Review: Body Harvest (N64)

In this review, we break out the bug spray as we give the third person shooter Body Harvest a play.

This game was released in 1998 and was a delayed title.

The game follows Adam Drake who, along with Daisy, is quested with saving humanity by going back in time and stopping the insect aliens from harvesting the humans on Earth at various points in history.

You first find yourself in Greece around the time of World War 1. It doesn’t take long for you to encounter the first wave of harvesters as you approach a nearby village. Armed with only your pistol, you have to defeat every harvester raid before lives are lost. While the pistol only has a limited range and has a slow fire rate, you have a backpack that generates unlimited bullets.

Along the way, you’ll encounter various obstacles like bridges left up, non-functioning water gates, buildings out in the middle of the ocean, cable cars immobilized by an alien, and areas you need to explore sealed off by things like boulders and small landslides.

Aiding you along the way are various vehicles. Most of these vehicles are unlocked and can be driven. How much fuel is in them when you get in is an entirely different matter and you may need to refuel one every so often if you intend on keeping what you find (i.e. tanks). You can also commandeer boats and planes so you can gain access to new areas. Some vehicles feature specialized weapons like on-board machine guns and mortar shells. Another feature that vehicles have is the fact that vehicles have their own independent armor. That means if you get shot by an alien, the damage goes exclusively to the vehicles armor. This makes using vehicles advantageous in many situations.

One of the things you have to explore are various buildings, caves, and sewers. In these areas, you can find keys, weapons, armor, and switches. All of which will aid you on your quest – some critically. In addition, you can find health and fuel in things like drums of water and treasure chests. Treasure chests can also contain ammo and, if your lucky, a whole new weapon. The weapons you obtain generally have a limited supply of ammo. These weapons include TNT, shotguns, rifles, and machine guns.

In addition to the various swarms that beam down are alien processors and shield generators. Destroying these are critical to your advancement and serves as level and world bosses along the way. Defeating an alien processor will punch a hole in the shield that divides the land, allowing you to access a whole new area. How many processors you need to defeat depends on the world you are in. In Greece, you need to wipe out four of them. If you defeat all of the processors, you’ll have a chance at taking out the alien shield generator. Destroying the generator will destroy the shields, but in the process, pit you against the world boss which needs to be taken down before you can advance.

Along with your ammo meter, you have a health meter and a body count meter. The health meter is something you need to keep topped up from time to time because if you find yourself in the midst of a large wave – especially when you aren’t in a vehicle, you can find yourself losing health in a hurry. The body count meter represents your casualties in the area. If the meter fills up, it’s curtains for you.

Mercifully, beating a world resets the body count meter, but it also removes all of your weapons and ammo – leaving you with just your pistol again. An annoying feature of this game to say the least.

One thing I thought was annoying was the overall difficulty of the game. It’s not that the puzzles are difficult by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just trying to keep the body count down and your health up that can prove to be quite the challenge. While I never actually filled the body count meter, I did die numerous times at various points in the game. Sometimes, you find yourself travelling down a path and a harvester wave appears right in the middle of a town. You try and get there as quickly as possible, but sometimes, the harvesters have already taken out a number of lives. Often, you just don’t even have a chance at saving some of those lives.

Another annoyance was the AI of the civilians. In one instance, it got so bad, a civilian fled right to my rear tire and killed himself. It’s next to impossible to figure out where they will flee. To make matters worse, if there is another vehicle moving around, it will have no problem running over the odd citizen here and there – increasing your body count in the process.

Generally, I found this game to be highly de-motivational in the long run. Still, there is some entertainment value to be had towards the beginning of the game as you solve the puzzles of certain areas and clear out some of the earlier levels. It’s even better when you finally manage to complete a level with no kills – netting you a nice bonus in points in the process.

Graphically, I can give this game some kudos for trying to use almost exclusively 3D models, but some of the models, especially the citizens, are little more than a set of textured blocks. The scenery was OK, but nothing too special. Don’t expect the landforms to be realistic in any way though. The 2D pictures that appear when talking to people are nothing special.

The music of this game was pretty good to hear at first, but you then realize that the music is almost identical in each world. As a result, the music does get a little tired after a while. So, not bad, but the music loses its shine after a while. The sound effects are fairly basic. If there was voice talent in this game, I didn’t get a chance to hear it outside of the screaming of civilians getting eaten or Adam getting killed yet again.

Overall, this is a passable game. It has the unique body count meter and a decent storyline. The controls are OK, but not exactly realistic at times. The aiming capabilities were pretty good though. If you don’t intend on really completing a game, but want to try something different, I would say you can give this game a shot. The graphics are OK, but nothing special and the audio was passable all around. An interesting distraction.

Furthest point in game: Died trying to reclaim the power generator in Java.

General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 6/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 60%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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