Retro Coin Op Synopsis
If NARC didn’t make you say no to drugs, nothing would. Designed by Eugene Jarvis (Defender, Robotron: 2084), this 1988 Williams hit featured some of the most intense, graphic violence in any video game to that date, all of it directed toward the assorted scum and lowlifes that dealt drugs on your character’s beat.
In this side-scrolling action game, one or two players took the reins of “Hit Man” and/or “Max Force,” two tough guy narcs with a license to kill and the firepower to make it happen. An evil drug syndicate called K.R.A.K. had taken over the city streets, launching a wave of terror with the help of junkies, attack dogs, mutant cockroaches, killer clowns and an assortment of slick vehicles. Your job was to take them out, one vermin at a time.
Before each mission, Hit and Max received a quick briefing, giving the lowdown on the targeted criminal bigwig—Dos Lof, Spike Rush, Rockhead or even “Mr. Big” himself. Once you hit the streets, you had the option of either shooting or arresting the army of bad guys standing between you and the head dealer. With a steady supply of machine gun bullets and ground-to-air missiles, you had everything you needed to blast every baddie in sight, but arresting them earned a much higher score. However, and perhaps as an insidious sign of the times, arresting the suspects was so time consuming that it merciless slaughter a practical necessity. Either way, Narc had little respect for the notion of "innocent until proven guilty" or even simple Miranda Rights.
With a joystick and four buttons (jump, crouch, machine gun, missile), you moved Hit and/or Max through alleys, warehouses, city streets and other seedy locales, occasionally even taking control of a speeding car. The graphics featured digitized characters and backgrounds, giving the game a catchy look, but there was no time to sit back and enjoy the scenery. Like most games designed by Eugene Jarvis, this one reveled in sheer volume. Why have two gun-toting thugs on screen when twenty will do the job even better? That over-the-top attitude carried over into the game’s violent graphics, which, though tame by Mortal Kombat standards, were still intense enough to prompt Williams to include an operator-adjustable “tone down” switch.
NARC was the first game in years from Williams, the pinball company that had stormed through the arcade’s golden years with video hits like Defender, Joust and Moon Patrol. The action-packed gameplay of this drug-busting hit helped fuel a major comeback, leading to such future successes as High Impact Football and Cruis’n USA. And if nothing else, at least a handful of impressionable young gamers were probably scared straight enough to never even look at a hypodermic needle the wrong way again.