Looking back at an early FPS game, especially an early console FPS game, is something you really have to take with a grain of salt. For all the crap about how people say FPS games are all the same, it’s still stunning to see just how far they’ve come in their relatively short lifespan. Even more so when you take a step back to days before the haughty days of the PSX, where the art of the FPS was still very much Wild West shit. Developers were essentially given an awesome new genre with no blueprint whatsoever to work with that was on the cutting edge of technology. But sometimes their ideas sadly went above and beyond what the technology of the time was capable of. Killing Time for the 3DO is just such a game.
Let’s mention this right up front: Killing Time is not a good FPS. To even suggest it is would quickly draw a snicker or two from anyone that played it. All five of them. Killing Time for the 3DO is, however, a fun romp (yes, romp) full of horror schlock, and bad FMV acting. And when you combine those things with a barely good FPS engine full of technical issues, it’s just enough to save it from being the crapfest it should have been.
Killing Time was one of the highlights from Studio 3DO (3DO’s internal developers at the time) late in the 3DO’s lifespan. Combining almost every single horror movie character/setting/overdone theme into one epic B-Movie wannabe video game. It somehow captivated with its badness, which in turn kept you plugging away through the labyrinthine levels. Even though the game was done on the (even then) dated 3DO hardware, most of it looked surprisingly good. Even the animation was generally solid throughout. One of the more interesting graphic effects being the FMV layered over the top of the actual game engine, making it look like the actors were in the game with you, as shown below:
The issues Killing Time harbored were many, but the worst came in when you actually started moving. Sure, the graphics were pushing the system to the limit, but it came at the expense of playability. In short, the framerate was atrocious. Just moving around quickly became a chore, let alone actually trying to aim at something. When you start having to run around the enemies in hopes that you won’t have to fire your weapon at them, it should probably be obvious that your first person shooter is failing at a very basic level. It’s obvious Studio 3DO felt the need to push the 3DO as far as it could go (and why not, it was a dying platform), but when you sacrifice this much playability, it doesn’t seem worth it.
As if moving isn’t bad enough, navigating through the game was like trying to find your way through a shitty FPS maze game, which is exactly what Killing Time is. Levels were supposed to represent a mansion, but only if the mansion in question was approximately 16 square miles large, and made entirely of hallways. Then somehow make those hallways seem to be placed in any random direction with no idea where to go to beat a stage, and you’ve got every reason in the world to want to stop playing Killing Time.
Then you shoot a horde of zombie ducks, and all is forgiven.
Not content to fail on the 3DO, the game was ported to Windows 95 PCs, where it basically impressed no one, dying a lonesome death. No other games featuring the license were ever made, and probably with good reason. Besides, by that time 3DO had gone multi-console as a developer, and found its bread and butter franchise: Army Men 3D. Of which several thousand games were made out of.
It’s sad too, because if Killing Time were made with the first generation of PSX games (which it stood up quite well with, if not better) the game may have fared far better. Well, probably not, but it would have HAD to do better than it did on the 3DO. Where most games were lucky to break a few thousand copies sold.
At the very least, here’s hoping a modern day developer will realize the potential of zombie ducks for future games.
Jeremy is a quiet, steadily mortified man hailing from Indianapolis.
Contact him this way: firstname.lastname@example.org (hint: it’s email)