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					NARC (PS2)

NARC is a third-person actioner with a stylized modern backdrop that's
based on the War on Drugs. Playing as dual characters, Jack Forzenski
and Marcus Hill, gamers must rid the world of the powerful
international drug cartel known as K.R.A.K. But to do so, users will
have to use their deadly firepower and police authority to make the
choice of either playing it straight or stumble down the road of
narcotics. Pursue illegal deals with drug dealers or be the law abiding
NARC cop. It's up to you.

Game Info

Developer             Point of View
Publisher             Midway Games
Genre                 Action
Release Date          March 21, 2005
ESRB                  Mature
GameSpy Score          (Read Review)

Pros                                    Cons
                                        Narcotics as a power-up is just plain
Good cop/bad cop aspect can
                                        dumb; poor character and inventory
occasionally be fun; decent cinematic
                                        controls; lack of any real
                                        consequences for actions.

Back in 1988, the "War on Drugs" was in full swing and Nancy Reagan
was still on a crusade to teach kids how to "Just Say No." As such,
Midway decided to jump onto the anti-drug bandwagon by releasing
the original NARC in arcades. This over the top side-scroller placed
players in the role of two narcotics officers on a crusade to clean up
the streets through any means necessary. Now, seventeen years later,
Midway has decided to revisit the franchise. Only this time, the
message isn't "Just Say No," but rather "Go Ahead If You Want To."

NARC's story plays out like a Hollywood action flick. Detectives Jack
Forzenski and Marcus Hill were the golden boys of Rockland PD's
narcotics divisions until Jack got a little too close to the seedier side of
the street and ended up addicted to the very drugs he was responsible
for cleaning up. It's now two years later and Jack is back on the force,
trying to stay clean and prove himself capable of resisting temptation.
Marcus, now a special agent with the DEA, has come back to his old
stomping grounds to investigate the appearance of a new super drug
called Liquid Soul. The investigation forces the two former friends and
partners back together again to track down the source of the Liquid
Soul … a man known on the streets simply as "Mr. Big." Along the
way, the two will uncover a conspiracy of lies, betrayals, and dark

Over the course of the game, you're given a series of missions to
accomplish in order to advance the story. How these missions are
accomplished is generally left up to you and your own ethical stance.
For example, in one of the early missions, Jack is ordered to sell some
dope for a group of corrupt cops in order to prove his loyalty. You can
play the bad cop and try to sell off the smack to come up with the
dough, or play the good cop and confiscate the cash from pushers
busted on the street.

This moral ambiguity is one of NARC's biggest selling points, but it's
also one of the game's biggest flaws. No matter how far you cross the
line, you're never beyond redemption. Sure, you may get busted and
demoted down to a beat cop, or even fired from the force for that time
you blew a group of civilians with a grenade launcher. But hey, just
drop a few bags of pot into the evidence locker at the police station or
bust a few hookers turning tricks and you'll be forgiven in no time.

As if that wasn't bad enough, NARC actually encourages liberal use of
the various illegal drugs recovered throughout the game. Every one of
the drugs grants the player a temporary power boost. LSD alters your
perception of reality and makes civilians appear to have the head of a
jester, while crooks run around with the face of the devil. Pot will slow
time around you, effectively increasing your reaction time. And
smoking crack will make you a "crack shot" and allow you to perform
one-shot kills until the drug wears off.

Eventually, it's likely your character will become addicted to his drug of
choice. When this happens, you're forced into a mini-game that
represents you fighting off physical withdrawal. Succeed and you kick
the habit. Fail and you black out, waking up in another part of town
with your inventory wiped clean. Of course, if you fail three times in a
row, the game figures you've been through enough and lets you quit
"cold turkey." Again, the consequences seem negligible when
compared to the severity of the subject. And what developer in his
right mind actually thinks major drug use is a great idea for a power-
up? Even Mario's 'shroom abuse isn't this extreme.

Unfortunately, NARC's control scheme doesn't do much to salvage the
game's entertainment value. The basic combat controls and arrest
mechanism work well enough, but the advanced combat and inventory
management are almost painful. More than once, I'd try to tackle a
fleeing suspect only to miss completely and end up grappling with
some poor sap whose only crime was being in the way. Even worse,
though, was trying to use the D-pad to switch back and forth between
arming a handgun and holstering the weapon in order to make an
arrest. After a while, I just gave up and shot anything that moved.

As it stands, NARC is a testament to how times have changed over the
past two decades. When the original was released, things were as
clear as black and white. The good guys fought the bad guys and
drugs were bad. With the new game, the good guys ARE the bad guys,
drugs make everything better, and life is one big ugly mess of less-
than-entertaining grey.


Just Say No.
When a company like Midway remakes a classic like NARC, the hope is that
they’ll preserve the perverse and bizarre essence of the original while giving it a
more expansive vision. On the other hand, the fear is that Midway will simply
create a budget Grand Theft Auto clone in an effort to pimp said classic for some

Well, it turns out there is little hope and much to fear. Even though it only costs
twenty bucks, a night with NARC is barely worth two bits. The game is a quick-
and-dirty sketch of what the GTA games would look like if their development
teams were replaced by high-school stoners...and I don't mean that in the cool

The story follows a generic good-cop/bad-cop duo named Jack Forzenski and
Marcus Hill. Jack’s a rough and tumble cop and Marcus is a DEA man on the
straight and narrow. Together, they explore the crime-ridden city of Rockland,
bust an assortment of thugs, dealers and hookers and ultimately track down the
source of a mysterious new drug called Liquid Soul.

The game plays like GTA minus the car-jacking. You run around an open,
crowded city going from mission to mission or busting random criminals. The
game attempts to play with morality by allowing you to be as good or bad as you
want, but good deeds are few and boring, and bad deeds are never repaid with
any karmic reckoning. Instead of entrenching moral choices within missions and
scripted events, most of your wrongdoing, like running over pedestrians and
selling drugs, can be done freely in the street.
If you walk the path of the bad lieutenant, your badge rating will suffer and
eventually you'll be kicked off the force. This simply means that if you want to
continue the storyline, you’ll have to get your badge back. But don’t worry – you
won’t have to undergo any deep or interesting missions to prove your worth. If
you bust a random criminal on the street and bring his contraband into the station
instead of using or selling it, you’ll be reinstated. The game has the memory of a

The mechanics aren't any more exciting. Busting a criminal entails grappling with
them and button-mashing until the arrest meter is full. Then, the meter resets and
you’ve got to hit the right button when the meter rises into the arrest range, sort
of like kicking a field-goal in a football game. It's odd and awkward, completely
intruding on the simple pleasure of kicking someone's ass.

In an ironic twist, your cops can use drugs as powerups. While you are not
required to partake, you’ll often be packing more pills than a Rite Aid and huffing
more lines than a 70's rock star. For example, speed makes you move faster,
crack gives you one-shot kills, and pot puts you in bullet-time. See mom? I told
you they weren't all bad for me!

The downside to such freeewheelin' freebasin' is that too much use will result in
addiction, although the habit can be kicked via a simple mini-game or a magic
Protodone pill. Even if you don’t happen to have the magic pill or fail to complete
the mini game three times, you’ll automatically quit cold turkey since “you have
gone through enough.”

So in NARC, you can kill pedestrians like Richard Ramirez and smoke more
crack than James Brown without having to deal with any significant
consequences. This may sound like a lot of fun, but crime without punishment
gets really boring.

NARC's control problems are a real buzz-kill, too. The inventory system is
seriously unwieldy, forcing you to stop what you're doing and scroll through lots
of drugs and items to find what you’re looking for. The game just can’t keep
things simple or intuitive.

For example, chasing down and tackling a pimp is a mess. You run up, press the
tackle button and nine times out of ten miss the pimp and tackle a regular
pedestrian. Instead of letting the innocent go, you continue to mistake him for the
pimp and arrest the poor guy anyway. Such random abuse of power might have
sounded cool in meeting, but watching my cop waste several seconds arresting a
nobody while the perp makes a getaway is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever
seen in a video game.

Continuing NARC’s abysmal performance are its performance issues. Standard
clipping issues are common and pedestrians often get stuck on objects in the
environment. Even worse is the fact that NARC simply looks dated on both the
PS2 and Xbox. The textures are bland, the environments lack detail – nothing
about this game pops, aside from the framerate.

NARC features Bill Bellamy and Michael Madsen voicing the main characters,
but even these actors can’t save the game from itself. Notable drug tunes like the
hip-hop classic “White Lines” and Cypress Hill’s “Hits from the Bong” grace the
game’s audio lineup, although you might as well listen to them through iTunes
instead of through this weak game.

The only thing NARC really has going for it is the ability to unlock the original 80's
arcade game. You do so through another vain attempt to emulate the GTA
series: finding hidden “stashes” throughout the city. Nab them all and you’ve
unlocked yourself a much better game.

But that's really not very hard to do, because this one flat-out sucks. Terrible
control, lame features and an overall lack of excitement make this law
enforcement experience worse than an episode of Cop Rock.


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