Body Harvest (Nintendo 64) review
"You’re just one man, so you’re outnumbered. You’ve just got one gun, so you’re outmatched. You’re Marty McFly with a laser pistol, and you’ve got to do what all the armies of all the nations on the entire planet couldn’t do in a hundred years’ time: Stop the aliens. "
All things considered, the last century was pretty damn bitchin’.
The TV was invented, that changed the way we get entertainment. The automobile was invented, that changed the way we get around. The internet was invented, that changed…just about everything, really. A few wars and the boy band craze aside, mankind did good for itself in the past hundred or so years.
But if we had spent that hundred years, say, getting devoured to the brink of extinction by giant insect aliens…well, that would have stunted our growth a bit.
That’s what the people in Body Harvest have to put up with.
About a century ago, a bunch of insect aliens made a startling discovery: Humans taste good. They declared Earth their feeding ground, and now they show up every few decades with a bad case of the munchies. They’d eat countless humans, catch the military totally off guard, and then disappear before anybody could do a damn thing about it. So instead of having a century of creation and enlightenment and all that good stuff, we had a hundred years of getting chomped on by glorified dung beetles.
No more watching Family Guy on Sunday nights. No more non-stop Halo 2 sessions. No more anime, no more Super Bowl, no more anything. Everyone’s too busy trying to stay alive.
It gets so bad that, by the year 2016, mankind is one attack away from complete annihilation. Out of options, they get desperate and make a time machine, hoping that they can hit the restart button on the past century and stomp out the bugs. A good plan, really…but as any frequent watcher of Sci-Fi movies will tell you, things are never that simple. Especially when there’s a time machine involved.
The bugs come, the bugs feast, and only one nameless soldier makes it to the time machine and sets out to the past. That would be you.
You’re just one man, so you’re outnumbered. You’ve just got one gun, so you’re outmatched. You’re Marty McFly with a laser pistol, and you’ve got to do what all the armies of all the nations on the entire planet couldn’t do in a hundred years’ time: Stop the aliens.
You are, as the natives say, in deep shit. But the game doesn’t pussyfoot, and that’s where the greatness comes. You’re rewriting the course of history, taking humans off the menu and back on top of the food chain, and it’s every bit as tough as you’d expect it to be.
You’ll be fighting them by the dozens, even in the earliest levels. They come fast, they come often, they come hard, and they come varied. You’ll snipe giant wasps out of the air, you’ll get in gunfights with turret-manning maggots, you’ll shoot down beetles big enough to overturn tanks, and it came happen anytime, anywhere. Body Harvest doesn’t give you set battles, it doesn’t let you prepare and heal; whenever you’re walking outside, it’s open season. One moment, you’re driving along, easily completing one of the game’s objectives. Ten seconds later, your car’s destroyed, you’ve been knocked down to near-zero health, and a pack of ten-foot-tall ants are baring down on you with mandibles open and lasers firing.
You have to be ready, always. Not just to save yourself, but to save the people; the game regularly requires you to go hero and save the locals from alien ingestion. It’s not as much trouble as you might think, though: you’re in the past with primitive weaponry, yeah, but you can still manage pest control. After all…primitive isn’t the same thing as weak.
Panzer tanks, machine guns, Howitzers…you’ll have some of heaviest hitters from the 20th century at your disposal, fully stocked and fully capable; any vehicle you need, you can find. Motorcycles let you get around the massive maps in minutes, swerving through the swarms, dodging fire and returning it at their backsides. Planes let you fight the flying enemies on their own level. Helicopters, boats, and everything in between…it’s all there.
And when you fight your way through each level, take out all the enemies and all the enemy processors and save the day ten times over, Body Harvest sets you up with a little treat. It’s time for the title bout.
You’re opponent is one of the baddest and maddest man-eating monsters that the enemy’s got, something so big and so strong that you wouldn’t last a minute against it without the right equipment. Fortunately, you’ll have the right equipment.
You get a special hovertank for each boss battle, an all-terrain, all-purpose vehicle from the future. Rapid-fire guns for tacking on the quick damage. Heavy cannons for hard-hitting. You’ve got the speed, you’ve got the agility, you’ve got the armor, and you’ve got to use it all or face a quick crush.
The boss battles don’t even feel like boss battles, they’re more like duels. You have some advantages, your opponent has some advantages; whoever uses what they’ve got to their best ability, wins. No patterns to memorize, no timing to bother with. Just a face-to-face offensive.
It’s that kind of intensity that keeps the blood pumping every minute of this game, the subtle promise that you’ll have to fight for you life at any given moment. The game knows it, too; the musical score constantly switches between the haunting strokes of a piano and the frantic streaks of a violin, ebbing with the calm and flowing with the panic. The eerie notes accompany each moment, giving the game a cinematic feel that does justice to the scale.
Body Harvest is all about harmony; the story, the gameplay, and the music all form a perfect tension. The game only really falters when it moves away from that and hits the brakes; the save points are few in number and far in distance, making you take a look trek every time you want to give it a rest. The main game has some minor slow spells, too; a few tacked-on RPG elements. You’ll have to talk to some people, maybe solve a puzzle or find an item…never too complex, never too time-consuming. Just for direction’s sake, something to give the madness a method. In the end, it’s still about getting from A to B and killing every bastard bug in between.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Staff review by Zack Little (October 14, 2005)
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