The 1988 Williams arcade game NARC had its name stenciled across the marquee, accompanied by bullet holes, splattered blood, and a hand written note that read, “say no to drugs.” In that classic side-scrolling game, players killed or arrested drug dealers and confiscated their drugs and money. It was pretty clear throughout the game which guys were good and which guys were bad.
In Midway’s 2005 game with the same name, the division between good and bad is not as clear. In Midway’s NARC you play one of two undercover police officers chasing down some drug dealers spreading a new drug (Liquid Soul) onto city streets. During your mission you’ll have the opportunity to take crack, beat innocent civilians to a pulp, and shoot anyone who gets in your way. Overall, the game looks and plays like a budget version of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series. You’ll run around a virtual town in that familiar third-person point of view, completing missions and racing from point to point. Throughout the game you can make either good decisions (like confiscating drugs from dealers and dropping them off at the police station) or bad ones (like shooting old ladies in the face with an assault rifle) which will turn your character toward either the good or the dark side of the force – the police force, that is.
If the adult language or violence levels in Grand Theft Auto made you uneasy, then steer clear of NARC, which drops more F-bombs than the South Park movie. And if the four-letter words don’t make it clear that this is not a game for kids, the action soon does. Part of your training involves learning how to apprehend, cuff, and beat suspects. Even as a beat cop, you will serve as judge, jury, and executioner. No one in your precinct will complain about the lack of a speedy trial as you proceed to crush the skulls of any drug dealers, dirty cops or jaywalkers you encounter. Most of the game’s training missions center around learning the different ways to kick suspects’ asses. “Don’t forget,” a fellow officer states, “once a suspect fall to the ground you can press Triangle to mount them and then press X and Square to continue beating them!” Your training session ends when the brother of a recent arrestee appears, gun in hand. Your final training session involves disarming the man and then shooting him with his own gun. Guilty!
NARC is essentially a sleezy, second-rate Grand Theft Auto knockoff. The graphics are dark and sometimes blurry, and the soundtrack is about as cliché as it gets (“I’m Your Pusher”? C’mon.) I had originally rated the game’s soundtrack a 6, but I had to constantly turn it down due to my son being in the next room. I can really only see two possible target audiences for this game – people who can’t wait for the sequel to Driv3r, and people who still think beating up virtual people for no real reason is a hoot. I played through about half of NARC over several days, and felt dirty afterwards every time. If you curse RockStar every waking moment for not making State of Emergency, then run as fast as you can to the nearest gaming store and pick NARC up. If you think you might get at least a minor “tee-hee” from grappling with criminals or hearing computer people swear, at least rent this game before buying it. Even with an MSRP of $20, you might end up feeling as though you’re the one who has been robbed.