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Body Harvest

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Released: 1998

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Nintendo 64

Publisher: Gremlin Graphics

Developer: DMA Design

Submitted by: Craig Hawkins

My former creative writing seminar leader once ordered the class to write a poem on the spot based around the word ‘harvest’. Everyone else came up with idylls and odes to golden fields. I romanticised about Body Harvest.

There are times when it’s on the verge of falling apart at the seams. Buildings take on the appearance of a Blue Peter presenter’s project, the engine stutters and garish colours and primitive textures blur into a mess. This is befitting of a game with a general B-movie vibe, and perhaps no less so of an overambitious project with a protracted, troubled development that helped shape ‘sandbox’ gaming.

Body Harvest was the guinea pig experiment that led to the free-roaming 3D world of Grand Theft Auto III. Under the tutelage of Nintendo, developer DMA (now Rockstar North) spent four years going around in circles. Then the Kyoto giant cut its ties with the game. The finished product was a mess. A wonderful mess. You know a lifelong bond will be forged with a game when an NPC farmer offers you his combine harvester to sort out a plague of zombies.

Genocidal time-travelling aliens are invading Earth at various points in history and harvesting the population. To save mankind, a genetically engineered soldier is sent back in time to destroy the hordes of brutal extraterrestrial bugs. He is Adam Drake and he looks the part until he starts mincing around like Wayne Sleep on ice. You don’t mind, though, because Body Harvest presents an incredible selection of vehicles to commandeer. If you can think of it, it’s probably in the game. It boils down to the perfect formula of GTA + Space Invaders.

Via one long path of chaos and destruction, Drake has the holiday of a lifetime, time-travelling to 1916 Greece, the jungles of Java, American suburbia and the frozen wastelands of Siberia; painting the scenery with gooey alien viscera every step of the way. Body Harvest was only some spit and polish away from legendary status, but the raggedness adds to its overriding pathos of big dumb fun of the highest order.