There was a time there back when the original Playstation was released where new games were coming out that looked so goddamn amazing that you were basically drooling on your crotch every time you opened up a game magazine. For most people, the leap into 3D graphics didn’t come as a gradual advancement in technology like it has for the past few gaming generations. You see, back in the day, we didn’t have an entire hardware generation just to implement bump mapping shaders. So we had to stick it out in 2D land for quite a while.
For most people stepping up to the Playstation, the most advanced thing they had played in their house was probably Donkey Kong Country on the SNES. You can probably see the fairly large gap in technology there right off the bat. So put yourself in those shoes for a minute, and imagine going from this:
It was like the video game Gods came down, slapped your dick off, and shot fifteen Redbulls up your ass. Nothing had ever looked this good sitting in front of you. Admittedly you could say the 3DO, Jaguar, and 32X offered a slightly more gradual step into the future. But then you would have to say that people actually bought those consoles. For 95% of the population though, the step up was simply mindblowing. And few things were more mind-blowing when you loaded up a little game called Loaded.
On the surface, there is nothing special about Loaded. It’s an overhead shooter that hearkened back to the days when overhead shooters were still viable moneymakers for developers. Actually, just coming off the 16-bit generation, I guess they still were, though on a slope that was pointing straight down into a pit of nails soon after Loaded came about. I actually like to think Loaded was the point when overhead shooters died. Because honestly, how can you ever top the insanity that Loaded was pulling off? At any rate, the game was pretty unoriginal for a shooter, if only for one thing:
It looked unfuckinggoddamnbelelievable.
The first time I saw pictures of Loaded in Gamefan magazine, I said there’s no way it could ever look that good. Ever. Games simply cannot look that good. Then I played it for the first time, and son of a bitch, it looked that damn good. Characters were animated as cg sprites, while you walked around amazingly textured locations. All filled with enough colored lighting to make your eyes fall out of your skull. This isn’t even mentioning what happens when you fire the gun… and holy shit the first time I did, I realized I had witnessed gaming visual nirvana. Every gun that was fired by you or by an enemy sent out real-time light sourcing across the ground, walls, other enemies, etc. Even better were the special weapons, which went out of their way to amaze. One even sent out a shockwave that deformed the environment in real time. It was mind-blowing. I know things like this can now be reproduced on your cell phone these days, but trust me when I say that this was like witnessing some sort of technological miracle at the time.
Beyond the graphics, Loaded also had another ace up its sleeve: It was amazingly violent. For the time, it was so over the top violent that it was hard to believe something like this could exist without having some sort of adult rating. Shooting that awesome looking light sourcing into people didn’t just make them blow up into a cartoony puff of smoke. No, shooting people in Loaded involved bodies snapping back into puddles of blood and bones. Bodies erupting into fountains of chunks and fluids. It was the ultimate release. All this accompanied by sound effects that sounded even more perfect than the visuals (along with a totally badsome techno soundtrack). This was the real deal folks. It didn’t get much better.
Except when you realized you had to play more than the first level.
Yes, for as much as I love Loaded, it is simply a victim of its own play style. The overhead shooter was made to be an arcade quarter cruncher. Designed to steal away your money fast, and be over even faster. Loaded however, was not over fast. In fact, it stretched on almost for hours. Levels were serpentine mazes that had you backtracking everywhere, with no clear idea of where to go in the larger ones. That light sourcing quickly gave way to tedium and headaches, while you quickly searched for an option to turn off the forever-repeating level soundtrack. It was an early lesson to be learned: Graphics can only carry a game so far. And Loaded lasted about as long as the visuals could carry it. Which for most people, was right back to Blockbuster a few days later.
Loaded spawned a sequel a year later, which went a long way in making things even crazier. The graphics were better, things were more polished, levels streamlined, and things all around were more polished. By that time though, the overhead shooter genre was on its last legs, and people had moved onto far more impressive games like Twisted Metal and Wipeout. Games that actually backed up their visuals with gameplay that showed just what the next generation of gaming was capable of. Loaded, as far as I know, has since drifted off into obscurity.
Loaded was an awesome tech demo for the time. It’s just unfortunate that those times lasted all but a few months. I’ll always have a place for it though. And by God if anyone does a remake, I’ll be the first to jump head first into it.
For about one level.
Jeremy is a quiet, steadily mortified man hailing from Indianapolis.
Contact him this way: email@example.com (hint: it’s email)