Format: Sega Saturn
Genre: Top Down Action Shooter
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 1996 (UK)
Picture the scene. It’s getting late on a Saturday evening, you’ve been stitched up and you’re just killing time with a buddy. You fancy playing a game, but you’re not old school enough for some co-op PANG! (seriously? That’s a 10/10 you crazy fool.) You want something 32-bit, because you’re all “psht, 16-bits played out by now, son”.
WELL, DON’T I JUST HAVE THE GAME FOR YOU, MR./MS. RETROBATE!!
Yes, indeed I do. Or at least, I do if you dig that Gauntlet/Smash TV style of top-down arcade shooter madness. As that is what I have. That’s what I have, for you. Don’t dig that? Go read another review. Still here? Awesome, let’s proceed…For today, I (Olly023) shall be reviewing the ever-mighty Loaded for Sega Saturn!
Loaded was developed by the now-unfortunately defunct Gremlin Interactive, an rather talented home-grown bunch out of Sheffield (a few of the mainstays live on in the industry through the also rather brilliant Sumo Digital, who in turn have done some magical work for Sega over the past decade). If you’re unaware of Gremlin, I kind of weep for you. They were the ones who brought us all the likes of Zool, the Lotus games and the (at the time) killer Actua sports titles. So, yeah. Good stuff. Back to Loaded, though; it was published worldwide by Interplay Entertainment and released for the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn between 1995 and 1996. Very much a cult hit, it produced a sequel on the PS1 simply titled Re:Loaded and an unreleased yet partially developed third dubbed Fully Loaded. Again, though – this review focus’ solely on the Saturn version of the game itself, as that’s what I own.
It can easily be argued that Loaded was always intended to be a cult sensation, with it’s whacky but dark (at times brutal) humour, ridiculously over-the-top characters and elaborate yet limited tie-ins. More on those tie-ins, to build towards the games release, a comic book was released for free with selected DC books written by the legendary Garth Ennis as a means to build a back-story and interest for Loaded and its characters. In fact, the character designs were even from the minds of some of the most talented illustrators of the time (there’s good reason this’ll give you that 2000AD feeling). Just to tip the scales further, Gremlin/Interplay even roped in Pop Will Eat Itself to lend a couple of songs to the OST which already featured 23 unique tracks by Neil Biggin (and Pat Phelan). Fancy listening to the games wicked soundtrack? Just pop it in a CD player and skip track 01. Job done. Seriously, the clever marketing of Loaded was great and all adds to the appeal it has on me, that I hold ever so dear.
The short version of the story is: it’s the future and you’re a prisoner (framed mercenary) with a life sentence out to murder anything that remotely twitches and pick-pocket the bloodied remains left on the floor. But, don’t worry, it’s all for the greater good as it’s a an off-planet journey for revenge. With guns. Lots of guns. Each character has their individual back-story and quirks, with many feature being defined by their personal deranged mental disorder. Being a man of a mental disorder myself, I could be offended. But I’m also not lame. You’re hunting down a guy named FUB (Fat Ugly Boy), who is the sole reason you (the player’s character) is locked up to begin with, who is an ex-catering officer turn space pirate who’s killed his way to the top of the food chain on Raulf as a prison guard, somehow steals a weapon that can have the universe, time and space, under his control and thus organises the prison break as a means of a test of his own egotistical might. Right, so that wasn’t really a short version, but hopefully that at least gets you a feel for how this game gets down…
Loaded, as with many titles of the period; has FMV sequences to flesh things out. Each mission is preceded by a briefing complimented by one (an FMV sequence, that is). If you think back to the start of the review, I mentioned sitting with a buddy killing time, yeah? Well, that’s mostly because the co-op is stupidly fun. In that it is just that, fun and pretty stupid, but a good stupid, because it’s stupid fun. Dig? Yeah. Well, you and a mate pick a character each and the game rolls itself along just as It would solo, with twice the action. Butch, Fwank, Mamma, Bounca, Vox and Cap’n Hands are your choices, so choose wisely. Or, y’know – whichever floats your boat. Shotgun Mamma. Boom!
Already I have mentioned Gauntlet and Smash TV, which is what best describes the gameplay stylistically. It’s gloriously violent, with the player (or, players; aka: you) mowing down every enemy in sight as you go from one room to another, collecting power-ups and the like. The more death, destruction and looting you commit your character to, the more you’re likely to up that high score and rack in the big points. Like a boss. It’s that simple, really. Just mindless entertainment that can bring a lifetime worth of enjoyment. The best games from my standing, are the ones that can just pull off fun in the most correct way possible. Harken back to the arcades and transcend that wonderful experience to the home. Love it!
Graphically speaking, it isn’t the most advanced beast in the woods. It is entirely acceptable, though and unlike many now-ugly looking 32-bit clunkers available for folks’ back catalogues, it stands the test in its simplicity, much like the gameplay. It fits, in much the way Gauntlet IV didn’t set any benchmarks for its 16-bit port to the MegaDrive. The cartoonish look and feel still works well today, as well as in context of its release date. Characters are easily identifiable, the gore is still gory and its far from choppy, with some still rather nice lighting effects and decent use of pre-rendering here and there. Basically, it’s far from ugly even if it wasn’t a benchmark itself. Hopefully that makes sense. Playing this on Saturn, there is some mild graphical differences from the (likely more common) PlayStation version, but they’re rather small and when you’re knee deep in baddies’ blood, weaving through waves of explosions, it really doesn’t matter anyway, as the fun factor gameplay always shines through.
Now the music, on the other hand; is bloody fantastic. The backing/ambient tracks in-game are to die for and sound brilliant with a great set of stereo speakers with the right hook-ups from a stock Saturn. Any retro gamer worth their salt knows Saturn knew audio and this goes to show yet again. The Pop Will Eat Itself tracks are good, if a little dated (but everyone loves the 90s, right?) yet the main compositions are timeless, with an awesome electronic, sci-fi vibe. Like John Carpenter meets…I dunno what. Something cool, at least. Neil Biggin always brought some big tunes to the party and with Loaded it’s really no different. That ‘pop it in a CD player’ gimmick will become a must-do, I tells ya. It’s just grand stuff, m’dears!
Lastability-wise, Loaded is just one of those games that can have you coming back for more, time and time again. While the separate levels/floors don’t change things up too much, it’s the crazy additive nature that it sports that allows you to not care about lack of any variation. Any repetition gets immediately overlooked purely by how well-crafted it all is. Multiplayer never gets boring and even when you’re rocking single-player mode it’s just as fun killing anything that moves, which is where that transcendence of the arcade-style of play really comes into its own. Like a zombie basehead craving for more. The game is crack.
Overall, I think the game is wonderful, but that’s pretty evident by now. You should have guessed that from the off, even so; if you’re a fan of the genre, it’s very likely you’d be more than happy giving this a go. Fans of the content mentioned are truly in for a treat if it’s a first time round and of that I’d be rather envious. As we all remember our first time and if we’re lucky, it’s pretty darn special. Which is what Loaded is. It’s a special game and I own/play it on a very special system. Don’t allow yourself to overlook this, it’s an undoubted BLAST!!
Happy genocide, kids!
Verdict:- I repeated it enough times in the main review...but if you're a fan of over-the-top, stupidly fun, arcade-style top-down shooter games that bring the action, gore and humour. Well, then. D'UH!
Whichever way I look at it, it is entirely deserving of any high praise and the given scores for which I marked it as. It's a must play game and a must own for any PAL Saturn user (or NTSC/J, for that matter) or PlayStation enthusiast.
Get a friend to play, pick up a controller and prepare for some homicidal, intergalactic fun. You will not regret it, folks!
Second Opinion:- Endless killing of things and wave after wave of samey looking enemies is something this robot can get with...Fo' Reals...
Loaded was great in it's day although it's no Gauntlet and that's a fact, plus once you take away the violence it's actually kinda average in lots of ways. Good but not great is how Transbot best describes this.
Transbot Scores:- 6 out of 10