Playing It Old School: “Body Harvest” and the experiment of sand-box gameplay

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Playing It Old School is a new weekly column that focuses on classical video games and looks back on the impact it had then and the influence it has today.

During the days of Nintendo 64, a little known game developer named DMA Design (predecessor to Rockstar North) released Body Harvest. It was a lot like Arrested Development in that it was a great work but it was too ahead of its time and underappreciated by mainstream audiences.

Released in 1998; Body Harvest was well praised by critics but it was not appreciated among gamers during its day. Yet it became one of the biggest influences on the advancement of sand-box game-play that would be popularized by Grand Theft Auto III four years later. Now in resent years there has been some sense of respect for what it achieved with the little technological recourses available.

The premise of the game is aliens have been visiting Earth for sometime, enslaving small areas in a shield and harvesting the population. Players assume the role of, Adam Drake, a futuristic soldier who must eliminate the alien threat by traveling through time. Drake will battle the aliens in five areas over a 100-year period with each level requiring the player to stop the aliens from slaughtering everyone and liberating the enclosed area.

The player will have to explore the area, fight the aliens, save civilians and liberate the population. Among the game-play elements incorporated are the use of a verity of weapons, interaction with NPC, use of vehicles and an open environment. The levels are amazing for how detailed they were during its time.

Many of the concepts used with Body Harvest will later be used and popularized in the GTA-franchise. The only draw back to Body Harvest was the poor graphics (poor even by N64 standards) but it was a needed sacrifice.

When compared to other sandbox style games; it feels like an alien-invasion themed game is missing. At best there has been the Destroy All Humans!-series but that can’t compare to the mood of Body Harvest.

Like Arrested Development, it was underappreciated and ahead of its time. For those who never played Body Harvest, it is a big regret. However if you still have an N64 try looking Body Harvest on eBay, as this is a game worth playing.

More Playing It Old School will be coming soon.

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