Bio Freaks (N64)
Given the company's lackluster history with N64 fighters (including titles such as Mortal Kombat Trilogy, and Mace: The Dark Age), one might naturally expect similar fare from Midways latest release. Thankfully, history has not repeated itself with Bio FREAKS. A bloody, gruesome fighting title, Bio FREAKS manages to impress with a few notable gameplay innovations with excellent character design and graphics. The result is one of the most compelling and memorable N64 fighters to date, a game that showcases the progress developers are making on the console.
The cliche-ridden story behind Bio FREAKS is entertainingly silly: the United States has fallen victim to a "techno-industrial civil war," and in its place has risen "Neo-Amerika." Overall Neo-Amerika is a rather unclean, nasty place with few fresh-cut flowers or babbling brooks. However, the country is blessed with an impressive selection of meat grinders, lava pits, biological waste dumps, and so forth. Fortunately, some Neo-Amerikan scientists have worked wonders with the human genetic code; unfortunately, they have used their scientific discoveries to mutate people into part-human, part-machine psychotics known as the Bio FREAKS.
The game introduces us to eight main Bio FREAKS, each of whom are forced to compete in head-to-head gladiator-type battles. The polygon-based characters of Bio FREAKS are wonderfully rendered, and one of the primary strengths of the game. Each character bears a distinctive design, and is implemented flawlessly. The amount of graphic detail is most impressive; its actually possible to see their eyes blink and mouths move. The developers clearly spent a great deal of time and effort in delivering compelling characters, and their hard work has paid off. The characters of Bio FREAKS are among the best youll see in any fighting game.
Complimenting the killer character graphics are some equally cool gameplay twists. Of primary importance is the addition of a 3D element via the "hover" feature. By pressing the "B" button, characters will hover in the air on "jump jets." In many arenas, it is possible to thus fly up one or two levels to cliffs above. The addition of such a 3D element to gameplay is most welcome: its possible to hover high above ones opponent and shoot at him or her, or to seek refuge upon a higher level. After playing so many ground-based fighting games, its interesting to experience this gameplay innovation. Midway is on the right track.
The arenas of Bio FREAKS are dark and interesting. As previously noted, many contain environmental hazards such as lava and meat grinders. As you might have guessed, Bio FREAKS is an exceptionally violent game. An integral gameplay element involves slicing the arms off of opponents. It is not uncommon for a fighter to have lost both arms, and to finish the round with gobs of blood squirting from his or her chopped off nubs. Fortunately, these Bio FREAKS have a regeneration ability that, when enabled, allows them to regrow their limbs. Although the amount of gore may be reduced, the overall thrust of the game is clear: if you have a problem with extreme violence, be warned: this isn't Yoshi's Story!
Gameplay is fast and smooth, with few of the slowdown problems that plagued Mace: the Dark Age. Since every fighter is armed with a long-range weapon, many fights involve taking potshots from an extreme distance. As would be expected, there are some killer special moves here that are especially fun to pull off. One character, for example, is able to vomit some sort of toxic substance upon command. Let's just say it is not a very attractive way to die.
Bio FREAKS was originally slated for an arcade release. For whatever reason, Midway instead decided to launch the game directly on consoles. N64 owners have reason to be pleased with that decision. While Bio FREAKS is by no means the definitive fighting game, it does have elements of extreme personality and slight innovation. Fighting purists may perhaps prefer Fighter's Destiny for that games renowned gameplay engine, but Bio FREAKS delivers the killer characters that Destiny sorely lacks. Bio FREAKS is a pleasantly nasty surprise. As always, I recommend that you rent the game before buying it. But when you do so, I think you will find it compares favorably to the current N64 competition. Nice job, Midway.