If you had $100 to blow, what would you use it for? Apparently Sega, faced with this question in 1994, decided to produce an all-FMV game called Midnight Raiders. Why not, huh? Midnight Raiders is one of the worst “movies” I have ever seen (and the only reason it’s not the worst is that I actively search out bad movies), and the worst game I’ve ever played, bar none. The absolute lack of any quality in this game, either of presentation or redeeming gaming value, leaves the most outstanding scar on my mind of any horrible game I’ve ever laid hands on.
The opening scenes (which, by the way, can’t be skipped) set the mood of the game: the mood of poorly conceived, laughingly directed, and teeth-grindingly-dumbly acted video. It seems that some chip-on-their-shoulder country in the “Middle East” has kidnapped the world’s most brilliant biochemist and forced him to make a little vial of black stuff that will destroy the whole world. Who ya gonna call? That’s right—America! More specifically, the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of one hotshot helicopter gunner who plays by his own rules, codenamed “Joker,” and his wise mentor—who can’t really fly a helicopter anymore because of his violently shaking hands but hasn’t been fired yet ’cause nobody has the heart to tell him—”Stryker.” Maybe the manual says it best:
YOU: ”Joker”—Gunner, 1st Apache (Codename: Dragonfly) You’re a young rookie with a lot of guts. You always look like you’re having fun—good cover when you’re really petrified. You won’t wear a helmet (uncool) ’cause you’re usually jamming to great rock & roll.
Against all odds, Joker’s gonna move his little crosshair like nobody’s business, shooting down the exact same enemy choppers again and again, until at last, he’ll infiltrate the enemy oil rig, rescue the chemist, and leave a nuclear bomb inside. Oh, yeah, baby!
The gameplay in Midnight Raiders is like a blissful shining pixie world where all of your dreams come true and you’re constantly having an orgasm. But this only applies if your dreams consist solely of moving a little red crosshair around on a background of grainy video with the d-pad and aiming it at green boxes, because that’s all you do in the game. It’s as difficult as it is simple, because the timing of your shots is a bit off, and also because the guy flying the chopper can’t keep it steady, meaning that your green boxes are flying all over the screen most of the time. Every time you get a hit (or for that matter, a miss), a bunch of random video plays as your reward, usually involving a huge explosion of a small model of whatever you just shot at (or a body, if you manage to make it as far as the infiltration area). If you miss and get hit three times, the game is over. There is no way to save your game in progress, so you’d better eat your Lucky Charms before popping the disc in if you have any hope of seeing the hilarious scientist again.
The best graphics you’ll experience during the course of playing Midnight Raiders are the in the Sega CD bios (bootup). When Sonic waves his hand at you on the Sega logo screen, he’s waving goodbye to any kind of mercy on your eyesight from that point. The rest of the game consists exclusively of that God-awful Sega CD FMV. In case you haven’t seen it, the video looks like a printout from an old dot-matrix printer, with a maximum of about eight colors at any time painted on a separate layer in square-inch blocks across the screen. The Sega CD drive can only access data at 1x as well, and the short load times are disguised by this odd looping video of what appears to be a man grabbing his crotch, and sometimes a close-up of some spinning gauges, no doubt gauging the intenseness of the situation. It’s hard to make out…well, anything in the game, and that’s where the green boxes come in handy. There’d be no way to aim at the enemy without them, making them the single smart move made by the developers of this game.
The “editor” of the video should be executed. Each time you fire a shot, the camera changes about seven times, and each time it does, it looks like you’ve warped to a different locale at a different time of day. Sometimes you’ll also see the same exchanges between characters (and enemies) that took place only seconds before, repeated with no changes. Shoot a guy on a ground floor, and witness the camera warp (after skipping) to a high ledge to show what has to be a completely different guy falling down from it. Add this to the spinning and crotch-grabbing load scenes, not to mention constantly switching back to close-ups of the CO’s back at HQ, and you’ve got some of the most disorienting and offensive visuals ever on a console.
The music also has this action-porn feel to it, although it’s very quiet (when you get to the credits, you’ll understand exactly why they left it out) and overshadowed by the no-talent actors vomiting up their even-worse-written lines. These actors, who look and sound like they flunked out of McDonald’s’ school, will definitely grate on your ears and cause you either to laugh or cry. At one point, upon being begged to pull poor Joker out of the impossible odds he faces, the resident tough officer with a cigar in his mouth leans over, crosses his eyes, and says in a suddenly deepening Satan-like growl, “We’ll abort this mission when I say so, and not one second sooner. Do I make myself clear, old woman?”
Let me take this opportunity to point out that the person he’s addressing is not a woman. Is this a typo in the script? A holdover from the earlier transsexual-themed version of the game that was never released? Perhaps the writers just sucked beyond words? I’d lean toward the third option, though that’s just me. The world may never know.
Lastly, the sound effects are, as many of the Sega CD’s sounds seem to be, fuzzy and out of synch. It sounds like someone had a blanket over the microphone when they were all recorded. Adding to the aural agony, the voices and sound effects very often skip (e.g. any time the video changes). Suffice it to say, you’d probably get better sounds than Midnight Raiders by listening to a radio with no tuner.
Laughter or tears….it depends on your personal taste, but Midnight Raiders should draw one of these from you. I’m kinda like Jesus in that I have suffered so that you might not have to. I’m here to warn all of the innocent people of the world that you’ve got to have one helluva penchant for campy video and hall-of-fame-worthy crap games to get anything out of this. If you don’t have that masochistic quality that compels one to compulsively collect films like Troll 2, just stay away from it.