With it being Halloween and this month seeing the 20th anniversary of the release of the Sega CD in the US (Mega CD in other regions), I have decided to revisit the FMV (Full Motion Video) sub genre that was so prevelent on Sega's CD add-on and in particular Digital Pictures' Corspe Killer.
1st November 2012 KingofMetal79
An unnamed United States Marine is airdropped onto a tropical island on a top secret mission to stop the evil Dr. Hellman, who plans to release his army of zombies on the world. Four of the marine's comrades are captured by Hellman and turned into zombies. To rescue them, the marine infiltrates Hellman's compound and shoots each of them with bullets coated with extract from Datura plants, which can turn freshly created zombies
zombies back into humans. You are joined on your mission by an attractive female reporter (Julie) and a Rastafarian male driver (Winston). Out of the several FMV games that came out at the same time that I have played this has one of the most engaging story.
The game is basically a shooter and is not dissimilar to other shooting full motion video games such as Lethal Enforcers. The player moves through the jungle shooting various zombies, collecting better ammunition (There are 3 bullet types, each with different powers and different zombie slaying abilities) and medicine to recover health. The game can be played using a Sega Menacer light gun or a joystick/joypad. I found the game pretty damn hard to complete as its just a series of side scrolling, light gun sequences broken up by FMV cut scenes. Therefore a lapse in concentration and one bad stage and your quest to rid the island of Zombies can be over. The game includes a 'database' (accessed by presssing 'C') where you can select missions, watch 'informative' video clips or view the game map. You do find yourself frequently revisiting old areas which does become boring as many of the levels are very similar and very little variety. Each level is normally book ended by a cut scene. While the graphics and video are of relatively poor quality on the Mega CD (in comparison to the 3DO) it does have a certain level of charm and likeability that you don't get in a some games today. While the games often felt stiff and sterile, even back in the day (seeing as its basically a dumbed down Operation Wolf), there was something new, fresh and exciting about FMV games (a la Mad Dog McGree and Lethal Enforcers). Its just a shame that the gameplay couldn't keep up with the tech. It wasn't until the appearance of the likes of Heavy Rain that game design could comfortably rub shoulders with the real life video/photo realistic graphics. However in the last decade or so the use of FMV as a selling point or focus has diminished due to graphical advancements in modern video game systems making it possible for in-game cut scenes to have just as impressive visual quality.
While Corpse killer is a basic (if challenging) game by todays standards, and very of its time, it is an interesting example of the early 90's craze for FMV games. In the early 1990s when games started moving to CD, they became technically capable of utilizing movies in a game. As previously mentioned this gave rise to a slew of FMV-based computer games such as Night Trap (1992), The 7th Guest and Corpse Killer (1994). These FMV games frequently used South American B-movie and TV actors and promised to create the experience of playing an interactive movie. However, production values were quite low with amateurish sets, lighting, costumes, and special effects. In addition, the video quality in these early games was low, and the gameplay frequently did not live up to the hype. At this time, consoles like the 3DO, CD-i, and Sega CD borrowed this concept for several low-quality interactive games. Companies such as Digital Pictures and American Laser Games were formed to produce full motion video games and make the most of the demand for this new sub genre. As mentioned above a lot of these games contained some very dubious acting and while the acting isn't oscar worthy in Corspe Killer it is passable and the characters are quite likable. However some of the obvious green screen acting of the zombies is poor and looks quite cartoony and amateurish. Also why do some of the zombies fly at the screen?... While the craze for this type of game was almost exclusively associated with the 90's it is not completely dead and a small yet dedicated group of people are still flying the flag and creating 'FMV' games. Some of the most notable recent releases are Bruce Films' Stay Dead and Parallax's Darkstar.
Difference Between Various Versions
The game was also available on the 3DO, Saturn, PC and even an 'upgraded' 32x version. As mentioned above it is generally accepted that the Mega CD version had the poorest graphics but was less buggy than the 32x version. Furthermore it is also recognised that the 3DO version had the most responsive light gun integration, and therefore was the most playable and accurate but 3DO light guns are hard to come by and are expensive.
I would like to see a modern take on the FMV that utilises everything game developers have learned over the past 40 years and is not just a repetitive shooter or a tedious point and click. FMVs are certainly an interesting curio from a bygone gaming era...
If there are any games you want reviewed then leave a comment or post a request on the forum and we will try our best to get a copy.