Since their introduction into mainstream culture, video games have had ridiculous accusations hurled in their general direction. They have been accused of being overly violent. They have been accused of dulling the minds of at least two generations of Western civilization. Worst of all, they have been accused of being shallow commercial products with no artistic merits. Well, the game currently in question just might be all those things. Revolution X is a violent, stupid Aerosmith vehicle. But that’s what makes it fun.
Before Final Fantasy 7 revolutionized the gaming industry with its intense dependence on full motion video cut scenes, plot was not generally a central selling point of many games. If a game had interesting mechanics, good controls, and well-designed levels, it was going to get played. It didn’t matter that Mega Man never had the balls to kill Dr. Wily or that “ONES WHO DOES NOT HAVE TRIFORCE CAN’T GO IN” isn’t quite English. Revolution X is that type of game. I could try and summarize the plot, but what fun would that be? Let us read it (from left to right) in words that Midway gave us:
Rarely, if ever, has a successful light gun game had a solid plot. Consider Duck Hunt, Operation Wolf, House of the Dead, and Time Crisis. Terminator 2, another Midway title, might be the only real exception. But a gun game doesn’t really need a good storyline. The main draw is that you get a gun and you get to shoot the fuck outta everything that moves. Still, a lot of people really, really hated the plot of Revolution X for several different reasons. Some saw it as a cynical attempt to cash in on paranoid teenage fantasies of oppression. Still others, who believe The Man really is out to get them, were pissed off that Aerosmith was chosen as the face of rebellion instead of some shitty punk band like The Sex Pistols. But mostly, people disliked the game because it’s really fucking cheesy. So cheesy, in fact, that if this project had been a movie instead of game, Halle Berry would have starred as Mistress Helga and Paul W.S. Anderson would have directed. If Revolution X took itself seriously, this would be a real problem. But the game clearly doesn’t, as evidenced by its solution to oppressive neo-industrial-governmental-militaristic alliances:
Yes, MUSIC is the weapon. And not in the metaphorical sense. Riot police, ninjas, berserkers, helicopters… it doesn’t really matter. With your deadly arsenal of CDs, the New Order Nation doesn’t stand a chance. The game never offers any indication as to what makes these CDs so deadly. I guess the designers thought it was self-explanatory. I suppose that if you threw them really fast that you could produce an effect similar to if you had thrown a saw blade. But really, you’d be better off throwing saw blades.*
As you’ve already seen, the plot is pretty standard: You, along with rock superstars Aerosmith, must defeat the New Order Nation. You plan to meet at Club X and begin the revolution. Once you unite with Aerosmith, things should be pretty easy. With Joe Perry’s guitar solos, Steven Tyler’s stage presence, and your overpriced consumer products, there’s NO FUCKING WAY that the New Order Nation will win.
I should mention at this point that while this game was released in 1994, it was not meant to take place in modern times. Instead, it takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. A future so distant than none of us could possibly fathom what it might be like. Revolution X takes place all the way in year 1996. November 11, 1996 is chosen as the night for your secret rendez-vous with Aerosmith. Level one of the game finds you just outside the club. There’s only problem: NON has taken over Club X! Also, it’s Monday, which means it’s a school night. Your parents will NOT be pleased.
One of the most interesting features of Revolution X was that it allowed you to pick your own path. This just might be the only shooter that did this. Sure, other games such as House of the Dead let you alter your path by virtue of saving scientists or accidentally shooting open certain doors. But Revolution X actually let you pick a path. Of course, there are also secret areas:
Not only do you get to play hero, you also get to play investigative reporter! Kick open bathroom stalls and harass Tom Hamilton! Catch Steven Tyler cheating on his wife! It’s like you’re Brenda Starr, only without all the uninvited sexual advances. Later in the game you get to help Joey Kramer bury a dead hooker in the desert. It’s not as fun as you might think. After you finish asking intrusive questions, it’s back to saving day.
Fighting your way through the club won’t be easy. The NON boys have very long attention spans and they have nothing better to do than hide behind the club’s stylish furniture waiting to kill you. By the way, that hottie in the cage is a prisoner, not a hired dancer. Freeing her from her sexy cell nets you extra points, but it also makes her more likely to be hit be stray bullets. That bikini ain’t made of Kevlar.
Well, apparently Music Is Only Kinda The Weapon™. Aerosmith furiously play “Eat the Rich” over and over again, but their raw, edgy sound fails to make any heads explode. Instead, Aerosmith gets captured. Now you’re fucked. So fucked, in fact, that the game’s end boss decides to taunt you.
Meet Mistress Helga. As leader of NON, she gets two special privileges: 1) She doesn’t have to wear an ass ugly yellow uniform. 2) She has a vagina. This game has a bizarre anti-woman undertone to it. In addition to destroying personal expression, our archenemy seems intent on destroying all non-Helga women. All the other women that you encounter in the game have been captured or enslaved by NON. When men are captured by NON, they are presumably brainwashed into becoming the entry level stormtroopers that you encounter en-masse. As we’ll see later, there’s a MUCH worse fate for the ladies.
Helga warns you that if you keep fucking with her, she’ll kill you. You only have $1.75 left and you want to play X-Men VS. Street Fighter, so you give up. Mistress Helga takes over the rest of the western hemisphere. All your friends say they would have done the same thing, but they secretly hate you for wussing out. You throw a New Year’s Eve party and no one comes. You sink into a massive depression that ends with suicide.
Oh wait, that’s not what happens. Helga leaves and you wander aimlessly around the club trying to satiate your bloodlust. Eventually, you stumble upon Steven Tyler’s dressing room. Luckily for you, Steven cleverly hid a TV behind his makeup mirror. In a recorded message, Mr. Tyler charges you with the ultimate quest: find Aerosmith’s car. And in a cut scene that needs to be seen to be believed, he throws you his car keys through the TV screen. I swear to friggin’ God that I’m not making this up. Fighting fascism is far less important than valet parking. From here on in, the game just gets sillier and sillier. Just wait and see.