughout the game, townspeople are telepathically controlled by the ant queen, who psychically incapacitates them so that ant drones can munch on their supine bodies. The ants slowly strip away skin and muscle, leaving exposed bones behind as the victims' live-action faces writhe and scream in horror.
This plays out as a mini-game where the player must shoot the ants off the screaming victims as their flesh is rapidly torn from their pixelated bones. This occurs a shitload of times throughout the game, most notably (and disturbingly) when a crying little girl is consumed right down to her skeleton.
As bloody as this mini-game gets, the victims all survive as long as they have at least a square inch of skin left on their bodies. The townspeople can be reduced to shrieking heads surrounded by a puddle of bone and viscera, but they recover from these grievous injuries seconds later in cut scenes. And to make matters even crazier, the player goes through this gory shebang with the same exact characters multiple times in the course of the game, the townspeople reliving this hellish nightmare again and again.
"Thank you for doctoring us with your gun!"
Fortunately, the game knew how to lighten the mood: a sudden appearance from a sax-sporting jazz man!