The Joy of NARC
The adventure of the story of the most realistic game ever made.
The latest and greatest Grand Theft Auto game was recently released to almost uniform acclaim, but its arrival on store shelves overshadows a less heralded release by Midway Entertainment. The cheapo bargain-bin priced Midway Arcade Treasures 2 is packed to the gills with some of the best and worst videogames released in arcades during my youth. In addition to smash hits like Mortal Kombat II, Mortal Kombat III, Gauntlet II and less beloved games like APB and Timber there is NARC. NARC is, without a doubt, my favorite arcade game of all time. Not only is it extremely violent, it also features a mesmerizing and brutally honest take on the criminal underworld that threatens America's streets.
In NARC you don the blue (or red) body suit and motorcycle helmet of either Max Force or Hit Man. They're anti-crime agents sent to pacify the streets using any means necessary and take down the criminal organization KRAK. The mechanics of the game are extremely simple, which is part of their charm. You guide Max or Hit through level after level infested with drug dealers, pimps, and serial killers, dishing out justice by either arresting criminals for a bonus or simply blasting them to kingdom come with a machinegun and a rocket launcher. It's a pretty normal sounding plot line for an arcade action game, but the beauty is in the execution.
Having just played through the entirety of NARC twice in one sitting I feel compelled to subject our readers to its glory. Level by level, blow by explosive blow, I would like to take you on a guided tour through the gritty and realistic criminal underworld of NARC. To assist me in this endeavor I called a friend of mine on the Chicago police force who goes by the nickname "Rocko". He isn't on the vice squad but he has worked with them several times in the past so I thought he might be able to explain just how realistic NARC is.
NARC Level by Level with Officer "Rocko"
The Title Screen
The title screen for NARC pictures Max Force and Hit Man posing next to their machinegun equipped red crime fighting Porsche. The license plate says "Say No Or Die". I asked Rocko if this was fairly accurate.I started up the game, impressed with the realism captured so far.
Me: Does this seem pretty accurate?
Rocko: Oh, definitely. Most of our cruisers now are Porsches with machineguns on the front so if we need to pull over a drunk driver we just light him up. Double parked? The rockets will take care of that.
Me: "Say No Or Die" seems pretty fascist.
Rocko: It's true though, if we find a dime bag of weed under your passenger seat we will cap you in the face right there by the side of the road.
Me: Do you guys always wear color coordinated body armor and motorcycle helmets?
Rocko: Only when we're blasting crack heads.
Level One - "The Junkyard"
Every level of NARC begins with a close up view of some sort of crime computer that the NARC agents keep in their car. It makes really awesome beep-boop-beep sounds and then enhances an image of the primary enemy you will be facing during the next level. Before I got started on Level One I asked Officer Rocko just how realistic this NARC computer was.
It's like being on the streets!The Junkyard in NARC is your first taste of the urban jungle. You face off against swarms of junkies in brown trench coats who fire at you constantly while you search for the enormous key card that will unlock the Das Lof gang hideout. The Das Lof gang hangs out in the subway with Rottweilers that turn into puppies when you shoot them. In NARC you have the option of either gunning down your enemies or, in many cases, busting them by standing next to them motionless. After a second or two they will put their hands behind their backs, the word "BUSTED" will appear over them, and they will fly off into the sky. I asked Rocko how close this came to portraying the street-level arrest process.
Me: So you have computers like that in your cars?
Rocko: Some cruisers have laptops; some have these old pieces of crap dash computers.
Me: When you're going to bust a gang of junkies do their pictures come up on the screen?
Rocko: No. It's for running plates and checking for warrants. The old ones do sort of look like that though. Maybe the computers in the CPD Porsches look like that.I continued on to the second level.
Me: Is this how it goes down on the streets when you bust a druggie?
Rocko: Totally. We usually go in crouching so their bullets fly over our heads, then when we get up to them we say "you're busted!" or "busted motherfucker!" and they'll put their hands behind their back and fly up into the police helicopter that follows us overhead.
Me: Don't you read them their rights?
Rocko: Sure, if you mean "don't we shoot them with rockets". If there are too many of them to bust or they start lying down so we can't crouch under the bullets we are authorized to use rockets to "bust" them.
Me: What about the Rottweilers? Are they a big problem and do they turn into puppies and run away when you shoot them?
Rocko: It's not just Rottweilers. If people don't take care of their animals properly they will turn into killers. Last week I had to shoot eight Dobermans so that animal services could come in and collect the puppies.
Level Two - "The Hypoman's Secret Lab"
In this level of NARC Max Force and Hit Man set off in search of the nefarious heroin junkie and medical doctor Hypoman and his secret laboratory. On the streets the duo face dozens of lanky purple hued junk heads who throw deadly two foot long heroin needles at the NARC agents. I asked Rocko if this was the usual modus operandi for heroin addicts.
Watch out for that needle, Max!I fought my way to Hypoman's secret lab where giant beakers and test tubes contain bubbling red, orange, and green fluids. You can break these and stacks of money will fly out, but while you do so druggies and dogs keep attacking you.
Me: When you go out to bust heroin users, do they usually try to inject you with heroin from giant needles?
Rocko: It's not just the police they pull that shit with. You drive out in the South Side and the air is thick with those giant heroin needles. Little Heroin Town. They are just trying to shoot everyone they can up with dope. I know a guy - Jake - they nailed him right through his vest with one of those things and he OD'd. We couldn't get him to the hospital in time.
"Yeah", Rocko said, unprompted. "This brings back memories of our bust on a meth lab last week. We had to hurry and find the key card to get out of that place because the dogs just kept coming. It was a goddamn nightmare".
Level Three - "The Bridge"
The third level of NARC really takes the action to a whole new level. Here Max Force and Hit Man drop in from the NARC helicopter onto a criminal infested bridge. Throughout the course of the level they will face many enemies they have already faced as well as a new PCP addict who take several bullets to bring down, can't be posted, and can stop a car. You also get to drive the NARC Porsche on this level. Actually there are about a half a dozen NARC Porches sitting vacant throughout the level, but watch out! Scattered across the bridge are rows of dumpsters and glowing explosive mines. When you're cruising along at fifty in your crime-fighting car nothing ruins your day like slamming it into 15 dumpsters and then being bitten to death by a PCP addict.
I decided to ask Rocko about the traffic hazards of level three first.I continued to question him about how deadly a PCP addict can be, as well as the helicopters you face in level three.
Me: Are dumpsters and minefields serious problems during police pursuits?
Rocko: Landmines really aren't. They are about three feet long and glowing so it's pretty easy to just stop the car and continue the pursuit on foot.
Me: What about the dumpsters?
Rocko: Those crazy druggies will pile ten dumpsters up on the road right as you take a hairpin and it will take all your skill to either stop or avoid them. Especially on bridges. The less likely an area is to have dumpsters the more likely that druggies brought dumpsters to the neighborhood and put them on the street.I wrapped up level three and continued on to level four.
Me: Are PCP addicts a serious threat to you?
Rocko: We don't see too many of them these days, but when we do, definitely.
Me: Why are they so dangerous?
Rocko: Well, if you don't see them and you hit them with your car you'll come to a dead stop and usually your airbag will deploy. It takes a half-dozen machinegun bullets to bring a PCP addict down. Usually we use rockets.
Me: What about the helicopters you saw in this level? Is that something you run into on the street?
Rocko: It's terrible. Every crackhouse now has at least one helicopter.
Level Four - "The Seedy Part of Town"
Hit and Max head to the seedy part of town in level four, where they've gotten word of a number of new criminals on the prowl. In this level the duo will face off against black cowboys who throw sticks of dynamite, homicidal clowns that wield butcher knives and try to cart off hookers, and every cop's most hated enemy: giant bugs. If Max and Hit can save the hookers they will earn a bonus in points and in a moaning gyrating show the women put on when the brave NARC agents get close to them.
Kinky has a hooker! He's going to pay for that!I assumed the pink cars that try to run you down in this level were true to life and left any questions about those unasked. Time to take the fight to KRAK's doorstep!
Me: Homicidal clowns?
Me: Grabbing prostitutes?
Me: Black cowboys throwing dynamite?
Rocko: Yes. Well, not so much cowboys, usually they wear stereotypical pimp suits.
Me: But they throw dynamite?
Rocko: Every goddamn day.
Me: How often do you face giant bugs?
Rocko: Pretty often. They're almost impossible to shoot so we have to hop around and hope we land on them and smash them.
Level Five - "Sky High Nursery"
By this point NARC has tracked the source of all of the illegal drugs on the street. It's a green house covered with pot leaves and peace symbols, but it's guarded by an entire battalion of machinegun and flamethrower wielding Vietnam vets. Assisting the vets is a legion of black cowboys, assigned to help protect the potted pot plants located throughout the level.Cutting a swath of destruction through the greenhouse leads to level six, seven, and KRAK headquarters.
Me: Using flamethrowers in a greenhouse doesn't seem like the smartest thing to do. Does it happen in real life?
Rocko: It does. If there is one thing I have learned about war veterans in my years on the force it's that they will use any weapon any time if it means killing cops.
Me: And they get along well with black dynamite-chucking cowboys?
Rocko: Yeah, like peanut butter and jelly. Like "Q" and "U". You almost never see them apart from each other.
Me: Except in level four.
Rocko: And Humboldt Park.
Levels Six and Seven - "Battle to the Boardroom"
In levels six and seven Max and Hit battle through the streets outside the KRAK office building and inside the hallways of the KRAK corporate HQ. They combat many of their old enemies as well as the mysterious Mr. Big's zoot-suited posse of gangsters. The gangsters always attack in groups and charge forward firing machineguns that can cause a lot of problems for Max and Hit. This section was realistic enough that I didn't really feel the need to ask Rocko about the gangsters. However, facing off against Mr. Big in his golden wheelchair I had to ask a few questions.
They may look like smooth criminals, but only losers do drugs.Once Hit and Mix knock the corpulent Mr. Big out of his wheelchair three times the kingpin drops a golden keycard that allows the NARC agents to enter his inner sanctum.
Me: Are most crime lords confined to golden wheelchairs?
Rocko: Yeah, a combination of crime and decadence have made them too fat to walk around.
Me: And they all have these machineguns on their wheelchairs?
Rocko: This game is a little outdated. Now most of them have lasers of some sort. Much more dangerous.
Level Eight - "The Final Battle"
Within Mr. Big's lair Max and Hit have to face off against a new and much more terrifying incarnation of the crime lord. Instead of a wheelchair he is now sitting atop a hovering disc. Oh, he's also no longer a fat guy but instead a hideous grinning and gigantic bloated head. Rockets will take off his sunglasses, but this just allows him to shoot fireballs at Max and Hit. Several more rockets and in a burst of gore he reveals that he's a giant mechanical skull on a prehensile neck that shoots flapping tongues out at the brave NARC agents. It takes several well placed rockets to the swaying neck bones of the mechanical skull to finally bring down the vicious drug kingpin.
Just a little everyday police work.After obliterating Mr. Big, Max and Hit disappear into the drug lord's secret money bin, where he stores dozens of huge gold blocks. There is no opposition and this is pretty much a walking reward for Max and Hit. After collecting the gold NARC gives you one final parting message.
Me: This game has been really realistic up until now, but I have a hard time buying the mechanical skull.
Rocko: Think again, meathead. Remember Julio Los Casos? He transformed into a giant mechanical horse skull that shot exploding metal Frisbees out of his eyes. It took fifteen SWAT officers to bring him down.
Me: But, the tongues?
Rocko: What about them? Dead on. I've read at least twenty raid reports that mentioned spitting giant tongues out.
I thanked Rocko for his time in unraveling the mysteries and majesty of NARC. If you loved the arcade game I highly recommend Midway's recent Xbox release for its arcade to home translation perfection.