Full Throttle (1995 video game)
The cover art of Full Throttle, depicting protagonist Ben
Full Throttle is a 1995 graphic adventure game developed by LucasArts and designed by Tim Schafer. It was Schafer's first game as project lead and head writer and designer, after having worked on other LucasArts titles including The Secret of Monkey Island (1990), Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (1991), and Day of the Tentacle (1993). Set in the near future, the game's story follows Ben, the leader of a biker gang, who is framed for the murder of a beloved motorcycle manufacturing mogul and seeks to clear his and his gang's names.
Full Throttle was LucasArts' eleventh adventure game overall and the tenth to use the company's in-house game engine, SCUMM. It featured full motion video and action sequences, using a new in-house engine called INSANE (INteractive Streaming ANimation Engine). It was the first LucasArts game to be released for Microsoft Windows and the first to be distributed only on CD-ROM. It also introduced a contextual pie menu through which the player controls interactions with objects and characters. In contrast to other computer games of the era, which mostly relied on in-house talent for their voice acting, Full Throttle used mostly professional voice actors, including Roy Conrad as Ben, Mark Hamill as the villainous Adrian Ripburger, Hamilton Camp as the elderly Malcolm Corley, and Kath Soucie as Ben's ally Maureen. It was one of the few LucasArts games to use licensed music, featuring songs by San Francisco-area rock band The Gone Jackals.
As with most LucasArts adventure games, Full Throttle is a single-player video game in which the player controls the actions of the player character from a third-person perspective using a computer mouse and point and click interface. By positioning the cursor, represented by crosshairs, and clicking the left mouse button, the player causes Ben to move around a scene. In certain contexts the cursor will become an arrow (if Ben is on foot) or a directional road sign (if Ben is riding his motorcycle); clicking these causes Ben to travel to another scene.
LucasArts's previous graphic adventure, Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993), introduced a new inventory and interaction system to replace those of their prior games, which had taken up the lower third of the player's screen. Full Throttle continued to refine on the changes introduced in Sam & Max Hit the Road: Objects or characters with which Ben can interact are indicated by a red square appearing around the cursor's crosshairs when the cursor is placed over the object. When this occurs, holding down the left mouse button causes a contextual pie menu to appear in the shape of the emblem of Ben's biker gang: a flaming circle topped by a skull and flanked by a boot and a gloved hand. The player hovers the cursor over elements of the emblem and then releases the mouse button to attempt various interactions with the object; for example, selecting the skull's mouth to speak to a character, its eyes to examine an object, or the hand to pick up, use, or pull the object. Right-clicking anywhere on the screen brings up the player's inventory of collected objects, which can be examined or dragged and dropped in order to use them with other items in the inventory or with objects or characters in the scene. These gameplay features would be further developed for The Curse of Monkey Island (1997).
As with other LucasArts graphic adventure games of the era, dialogue plays a large part in the game, presenting story elements and information necessary to advance. During conversations with other characters, several choices of dialogue are presented, allowing the player to choose the path of conversation and ultimately advance the scene by selecting the correct choice of words.
In the future year 2040, where motorized vehicles are being replaced by their anti-gravitational counterparts. The last domestic motorcycle manufacturer in the country is Corley Motors, whose founder and CEO, the elderly Malcolm Corley, is en route to a shareholders meeting at the Corley factory, accompanied by his vice president, Adrian Ripburger. Malcolm suspects that Ripburger is scheming to take over the company, and is suspicious of Ripburger's plan to recruit a biker gang to ride with them to the meeting. Malcolm's limousine is overtaken by one such gang, the Polecats, and he is immediately impressed with them. Catching up to them at a biker bar, he quickly befriends their leader, Ben. Ripburger offers to hire the Polecats to escort Malcolm to the meeting, but when Ben declines, he is knocked out by Ripburger's flunkies, Bolus and Nestor.
Ben awakens to learn that the Polecats have been duped into escorting Malcolm, and that an ambush is planned for them further up the road. He tries to catch up, but his motorcycle has been sabotaged, resulting in a fiery crash. He is rescued by young photographer Miranda and taken to the town of Melonweed, where he is treated by a mechanic named Maureen. Maureen describes how her father taught her about motorcycles, and repairs Ben's bike after he retrieves necessary parts, adding a booster to it as well. Ben catches up to the Polecats at a rest area, but is too late: Ripburger murders Malcolm and frames the Polecats for the crime. Miranda manages to catch the murder on film, but her camera is snatched by Bolus. Before dying, Malcolm tells Ben of Ripburger's plan to take over Corley Motors and produce minivans instead of motorcycles. He reveals that Maureen is secretly his illegitimate daughter and begs Ben to convince her to take over the company. Bolus tries to kidnap Maureen, but she escapes with the film from Miranda's camera.
With the Polecats jailed for Malcolm's murder, Ben is a fugitive. Miranda tells him about her film, and Ben convinces semi-trailer truck driver Emmet to sneak him and his motorcycle past a police roadblock and to an abandoned mink farm where Maureen is hiding. He is stranded there when Emmet steals his motorcycle's fuel line and Maureen steals his booster fuel. Emmet's truck is blown up by a biker gang called the Cavefish, destroying the bridge over Poyahoga Gorge, which Ben needs to cross. Having replaced his fuel line and gotten advice from the Polecats' former leader, Father Torque, Ben outwits Nestor and Bolus and does battle with members of rival biker gangs in order to acquire hover equipment, booster fuel, and a ramp, with which he is able to jump his motorcycle over the gorge.
Ben locates Maureen, who is a member of rival biker gang the Vultures, at the Vulture's hideout, a large cargo aircraft. Maureen believes Ben killed her father and is about to have him executed, but Ben reveals personal information that Malcolm shared with him and convinces her to develop Miranda's film, which shows that Ripburger was the murderer. Ben suggests exposing Ripburger at the shareholders meeting, but Ripburger has postponed the meeting until he is sure Ben and Maureen are dead. The Vultures come up with a plan to fake Ben and Maureen's deaths by entering them in a demolition derby under false identities that will be obvious to Ripburger. Their cars are rigged to explode, but Ben and Maureen are protected by fireproof suits. The plan works and results in the deaths of Bolus and Nestor, while the Vultures recover the winner's prize: a special motorcycle built by Malcolm and Maureen that contains a hidden pass code to Malcolm's safe, in which Ben finds Malcolm's recorded will and testament. Ben exposes Ripburger during the shareholders meeting by projecting Miranda's photos of the murder and playing Malcolm's will, in which he leaves leadership of Corley Motors to Maureen.
Ripburger flees in a semi-trailer truck, but as Ben and Maureen ride away he reappears and rams them. The Vultures arrive driving their flightless cargo plane, which scoops up the truck along with Ben, Maureen, and Ben's bike. The plane and truck wind up hanging precariously over the edge of Poyahoga Gorge, and Ripburger falls to his death. Maureen and the Vultures flee the plane while Ben makes it out at the last second by jumping his bike out the back cargo door just as the truck explodes and it and the plane fall into the gorge. Members of the biker gangs attend Malcolm's funeral, at which Father Torque delivers a eulogy. Maureen takes over Corley Motors, and Ben rides away into the sunset.
- Roy Conrad as Ben and Father Torque
- Kath Soucie as Maureen "Mo" Corley
- Hamilton Camp as Malcolm Corley
- Mark Hamill as Adrian Ripburger
- Tress MacNeille as Suzi
- Jack Angel as Bolus
- Maurice LaMarche as Nestor
Developed for CD-ROM with a budget of $1.5 million, Full Throttle featured completely voiced dialogue, full motion video, and a digital audio soundtrack. The project was led by Day of the Tentacle creator Tim Schafer, who was also its writer and designer. It has thus been called Schafer's first "solo" project, leading Schafer to quip, "I did it all on my own with about 30 other people". It was one of the few LucasArts games to use externally recorded music, courtesy of The Gone Jackals. Certain tracks from their album, Bone to Pick, were featured in the game.
Full Throttle employed several skilled voice acting professionals, such as Roy Conrad, Kath Soucie, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, Hamilton Camp, Steven Jay Blum and Mark Hamill. Full Throttle was the first computer game to employ mostly SAG-registered professional voice actors instead of relying on in-house talent, and also featured a few pieces of licensed music.
According to Schafer, he came up with the idea for Full Throttle while listening to a traveller's tales about time spent in an Alaskan biker bar. As he listened, it occurred to him that "bikers are kind of like pirates — like another culture that people don't have a window into most of the time, but [which] has its own rules", and might provide a neat alternative to a fantasy setting. So he began his research into biker culture, reading Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. The game originally would have featured an interactive sequence where Ben undergoes a peyote-induced hallucinogenic trip. This was eventually cut from the game, because the developers couldn't get it to "work out" with the publisher. The concept eventually became the basis of Psychonauts.
Being a title from LucasArts, a few Star Wars references were worked into the game: Truck driver Emmet is seen with an Imperial emblem tattoo on his right forearm in one scene, and a rival driver during the demolition derby sequence was illustrated to look like George Lucas. One of the opposing Rottwheeler bikers on the "Old Mine Road" has a Rebel emblem tattooed on his forehead. The Cavefish resemble Tusken Raiders in appearance. Also, in a scene where Ben is talking to the reporter, Miranda, she says "Help me Ben, you're my only hope!", a play on a line from the original Star Wars film.
Full Throttle was released on April 30, 1995. According to Metacritic, the game received generally favorable reviews, and has over time become a cult classic among adventure games. A Next Generation reviewer called it "the kind of game the Mac was meant for" and "a sheer joy to behold, even if you loathed Monkey Island with a seething, purple passion." Citing the futuristic setting, "kick-butt" soundtrack, outstanding voice acting, understated humor, and overall cinematic presentation, he gave it four out of five stars. It was the first LucasArts adventure game to sell a million copies.
In spring 2000, LucasArts began production of Full Throttle: Payback, an official sequel to continue the storyline of Full Throttle. Since Tim Schafer had already left the company at the time, Larry Ahern, who was involved in the original game's development, was appointed the project lead and Bill Tiller, the art director. The story would have focused on Ben's efforts to foil a plan by a "large corporation" and the local governor to replace all paved highways with hover pads, robbing the bikers and truckers of their traditional ground. In the first half of the game, Ben would have prevented an assassination attempt on Father Torque, who now leads the anti-hovercraft rally, then team up with a "persistent undercover female reporter" to bring down the villainous governor. In Tiller's opinion, Payback "was going to capture the feel of the first game yet expand upon the milieu". At the early stages, the project received positive feedback from other LucasArts employees but according to Tiller, it eventually fell apart because of disagreements on the game style between the production team and "a particularly influential person" within the management, which led to a series of "mistakes". The production ceased in November 2000, when 25% of the levels and about 40% of the preproduction art were complete. LucasArts never released an official statement regarding the game cancellation. Both Ahern and Tiller left LucasArts in 2001, after Payback was cancelled.
In mid-2002, LucasArts announced Full Throttle: Hell on Wheels for Windows and, for the first time in the series, PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The game was to be an action-adventure, with more emphasis on action and fighting than adventure, because the designers wanted the game to feel more physical than the first. Hell on Wheels would have been set in El Nada, Ben's "old stomping ground", whose roads have been mysteriously destroyed. Ben believes that one of the new gangs introduced in the game, the Hound Dogs, are behind this but soon discovers a more sinister and murderous plot. Together with Father Torque and Maureen, he would have thwarted the unnamed villain's plan and protected "the freedom of the open road". Sean Clark was named the project lead of Hell on Wheels and the development progressed smoothly until late 2003, when it was abruptly canceled. Just months prior to that, at E3 2003, a playable demo was shown and a teaser trailer was released by LucasArts. Simon Jeffery (then president of LucasArts) said that "We do not want to disappoint the many fans of Full Throttle, and hope everyone can understand how committed we are to delivering the best-quality gaming experience that we possibly can" in the official press release. Critics cited poor graphics compared to other 3D action adventures of the time and Tim Schafer's lack of involvement in the project as possible reasons for its cancellation. Additionally, Roy Conrad, the original voice actor for Ben, died in 2002.
Critics considered development of new sequels to Full Throttle unlikely. LucasArts' interest shifted away from the adventure genre in later years, and failure to develop two sequels presumably hindered the possibility of a third. Also, nearly all developers who were involved with the original Full Throttle in 1995 had since left LucasArts. LucasArts ceased all internal development in 2013, shortly after their parent company Lucasfilm was purchased by The Walt Disney Company.
A remastered version of Full Throttle, simply titled Full Throttle Remastered, is presently in development by Schafer's Double Fine Productions for release on Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, as announced on December 5, 2015. Like Day of the Tentacle Remastered and Grim Fandango Remastered, the remastered version of Full Throttle will include updated graphics and sound, improved controls, and developer commentary. Similarly, it will also allow the player to swap between the original graphics and sound with the remastered versions. It is expected to be released in 2017.
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