Developed by Neversoft and published by Activision at the end of 1998 for PlayStation, Apocalypse is a third person shooter probably most well known for its use of actor Bruce Willis.
The Die Hard actor provided his likeness and voice for the main character but the original plan was much larger in scope. Originally Willis would take on the role of an AI-controlled partner called Trey Kincaid. Eventually the ‘buddy movie’ idea would be dropped in favour of Kincaid as the main playable character. This meant that Willis’ didn’t need to have as much dialogue and the end result sees him snapping off one-liners and the occasional brief bits of dialogue in cut-scenes.
Making sure to get their money’s worth, Willis’ face was photo-mapped onto Kincaid’s character model and he performed facial and full-body motion capture.
You have to wonder just how much Activision regretted signing up Willis once his role had diminished to such an extent? Anyone could have been Trey Kincaid and for those who know the actor’s work, well he can actually be off-putting in this game. Partially because of the constant one-liners that get very repetitive.
“Kill ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em out”
That and just how bored Willis sounds. Yeah, his voice acting is not very good. He delivers his lines in an emotional dead-pan way that screams he’d rather be anywhere else.
So, let’s talk about the game. It opens with a cut-scene showing an evil scientist known as ‘The Reverend’ who believes the apocalypse is coming. He wants to make sure the end times occur as they should so has created his four horsemen; Death, Plague, War and Beast.
Only his former partner, Trey Kincaid knows how to stop him but he has been locked up in jail. Controls are handed over to the player as Kincaid stages his breakout.
Apocalypse is best played using the PlayStation’s analogue sticks as it is a 3D multi-directional shooter. The left one moves Kincaid while the right one is used for shooting depending on the direction pushed. It’s really simple and very intuitive. While you can play the game using the directional pad and buttons it is a lot more complex and makes jumping (controlled by the shoulder buttons) tougher.
The free and use controls makes blasting your way through the inventive levels much more fun. Apocalypse uses its imagination mixing dystopian future with ‘end of the world’ visuals. A wide range of enemies that come at you (Splatterhouse style) explode and die in gory fashion. While an array of weapons that can be picked up add variety. Although these only last for a limited amount of time.
A pretty cool addition is the use of live-action music videos from the likes of System of A Down and Poe to be projected on large screens within the game’s environments.
On lower difficulties, Apocalypse isn’t much of a challenge outside of the boss battles. You can fly through it in a handful of hours. Those hours are filled with shooter fun though and even the visuals still hold up pretty well, 20 years later.