LETHAL BOX OFFICE
Joel Silver's trilogy of Lethal Weapon films are undoubtedly one of the movie success stories of recent years. If you're one of the few people who are unfamiliar with them, they star Mel Gibson as Martin Riggs, a whacko LA cop who's gone from suicidal to near-homicidal in the first two films and his straight-laced partner Roger Murtaug, who's played by Danny Glover. As you might expect, Riggs is always dragging Murtaug into dangerous situations while cracking one-liners and shooting every villain in sight. Despite this limited formula the third film, which was released this summer, was another box office hit.
Rather than opt to produce a game based on just one of the films. Ocean have gone the whole hog and taken aspects from all three movies, as well as coming up with a plot of their own. To get around the problem of the film having two main characters and there not being a two-player mode in the game, you can choose to play either Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. There are no advantages to either character, even though Roger Murtaug is old, slow and constantly complaining in the movies.
CHOOSE YOUR WEAPONS
The object, quite simply, is to get your chosen hero through a series of levels in one piece, while blowing away as many bad guys as possible in the process. What this boils down to is a platform game where timing and shooting accuracy are the order of the day.
The game is divided into four levels. The first is set in a dockyard which is run by an organisation of drug dealers and racketeers. Here the dynamic duo have to board a ship and recover a wad of drug money and put paid to the criminals for good. Part of this level involves swimming underneath a pier to get the drop on some drug dealers. Unfortunately, there's a shark with a taste for cops in the area, and if you're not quick he'll drain your energy. There are also ninja frogmen, who spring out of the water and unleash a volley of machine-gun fire.
After that is a Subway stage, complete with train, where the aim is to foil a gang's attempt to hold the city to ransom by placing bombs underneath it and threatening to set them off. The bad guys now have cop uniforms and come in full riot gear. They haven't got bullet proof vests though, so they're easy to kill. From there it's onto the subway car, where your problems are compounded by the lights which flicker on and off, often leaving you shooting in the dark.
Leo Getz makes an unwitting appearance on the third level, where he's being held hostage beneath a dingy old factory. Now you're facing enemies armed with flame throwers. These don't have the same range as guns, but they cause more damage and you can never tell when they're going to fire These three levels can be played in any order. When you complete them you enter a fourth stage, which is marked in the manual as classified, so you're going to have to find out about that for yourselves as I'm not going to spoil the fun.
YOU DON'T GET A STUNT DOUBLE
Unlike their big-screen counterparts, Riggs and Murtaug aren't bullet proof in the game. They both have energy gauges which deplete every time they're punched or fall a long distance. Some enemies are armed with machine guns and rocket launchers though, and one hit from either of these means an early retirement for the character on the receiving end. Very long drops are also fatal, so you can bet that the game's designers have included a good few.
Murtaug and Riggs aren't entirely defenceless. They're armed with pistols and an unfeasible amount of ammunition, A display in the top-left of the screen shows how many bullets are left in the current magazine, and how many magazines they have in total. Should the unthinkable happen and they run out of bullets, they can kick their enemies out of the game. Although running straight up to a machine-gun toting ninja and hoping he stands still while you axe kick his head isn't an advisable course of action.
There are no special weapons to collect, but most levels contain packing crates and oil drums which explode when shot, killing everyone nearby. If you time it right you can take out two or three bad guys at a time. Many enemies can be avoided by taking another route through the level, but more often than not they just jump out of nowhere so you're forced to deal with them. It can often take a few bullets to down a foe, so sometimes it's actually worth dropping behind and kicking them. It pays to move quickly, as most of the villains can shoot through platforms and home in on your position if you hang around for too long.
WHAT'S ON THE SCREEN?
The graphics are small, but very detailed, although the Riggs sprite looks more like Shakin' Stevens than Mel Gibson. The backgrounds are very plain though, and much more could have been done with them. On the other hand, the levels are absolutely huge. The majority are large multi directional scrolling affairs, populated with various characters from the movies. The way through them normally lies through a series of doorways, which are dotted throughout such types of level, behind which are more hazards such as moving platforms and massive drops. There are some variations on this theme though. One level is a maze of small corridors, many of which are blocked by electronically opened security doors. The objective here is to find the switches which activate them. Your efforts are hampered by collapsing floors, which give way as soon as your character treads on them. Another takes place in a subway train. The graphics for this stage only take up about a fifth of the screen, but they're very effective none the less. The initial dockyard level stage has our heroes jumping from mast to mast to get past some ships and warehouses. This bit is quite tricky, because all the jumps are different lengths.
MORE THAN A PLATFORM
I wasn't very impressed when I first saw this game. I'd been expecting something a bit more than a platform game. Ocean have already produced more fair share of this type of game (Total Recall, Addams Family, Hudson Hawk, Robocop 2 and so on). A very good example of something different is the excellent Robocop 3, which is one of those rare breeds of film licences where the game actually captures the atmosphere of a movie. Despite its haggard style Lethal Weapon is still a very playable game. The levels are large enough to keep you occupied for quite a while and there's plenty to do. It's also very addictive and challenging without being frustrating.
Fans of the film will no doubt be disappointed by the lack of tie-ins in the game. The movies had some excellent car chases and the inclusion of one of the those wouldn't have gone amiss. As it stands it would have been a lot cheaper for Ocean had they just changed the graphics and given the game an original title. No one would ever have connected it with the film. Having said that, this is a very good platform game, but nowhere near as good as Ocean's previous movie-to-platform game licence. Addams Family.
It's likely that it will do very well in the charts, especially in the run-up to Christmas. However, it remains to be seen whether it will run for as long as the film series.
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