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NARC (video game): Wikis


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PlayStation 2 cover art
Developer(s) Williams
Publisher(s) Williams
Designer(s) Eugene Jarvis
Composer(s) Brian Schmidt
Platform(s) Arcade, Nintendo Entertainment System, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, PlayStation 2, Windows, Xbox
Release date(s) 1988 (1988) (Arcade)
1990 (Nintendo Entertainment System, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum)
2005 (PS2, Xbox)
2008 (PC)
Genre(s) Run and gun
Mode(s) Up to 2/4 players simultaneously
Rating(s) n/a (Arcade, Nintendo Entertainment System, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum)
OFLC: RC (PS2, Xbox)
ESRB: M (PS2, Xbox)
Media DVD-ROM (PS2, Xbox), Floppy disk (Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum), GD-ROM (Arcade), ROM cartridge (Nintendo Entertainment System)
Input methods Joystick; 4 buttons (on NES, 2 buttons) (Arcade, Nintendo Entertainment System, Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum), Controller (DualShock 2 (PlayStation 2), Xbox Controller (Xbox)
Cabinet Upright
Arcade system Williams Z-Unit
CPU: TI TMS34010 (@ 6 MHz)
Sound CPU: (2x) M6809 (@ 2 MHz)
Sound chips: Yamaha YM2151 FM, (2x) DAC, Harris HC55536 CVSD

NARC is a 1988 arcade game designed by Eugene Jarvis for Williams Electronics programed by George Petro. It was one of the first ultra-violent video games and a frequent target of parental criticism of the arcade game industry. The object is to arrest and kill drug offenders, confiscate their money and drugs, and defeat "Mr. Big". It was ported, not long after, to the NES and several home computer systems in 1990. In 2005, it was also updated into a brand new game for the Xbox and PS2.


The arcade game

Released in 1988, it was the first game in the newly restarted Williams Electronics coin op division, and features their notable use of digitized graphics (later made famous in games such as Mortal Kombat). In fact the quality of the graphics in terms of number of colors would not be surpassed until the game Mortal Kombat II (released in 1993). The game features what in arcade terminology is termed a medium resolution monitor - higher resolution than televisions and normal arcade monitors, although often in a smaller physical size. NARC was also the very first arcade game to utilize the TI TMS34010, which is a 32-bit processor. The game was also notable for the numerous voice samples used during and between levels.

Narc has what can be considered a pretty basic storyline. The two characters, Max Force and Hit Man, have received a memo from Spencer Williams, Narcotics Opposition Chairman in Washington, DC dispatching them on Project NARC. Their mission is to apprehend Mr. Big, head of an underground drug trafficking and terrorist organization.

The player controls either Max Force or Hit Man, who are hunting down junkies, drug dealers and organized crime kingpins. Max and Hit are equipped with an automatic weapon and missile launcher. When an enemy is dispatched using the latter, they explode in a torrent of scorched and bloody body appendages. Some enemies can be arrested after they surrender and then float away with "BUSTED" over them, this is then added to your tally at the end of the level along with drugs and money confiscated from other enemies that they dropped when killed (the game actually awards more points at the end of a round for arresting enemies without killing them). The game's objective is to reach and destroy various drug dealing ringleaders.

Project NARC encompasses an illegal narcotics laboratory, a cannabis greenhouse, and several other places of villainy. The levels are:

  • The Junkyard
  • K.R.A.K. Street (later changed to K.W.A.K. for the NES release)
  • The Bridge
  • Sunset Strip
  • Skyhigh's Nursery
  • Downtown
  • Red Level 1
  • Blue Level 2
  • Mr. Big's Office
  • Inner Sanctum
  • Jackpot!

Ports and other releases

Note: information on the other ports of this game are much needed

ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC

Programmed by David Leitch at Sales Curve Interactive and published by Ocean Software, NARC came at a time when the aging ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC were being pushed to their limit and accurately captures the gameplay of the arcade original with roughly the same numbers and sizes of enemy sprites and animations, albeit at a lower pixel and colour resolution.

The game received generally positive reviews, including 9/10 from CRASH, 8/10 from Sinclair User and 72% from Your Sinclair - a review in which Matt Bielby neatly summarised the feelings of most critics of the game [2]:

I don't think it's really Ocean's fault (it's more down to the original Williams arcade machine) but this is one of the most objectionable Speccy games I've seen in ages. It's very (very) violent, it's pretty repetitive, and the plot is utter nonsense

Nintendo Entertainment System

This 1990 version of NARC, published by Acclaim Entertainment and developed by Rare Ltd. was billed as "the first video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) with a strong anti-drug message"[1]. Despite the NES's system limitations, the game retained most of its violence and gore.

The gameplay was significantly handicapped because of the NES controller's limited number of buttons (only two buttons on the NES controller, whereas the arcade version has four independent buttons). The ability to jump and fire missiles was preserved, however — the player had to tap the B or A button, as opposed to pressing it normally.

Despite the game's strong anti-drug message, Nintendo forced all drug references to be removed from the actual gameplay.

In 1990, Acclaim released NARC as a handheld LCD game as well.

Midway Arcade Treasures 2

In 2004, the Midway Arcade Treasures 2 compilation featured a re-release of the arcade version of Narc. The game was an emulation rather than a port of the arcade game, so it was practically a carbon copy of the original. But due to some problems in emulating the game, the sound is prone to cutting out during gameplay.

2005 update

The 2005 home console update of the 1988 arcade hit of the same title was also developed and published by Midway Games for the Xbox and PS2. A planned Nintendo GameCube version was later cancelled. Although the update was slated to be a straight remake of the story from the arcade game, the version that was eventually released featured a totally new story. This made the game so different from the arcade version of NARC that it could be considered a completely different game with no relation to the original. The update casts the player as narcotics officer Jack Forzenski & DEA agent Marcus Hill, former partners reunited who are instructed to investigate a new drug on the streets called liquid soul.

Drugs available in NARC include Speed, marijuana, Ecstasy, Quaaludes, Acid, and Crack. One of the most controversial aspects of the game is that after arresting dealers and confiscating their stock, the player can either take the confiscated items to the evidence room, or keep them for future use. This confers benefits such as improved weapons accuracy.

Dealing drugs for financial benefit is also possible. However, as in real life, drug use leads to consequences such as addiction, blackouts, and loss of health and reputation points. The integration of drug use by the protagonist is in complete contrast to the anti-drug message of the original arcade game. The game's source code (engine) dates back to the three-year-old State of Emergency[2].

Several well-known stars are involved with the voice acting in NARC, including Michael Madsen, Bill Bellamy, and Ron Perlman.

The 2005 update of NARC was rated #9 on ScrewAttack's Top 10 Worst 2D to 3D games, with Stuttering Craig saying,"While you're pretty much supposed to shoot everything, this time around, it just seems really dull and monotonous".


A March 21, 2005 press release announced the game's shipment to retailers and emphasized that NARC was designed for an "older audience" [3]. Indeed, the game was given an M rating.

According to Chris Morris, "Its timing, though, couldn't be worse – and could have long-term ramifications on the industry"[4].

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich said, "These kinds of games teach kids to do the very things that in real life, we put people in jail for. Just as we don't allow kids to buy pornography or alcohol or tobacco, we shouldn't allow them to buy these games."[5] NARC was banned from Australia before it was released[6].

Despite its pre-release controversy, the aftermath of NARC fell considerably short of the influence that other controversially influential games (a prime example being the Grand Theft Auto series) had. Some reviewers had also flagged NARC as a GTA clone, despite the fact that NARC didn't have any carjacking in its gameplay - which was a prominent factor of Grand Theft Auto.


Some of the songs featured in NARC (2005):


  • The back of the Xbox version of the game box mentions "Custom Soundtracks" but this feature wasn't implemented.
  • Design changes during development meant many levels and features were cut from the game as they could not be finished or no longer fitted the 'direction' of the project. These included:
    • South American level - completed to rough design and blockout.
    • Eastern Europe - Completed to first pass, all missions designed. Originally intended to be the last level before 'Boss island'
    • Dockyard - Extension of HongKong area. Non-sandbox style mission area which culminated in a boss battle. Essentially complete.
    • Boss battle - Sumo boss, players fought a massive sumo-style wrestler in the bowels of a container ship. 100% complete
    • Boss battle - Airplane, Players fought a drug lord in an aeroplane still inside the hangar. Essentially complete

Cultural influence

Rock group Pixies recorded a cover of the theme song from the original arcade game, originally written by game music composer Brian Schmidt, and released it as a B-Side to their 1991 single, "Planet of Sound". They titled the cover "Theme From NARC", and it consisted of frontman Black Francis singing the song title several times, while the band played the theme music.

A NARC arcade machine is being played by some of the youths in Shredder's compound in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Max Force, Mr. Big, Spike, and Joe all appear on the animated series, The Power Team, which is part of the video game show, Video Power.

1993 - "Mr. Big" a song about selling drugs by 8 Ball on their Comin' Out Hard album was inspired by NARC's Final Boss.


External links

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