Genre: Action Developer: Punk Development Publisher: Razorsoft Players: 1 Released: 1990
Many early Genesis titles had their roots on personal computers, and a significant portion of the era’s third party publishers based their 16-bit catalogs around these ports. Some, like Electronic Arts, did so to bring their quality releases to a new audience, thereby increasing sales and brand recognition as well as filling vital holes in the fledgling Genesis library. Others did so not only to make money but to push the limits of what type of content might be permitted on the new console. Razorsoft, one of the first Sega licensees, was quite adept at creating controversy in this manner, with its semi-nude fairies in Stormlord and the ultra-violent (for the time) action of its other release, TechnoCop.
As an exercise in exploring the limitations of free speech and artistic license, TechnoCop might be considered an early success, but as an action game, it fails to achieve the same result. I’m sure that young gamers, looking at the back of the box and seeing the exploding character and ominous disclaimer “NOT SUGGESTED FOR CHILDREN UNDER 12,” felt that this was a game they simply had to play. It had blood! It had violence! It must have been good! I can only hope that the innocence of youth was enough to obscure the reality of the game’s simplistic visuals, hokey audio and repetitive gameplay. Years later, nothing has changed. If blood is all one wants, then this might be enough, but those looking for a fun and engaging action title are going to be disappointed.
As a police officer with no rules, it’s the player’s job to find and take down the D.O.A. Punks, a band of ruthless criminals. Alive or dead, it doesn’t matter how they end up, so long as the job gets done. Players take to the streets in their VMAX Twin-Turbo Interceptor, a souped-up battle car equipped with side-mounted Apache cannons and long-range nuclear torpedoes. That’s right, I said nuclear. I have to question the wisdom of allowing law enforcement to run around town with weapons of mass destruction and orders to kill. It seems like an invitation to lazy police work, to say the least.
Each stage begins with the player driving to a particular gang member’s last known location. Along the way, bad guys attempt to take out the Interceptor, mostly by just trying to run it off the road. Apparently, they have no fear of automotive WMDs and are confident enough in their driving abilities that they don’t need to use guns. TechnoCop must then storm the enemy hideout and find the “boss.” He can either subdue him with his Tonari snare gun or outright kill him. Either way, the mission is accomplished. The boss’s subordinates aren’t lucky enough to have a choice, however, and they’re repeatedly splattered all over the floor via our hero’s .95 AutoMag, which is “designed for internal explosion of human targets.” Shoot someone, watch him go boom, every time. At no point does our valiant officer of the law attempt to wound or arrest anyone. Get in his way, and you’re going to explode. The whole experience reeks of the same violent-for-the-sake-of-violence formula in many ’80s action films, like Stallone’s Cobra.
I can agree that action and gore for their own sakes aren’t bad things. Mindless fun can be very welcome sometimes, provided it’s done right. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here at all. The main problem with TechnoCop is that there’s virtually no variety in the gameplay. Every stage is the same thing, over and over. Shoot and boom, shoot and boom. Even the driving stages are stale, and they aren’t even as attractive to play as those in Atari’s Roadblasters, especially since the constant ramming damages the car. Nothing is more infuriating than to be approaching the end of the level, only to have an enemy car come out of nowhere and ram you off the road, mortally damaging your car and ending the game. There’s also a time limit for each area, so more often than not players will just find themselves wasting everything that moves just to get to the boss in time. Fail to do so, and he vanishes. The fact that this is basically what the game wants you to do makes the superficial game design even more blatant.
Worse, there’s very little difference between the stages, so each one looks the same. There are only so many crack houses and prostitutes one can see before the whole concept wears thin, and after about three stages, it all becomes tedious. Even the game’s main attraction, the violence, loses whatever charm it has after a while. Everything sounds as bad as it looks, and overall, there’s absolutely nothing here that’s memorable, save for the exploding bad guys. Even so, that may have been enough to entice naïve gamers back in 1990, but anyone over the age of twelve is going to see right through such a charade. Perhaps that’s the true meaning of the disclaimer?
I sincerely can’t recommend TechnoCop to anyone looking for a serious, side-scrolling action shooter. Those people should instead spend their money on the two excellent Rolling Thunder games for the Genesis. However, if sating one’s curiosity about a particular piece of Genesis history is all that’s involved, than this may be worth looking into for a few dollars. TechnoCop may say that he plays to win, but gamers are better off just playing something else entirely.
SCORE: 4 out of 10