Genre: Action Developer: Probe Software Publisher: Acclaim Players: 1 Released: 1995
Why did I do this to myself? Why did I waste so much of my childhood on cruddy comic book character-based video games during the 16-bit era? Reflecting back on that time, I can’t honestly say it was time well spent (to put it lightly), with crap-fests like Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Wolverine: Adamantium Rage, Justice League Task Force, Batman Forever, and more hitting my Genesis based solely on the fact that they starred the comic book characters I loved so much. They also have something else in common too; they were all published by Acclaim, the now defunct publisher responsible for bringing a number of licensed video game tie-ins to video game form. Judge Dredd is one such game, and like the ones I just mentioned above, it’s pretty freaking wretched.
If you’re sitting there thinking to yourself “who the hell is Judge Dredd?” then flash back to 1995, because just about everyone else in the country was asking themselves the same thing. Judge Dredd is a surprisingly legendary comic character made famous by starring in the long running British comic book series 2000 AD, a comic series that has seen great comic book talents like Alan Moore and Grant Morrison tackle the character. American film rights were purchased (it was originally planned as a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger) and eventually it wound up starring Sylvester Stallone in the title role. The film itself was practically universally panned by audiences, fans of the source material or not, and because Acclaim could not leave any stone unturned in terms of video game cash-ins, here we are with Judge Dredd.
The game Judge Dredd puts you in the role of the tough-guy super cop, as he traverses various hazards of the Cursed Earth taking on all sorts of generic baddies and scumbag criminals. That, in a nutshell, is the overall gameplay. Walk right, shoot bad guys, rinse and repeat. There are a few weapon upgrades, and you do have the option to actually apprehend and arrest some perps that surrender, but that in itself proves to be kind of challenging thanks to the wonky and unresponsive controls. Even if the controls weren’t so ungodly, it wouldn’t help the fact that the overall gameplay just isn’t any fun. It’s boring and monotonous, and by the time you actually manage to make a perp surrender, you end up shooting them accidentally because your gun is on permanent rapid-fire and you end up losing some health over it. So make that boring, monotonous, and frustrating to boot.
The graphics aren’t anything special, and in all honesty appear to be a little too darkly rendered. Seriously, sometimes it actually becomes pretty difficult to see what all is happening on the screen. I understand that the environment is pretty much a barren wasteland, but come on now, somebody turn on the lights here. This becomes increasingly noticeable once you beat the movie-based levels and reach the areas that are actually based on the 2000 AD comic and face-off against the Dark Judges on Deadworld. Like I said before, I know this is a post-apocalyptic setting and all that, but at some points in the game it just gets plain ridiculous.
While keeping the later post-movie levels in mind, the Deadworld stages are worth the price of admission here. They are actually decently designed and pay a nice homage to the actual source material (i.e. not the film) with the Dark Judges looking appropriately wicked. That being said, the boss fights in the game as a whole are woefully unforgiving and cheap. There’s no strategy to any of them, just kill them before they kill you. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad if the game offered a bit more variety than the tiresome bore it winds up being, but the result is just a miserable endeavor.
The game features a password system, which is a plus because Judge Dredd is a pretty challenging game. There are enemies aplenty and it doesn’t take too many hits to gnaw away at your health either, but this isn’t made any better thanks to the game’s shortcomings in terms of control responsiveness and basic overall gameplay. Once you run out of lives, and its game over you’ll be too bored and underwhelmed to even bother punching in the password characters to pick up where you left off.
Looking back on the Judge Dredd character, he’s actually gotten a surprising number of video game adaptations on later consoles as well as the PC. Sadly, none of them have been anything remotely better than remotely tolerable. It’s a shame really, because Judge Dredd as a character remains one of the most intimidating and unapologetic tough guy characters to ever be seen in the pages of a comic book, and he deserves a capable video game treatment that would rightfully do him justice. Come to think of it, he kind of deserves a proper film treatment as well. Wait, what? There is a brand new movie called Dredd on the horizon starring Karl Urban? Will it be any good? Could it be any worse than the Stallone version? Who knows? One thing is for sure though, if there’s a video game adaptation of it, Acclaim isn’t around to make it. That in itself is one thing that we should all be thankful for.
SCORE: 3 out of 10