Long before Rockstar was enchanting our television sets with the modern gaming miracle that is the Grand Theft Auto franchise, it can be easy for people to ignore the quite colorful and entertaining past projects of the company. Body Harvest was an incredible action adventure game with some light puzzle elements akin to Legend of Zelda, albeit with a very, very watered down difficulty to them.
The game truly feels like a knock off Metroid/Zelda hybrid, however a closer look at some of the mechanics will allow someone to see the shadows of what Rock star would soon come to develop.
Body Harvest was developed by DMA Studios, the predecessor to Rock star Games, and you take on the role of a futuristic bounty hunter entrusted to explore the rather open four worlds presented to you, with the task of purging these worlds of alien parasites intent on stealing the planets population. While the combat against the aliens feels and operates smoothly, almost immediately the player will notice that you can both shoot and kill casual civilians, but also commandeer vehicles with relative impunity, which are two features which the Grand Theft Auto series is built upon. The game also features swimming mechanics, albeit you take damage while swimming, however this was an ability largely absent in GTA until much later down the line.
Aside from the comparisons, the game functions fantastically on its own. It has you scouting through Greece in the opening level, scouring giant beetles and winged parasites from the small villas, until you’re hindered by a risen draw-bridge, which leads the player into the puzzle solving aspect. Quite frequently each world will be composed of several villas chained together by a road system, with various goals spread out across the villas, not usually in order or with any pattern. These puzzles will have you going into homes and caves alike and flipping switches or opening chest to collect weaponry or items along your way. Each level does compile quite a lot to do, with each world of Greece, Java, Siberia, and America being split into several sections.
The game introduces vehicular combat relatively early, having you either fire projectiles or even ram smaller aliens in your various cars, trucks, or even tanks. There’s a lot of options to choose from, and many of the weapons you get as early as the first level, such as the machine gun and the Sun Disc, become incredibly useful in your fight against the alien invaders.
As you travel through the incredibly large and proto sandbox style of the game, you’ll slowly be building your arsenal for your greatest challenge of all: Making your way into the alien spaceship itself and waging a one man war against the creatures which have plagued the Earth. For a video game which relies on a simple Alien Invasion arch to drive the plot, it truly gives a World traveling feeling, tying it up with a battle with echoes like some hollow space opera. It’s not perfect, it’s not even really spectacular. It just barely stands out as a project developed by a now Juggernaut of the modern gaming world, before they got their bearings. It’s a little bland, a little bulky, a little stale, but there’s shadows of greatness in this world, and every time I play it I push myself to explore a little more, and to one day complete the quest that Body Harvest presents.
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