NARC Hands-On

Midway's undercover cop drama gets some Hollywood.

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It has been a long time coming, but NARC now appears to be fully on track for an early 2005 release. The game, fresh off the announcement that Michael Madsen (WarGames, Free Willy), Bill Bellamy (How to Be a Player, Love Jones), and Ron Perlman (Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, Mortal Kombat: The Animated Series) are handling some of the voice duties, seems to be shaping up pretty well.

NARC will let you be a good or a bad cop. Click "Stream for Free" for a higher resolution.

In NARC, you'll play as Jack Forzenski (Madsen) and Marcus Hill (Bellamy). Your early goal is simple: to find out more about a new drug sweeping the streets called liquid soul. The mission that Midway is showing off at its press event today starts by asking you to shake down some local dealers for information. This involves finding them (a handy drug-specific icon above their heads makes it easy) and busting them. Busting criminals in NARC is a multistep process. You'll start by initiating a grapple, and then you'll have to fight to keep your hold on a perp. After some of that, you'll need to mash on the grapple button, which begins filling an onscreen meter. Once you get the meter up high enough, the bust sequence begins, changing the meter into a golf-swing-like meter that forces you to stop an icon in the proper zone to complete the bust. Some unfriendly interrogation follows after cuffing these dealers. It seems that they don't want to talk, at first, so you'll have to loosen their tongues with a few knees to the head.

After collaring a few low-level street thugs, you get the info you need and head off to see a liquid soul dealer. But of course, your attempt to act undercover is thwarted, and the meeting is a trap. Here, you'll have to eliminate four armed bodyguards and then chase after your suspect. This eventually leads to a gang meeting, where you'll have to make your way to a rooftop vantage point with a camera and snap photos of the five gang leaders as evidence. Then you'll have to take at least one of them alive to find out more about the new drug. And that's just one of the game's 16 missions, each of which is said to last around 30 to 45 minutes. The game will span three cities, starting out in Rockland, then whisking you off to Kowloon in search of an Asian connection for liquid soul, and then finally taking you to the island fortress of the game's bad guy, Mr. Big.

Drugs play a big part in NARC. As reported previously, you'll be able to confiscate drugs and money from criminals. You can then decide to do the right thing and turn them in at a convenient evidence drop, or you can hang onto the drugs. The game will let you deal drugs in the streets, or you can just decide to take them. Each of the game's five drugs (speed, LSD, marijuana, crack cocaine, and the PCP-like liquid soul) has unique properties that give you a limited power-up. Smoking rock, for example, makes you a "crack shot," giving you one-shot kills with your firearms for a short time. The downside to drug use, however, might outweigh those brief benefits. You'll lose health and reputation points, and you run the risk of blacking out, getting addicted, or both. Addiction is represented in the game by a meter that slowly fills when you're addicted to a substance. When it's full, you start convulsing into withdrawal. This then causes an erratic meter to appear onscreen. If you can keep an indicator on the meter in the green zone throughout the withdrawal period, you'll clean up, break the addiction, and move on. If you fail, you'll black out and wake up at some random spot in the city with your entire inventory gone. There is also a random chance of blacking out upon using some of the game's more addictive drugs.

If your reputation on the police force is below a certain level, using drugs also randomly triggers a mandatory drug test. But keep your pants zippered--the drug tests here are done by following a fellow officer's finger around with an icon that represents your vision. If you're on drugs, this test can be pretty difficult, and failing it gets you run out of the force. Losing reputation points to the point of getting busted down to beat cop or being kicked off the force entirely means that you'll have to scout around on the streets in search of random crimes, like muggings or vandalism. Once you deal with enough crime, you'll have proven your worth to the force, and you'll be able to continue with the missions.

Graphically, NARC appears to be coming along pretty well. The characters animate well, and the player models look pretty good too. The addition of recognizable voice talent is a nice touch that should make the game's voice acting strong.

The game may be taking its sweet time, but NARC's lengthy development cycle appears to be paying off. The premise is certainly interesting, and the action appears to be high-quality. We'll have more on NARC as it inches closer to its early 2005 release on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

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