Reading casually through this site, you might think that every game for the Sega CD based on live-action, full motion video, was a horrible one. Not true. There are some so truly awful that they are real blights on the gaming community as a whole. We’re talking pestilence here. We are talking games so bad that the Nazis would have been positively beaming with pride if they had the opportunity to use them in their campaigns of terror. In fact, if Hitler had dropped copies of Midnight Raiders on London instead of V-1s, well, the old chaps would be gulping watered-down Heniken and and eating strudels as we speak.
Midnight Raiders wants to be like a Hollwood blockbuster so bad it could piss its pants. It wants to be up there with Top Gun, hell it would even settle for Flight of the Intruder. The designers want you to sit back with your fingers eagerly tapping the keyboard thinking “Holy shitballs, it’s like I’m in a movie!” The jaded gamer will recognize right away this this plan is destined for failure, and once again, cynicism wins over dumbassed marketing ideas.
You play as a rookie chopper gunner named Joker, who’s ready to prove himself and get a piece of some action. He’ll get his chance now that Middle Eastern terrorists have abducted a brilliant German biochemist and forced him to create a toxin that will (da da DUM) deshtroy zee vorld! Your team is sent in to liberate the chemist and torch the facility where he’s being held. The rest of the one-dimensional supporting cast, required by federal law to be in plots like this, are here – you’ve got the CIA guy who cares more about the mission than the men. You’ve got the kindly old colonel who cares more about the men and is being forced to cooperate by the “higher ups”. Your pilot is a grizzled old veteran, the best man they’ve got, who keeps telling you to stop being so reckless. Your competition is the female gunner of the other chopper who continually and quasi-sexually taunts you about your aim.
The main draw of this game is its live-action video to promote more “realism”. I’m sure that realism is there somewhere, perhaps hiding under all those big square clusters of pixels. Raiders is one of the blurriest games I have seen for the Sega CD, and its video quality is damned near incomprehensible. Between shots of the mission leaders in a poorly-lit command room, and shots of the pilots in dimly-lit cockpits, you’re shown grainy video of a target approaching. If you get your crosshairs over it and press the correct button, you’re shown even grainer military stock footage of Apaches firing their missiles, which then cuts to a shot of a miniature model being blown apart – often over completely different terrain from the last shot (like forest to desert).
Then, just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, you’re lowered into an oil facility to take out the terrorists on foot. When does this take place? At night! If you haven’t picked up on the clues by now, grainy, blocky footage makes dark areas look almost ink-black. Since it seems like the game is always shooting in darkness, it dramatically decreases your ability to understand once single damn thing on the screen.
The entire gameplay of Raiders consists of watching a little bit of the plot, shooting some things, then watching another section of the plot until you reach the end. The plot sucks, and the shooting parts yield unimpressive explosions. It’s too bad you won’t be as excited about seeing the explosions as the overacting actors are, because that probably should be the best part of the game. The pitiful effects that reward your good shot are truly not worth the trouble – and the trouble I speak of is, of course, the blasphemous controls.
You know you’ve got bad controls when you feel like Stevie Wonder could match your score. The crosshairs swim around the screen to begin with, and it’s made even worse when you’re expected to target something about an inch wide, while the camera shakes and bobs to simulate flight. Never once while playing this game did I accurately and deliberately lock onto a target. Instead, the only way to play Raiders is to flail your crosshairs around in the general area of your target and hammer the fire key. Often, the crosshair will eventually cross over the target while you’re hitting the fire button, and mercifully register a kill – but not always.
Once you hit the ground, things get the tiniest bit better. The camera still bobs and shakes, but you’re now shooting men at close range who present much larger targets. In fact, the ground mission is probably the best part of this game. Of course that’s not saying much, because you’re still doing mostly the same things you were doing in the air, and the developers manage to ruin even this. When you’re shot down in your chopper, you’re picked up and get to start over again. When you’re shot just once on the ground, you die instantly and must restart the entire game. Hammering the fire key also no longer works.
It did, for about five enemies, then the gun clicked mysteriously and refused to fire. I pressed every button to try and reload, or fix the jam, or whatever the hell it was, but it was no use and I was killed. I found a manual, read that the C button reloads, tried the game again, and this time pressed C many times when the gun clicked empty. It never reloaded, and I died. Again. Bear in mind there are no ammo indicators to go by, so I can only assume that I ran out of bullets. Read this and understand, the best part of this shitty game was cut short because it decided I ran out of fucking bullets.
Even the sound, the one part of the Sega CD that you cannot possibly go wrong with, got screwed up here. Every voice in the game sounds too sharp and crackily, even when they’re not talking over radios. When you’re hearing a voice that’s actually supposed to be on a radio, it’s twice as bad.
Somebody dropped the ball, right on their foot this time, and I hope they’re still screaming obscenities about it today. Midnight Raiders is a terrible game, one of the worst of the worst, and one of the last Sega CD games you should want to play.
For the briefest of moments, it was fun to “click” on a commando and watch him die an overly dramatic, acrobatic death.
Ghastly video quality, contender for worst controls ever, they even pooched the sound. The UN better track copies of this game – it’s that bad.