Loaded (video game)
North American PlayStation boxart
|Genre(s)||Top-down shooter, Action|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
Loaded (known as Blood Factory in Japan) is a science fiction-themed top-down shoot 'em up video game that was developed by Gremlin Interactive and published by Interplay. Loaded was released on December 12, 1995 on the PlayStation, and was ported to the Sega Saturn the following year. The game had origins in DC Comics as well as the more adult-orientated Vertigo Comics, and there was a small graphic novel based on the game. The six playable characters of the game are a combination of villains, anti-heroes, psychopaths, perverts, mutants, and flamboyant murderers. They are, however, the last hope to stop the intergalactic supervillain code-named F.U.B. and save the universe. The characters were created and designed with contributions from Garth Ennis of Vertigo Comics and Greg Staples of 2000AD.
Later in the same year the game spawned a sequel using almost entirely the same characters and the same game engine, albeit one with mildly improved graphics, named Re-Loaded. Re-Loaded was released on the PlayStation and PC at the end of 1996. Although it did not enjoy as good sales as its predecessor, it did however have an acclaimed soundtrack, this time entirely written and recorded by Neil Biggin.
The game discs of both games could be played as audio CDs. Both games were notorious for their macabre sense of humor, over-the-top violence and extreme gore.
The game is set in the distant future, long after mankind has discovered faster-than-light flight and has since colonized most of the inhabitable worlds across the galaxy. F.U.B. was once a pretty uncultured and incapable catering officer with questionable sanity in the Sector Marines, often screwing up the field kitchens and dropping jars of Plusgrial fnart jiz powder into the cooking pot. F.U.B. (which stands "fat ugly boy", a name he was never able to escape) finally lost his mind on a barren desert front during a relatively minor skirmish of the last 40 years. Not wanting to let "the boys" down and unable to find any meat, F.U.B. amputated his own legs, cooked them and served them up to the soldiers in a hot broth. Despite it being the best dish he had ever created, F.U.B. was given an unconditional discharge and asked never to show his face again. Vowing to get revenge on the worlds of man for his banishment and exile, F.U.B. replaces his legs with mechanical, hydraulic-powered replacements and becomes a feared and egotistical space pirate, attracting other fragile minds to his cause. He undertakes a dramatic, bizarre and insane appearance; wearing furry dice, smoking Havana cigars and tattooing a target on his portly belly.
The six playable characters have notable differences and derangements, but what they have in common is that they are all psychotic mercenaries who have been framed for crimes actually committed by F.U.B. and are now serving life sentences on an inhospitable maximum security prison planet, the planet Raulf. F.U.B. has even taken on a new secretive identity, joining the intergalactic prison system and working his way up the ladder by murdering his superiors and taking their positions, and F.U.B. is now the warden of Raulf. F.U.B. has done this so that he can pin his crimes as a space pirate on other people, usually those who are psychotic anyway so as nobody will notice.
The player (or two of the game's six characters, in two player mode) must escape Raulf, chase F.U.B. and engage on a bloody odyssey across the strange worlds of the galaxy to exact revenge on F.U.B. The supervillain however is merely excited by this, seeing it as a challenge and a game, and to this end he steals the most advanced machine in existence - a machine which can toy with the very fabric of the universe, manipulate matter and even open doorways to other dimensions. With this machine F.U.B. plans to hold the universe to ransom, and sets up a prison break on Raulf to set things in motion. If he can defeat a group of the most feared individuals in the galaxy who are armed to the teeth and wanting revenge, he figures he can defeat anyone.
The game features levels across fifteen different worlds and has six playable characters: Mamma, Fwank, Bounca, Vox, Butch and Cap'n Hands. Two characters may be selected in co-operative mode to complete the game. A mission briefing plays at the start of every mission, aided by a full motion video sequence. Loaded's gameplay is almost identical to that of Gauntlet, which requires the player to move room to room killing everything in sight, everything of which will try to kill the player also. Score can be increased by looting the bloodied remains of enemies. There are some puzzle and exploration elements, and power-ups and ammo can be found. The levels progress by collecting keycards capable of unlocking doors. The player can zoom in to their character by pressing R2, or zoom out by pressing L2. At the end of each level, the game tallies the player's greed factor, accuracy and body count on a 0%-100% scale in order to give the player's career prospects (ranging from as low as "social worker" to as high as "genocidal maniac", etc.) and final score.
Development and marketing
Loaded was developed by Gremlin Interactive, a British software house based in Sheffield which had previously had a successful run in developing games. Loaded and its sequel Re-Loaded would be among the last games developed by Gremlin Interactive, before it was acquired by French giant Infogrames for £24 million, and the studio in Sheffield closed. Development took place over less than a year. The game was published in North America by US-based Interplay.
The main character design and graphics were done by a host of comic book illustrators like Les Spink and Greg Staples (of 2000AD fame). Interplay collaborated with DC Comics to create a 12-page novella illustrated with the game's artwork to promote it and introduce the characters and the game premise. The book was published bundled with DC's works at the time and DC signed adult-orientated Vertigo Comics star Garth Ennis to write it. The novella is now considered a collector's item.
The game was released for the Sega Saturn over a year after the PlayStation version appeared. Asked to explain this delay, Interplay producer Jeremy Airey stated, "A year ago, we were worried if the Saturn was even going to do well. As of late, [Saturn sales] have picked up. Also, when we started doing Loaded [for the] Saturn, it looked horrible. With the new Sega libraries, Loaded looks and plays good."
Loaded features 21 compositions by Neil Biggin, plus 2 tracks by Patrick (Pat) Phelan and 2 more by Pop Will Eat Itself (Kick to Kill and RSVP). The game was specially designed so that it could be placed inside a CD player and used as an audio CD (skipping Track 1 which contained the code for the game). This would then enable the listener to play the full soundtrack - including many hidden tracks and two of which were complete tracks from the Amiga CD32 version of Zool 2 (Mount Ices and Mental Block's house), another game by Gremlin. There are 25 audio tracks in total on the CD, the hidden tracks were brief demos and were never used in-game.
The original release for PlayStation met with mostly positive reviews. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly compared it favorably to Smash TV and cited the multiplayer mode as the game's most enjoyable feature. Major Mike of GamePro deemed it "a simple premise taken to absurd heights: From the wacky characters to the overblown carnage, the game is generally a blast to play. While it lacks some of the strategy of similar-minded titles like Doom, the action hardly ever lets up." He also extensively praised the graphics, particularly noting the strong details, zoom feature, and light sourcing effects. While they complimented the animated environments and four-player option, Maximum had an overall subdued reaction to the game, saying it is much more repetitive than similar games such as Alien Breed and The Chaos Engine. A reviewer for Next Generation also commented on the repetitiveness, saying that the 15 levels look different but all play the same. However, the review was generally complimentary, commenting on the "blistering pace" of the gameplay, smooth and detailed graphics, light-sourcing effects, and soundtrack which "is among the best we've heard in years".
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