Will Preston

Hilariously flawed, but ultimately engaging. The N64 tries to do GTA…

by on Aug.29, 2010, under Remake This!

The hero is essentially Judge Dredd crossed with Scorpion

Owning one console as a child was like a question of identity. You see, I decided to go with the Nintendo 64 option in the mid to late Nineties and my parents granted me this wish from their magical wish sack (their bank account. If anything, I went for this for the cartridge option; I didn’t trust myself with scratchable CD’s at the tender age of ten. Like if my hands were like Spiderman’s and CD’s would be in constant danger of having lines across them the minute I want to switch over a game. It was a sensible choice, but one major problem stood in the way; the Playstation released a lot of titles that I wanted to have. Resident Evil. Final Fantasy. Medal Of Honor. Even the must have title, Grand Theft Auto, had no inkling of a Nintendo release. Of course back then, consoles were like cars; we all owned one, but having two was something that only the rich could get away with.

Back in those days, we were very thankful for 3D graphics. And hot food on the table...

Luckily, Nintendo managed to get some of it’s own exclusive titles. There was a special edition of Resident Evil 2. Instead of Cloud Strife, we had Link. And instead of hunting nazi’s, we were giving a tekbow and told to wipe out dinosaurs and mutants. But what to do about Grand Theft Auto? DMA Design, the company behind the series (and, bizarrely enough, Lemmings) had an idea that took the main elements of GTA and planned a science fiction time travel bonanza. Seeing the first shots of Body Harvest was exciting. Instead of the bald spot seeking to-down view of GTA, the camera retained a sense of gravity and hovered behind the character, allowing better views of the landscape and less car crashing.

When it finally came out in shops, there were a lot of mixed reviews. When the Gamecube came out, this was never spoken of again. I must be the only person who thinks that we’ve left behind a potential classic. The most outstanding feature of this game is the time travel. OK, we have time travel in a lot of other games, but instead of turning back the Sands of Time in Persia or being transported to World War 2, we were given distinct periods in the 20th century and had to make do with what vehicles and weapons we could find. The story was a device for this. A ridiculous device. There is a comet that comes to Earth every 25 years. Rather then providing an eyesore (or inspirations for a bad Bruce Willis film), the comet is actually a small planetoid containing a collection of insect like aliens who use the time in Earth’s orbit to (groan!) harvest it for it’s bodies. Thus the name; Body Harvest. Don’t look at me, I’m on your side in terms of the name of the game. Unfortunately, every time this happens, it’s in an unexpected part of the world (usually at a time when a great war is happening, in a place that is out of the way, so to speak).

Whilst other bugs just sit there grinning.

And not only that, impenetrable energy walls (also known as “The Edge of the Level”) would trap the inhabitants of the area, isolating them from rescue. At this point, giant insects would come down and harvest them. I would say eat, but there is actually a harvesting process that comes into play when wondering through the game. A harvester wave consists of a harvester alien (a big fat bug who shits green globs and “harvests” humans through it’s mouth), aforementioned green globs that squiggle (that’s the only way to describe their movement) and trap humans for the harvester, and then there’s the general soldier aliens that provide this process goes by the number. It’s beautifully organised in its way. This bug hierarchy provided some interesting situations. The soldier bugs would try bashing building to rubble in order to force the humans out into the open, whilst the harvester does it’s purpose in life.

Should you destroy the harvester, you instantly become the centre of attention and nothing less than an alien cluster fuck commences. It’s OK though, because I forgot to mention that you are a time travelling space marine with no voice, camp Flash Gordon body armour and an infinite ammo pistol. In 2016, Adam (your man) is on board a space station above a desolated and insect occupied Earth. A last minute invasion forces you, and the chick from Fifth Element, into a time travelling….pod thing. Now it’s up to you to travel to the insect’s invasion dates and basically tell them to fuck off. Because the human race is having none of it, yeah? As I said, the different periods offer different technologies. The first level drops you in Greece at around 1916. Yes. Just about the right time they invented the tank, biplane and machine gun. It’s a great way to start the game off, and once you’ve done the basic driving, shooting, talking to people and searching building for puzzles, you’ll find an airfield with an infinite amount of planes. This game really is all about the vehicles. Civilian vehicles come in all forms and handle in different ways. But once you get your hands on a howitzer or tank, the game gets VERY interesting.

By this point, your armoury just gets ridiculous!

I should also mention that with great vehicles come terrible fuel economy. Yes. They are all prone to rolling to a stop once you run out of magic moving juice. Which is a pain, as your character can’t swim and runs like, well…remember those dreams where you can’t run too fast and something is chasing you. Yeah, it’s like that. It’s a pain in the arse to walk anywhere. But there’s some great walking music provided; one of the reasons I love the game for it’s atmosphere and dynamic music. Aliens come out; music changes to suit your mood. Now all games do this. But back to the time travel. After a sunny holiday in Greece, the next stop is Java during that difficult period in 1941. You know. With Germans killing people and such. This level featured a huge volcano and lots of rain. Atmosphere-a-plenty, young padawan. Then there’s 1966 USA. Groovy man. This was my favourite; mainly for being in a city, mainly for providing a mock Area 51. There are a a lot of juicy secrets in this game and my favourite was flying a flying saucer. There was a trick to accessing it mind. An escaped grey alien at one point also offers a bit of back story to the insects and the moon landing is yet again debunked. Getting the hell out of there before The Beatles quit, we end up in the last Earth level; 1991 Siberia. Everyone’s too busy with Sadam to notice an orange suited stranger stealing a SCUD missile launcher, a harrier jumpjet and breaking into a chemical plant. Things got hard from the off. All the civilians have been turned into zombies. Your only choice? Mow them down with a combine harvester. This was a golden age of video gaming. Then the final level takes place on board the aliens home world blah blah blah. There is a certain charm to this game which require a reboot. Or at least take the major themes and create a game where the player doesn’t walk like a twat and vehicles handle better.

Remake?

Extremely impractical, but lots of fun once you get access to a crowded place

Sadly, no. But major vehicle elements have made their way into every single action game today. The only modern reference we have to this game is from GTA San Andreas (DMA design are now called Rockstar North, in case you were wondering). At one point in the game, CJ needs to steal a combine harvester from some red neck racists (is there any other kind?) and drive it to a shed. Bonus points for “bodies harvested” along the way. Oh. And the name of this mission? ‘Body Harvest’. That’s the last mention we’ll ever hear of it. Excuse me while I ring my mother up to get the N64 out the lock up.

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