Appearing in the second issue of the Galaxies greatest comic. Judge Dredd was far from your typical Sci-Fi hero. He was a walking judge, jury and executioner in a crazy, despotic society. Dredd was fleshed out on the comic book pages of this illustrious magazine by the minds of Pat Mills and John Wagner and the artistic ability of Mike McMahon and Carlos Ezquerra. His narratives gained acclaim from comic book fans and critics alike as they were packed full of humour and sly social satire.
Arriving at the dawn of the video game age. He seemed ripe to star in his own digital adventure. In a previous article, I discussed the ZX Spectrum’s effort to translate his comic book adventures into a side scrolling shoot em up. Unfortunately, this did little to capture the comic strip’s sharp bite. What most Dredd fans didn’t know was that there was that Midway, the creators of the famous and brilliant Mortal Kombat series, had been working on a Dredd Arcade game. Unfortunately, it never saw the light of day..
At the time Midway’s games were instantly recognisable thanks to their ground breaking use of digitised graphics. This technology used live-action actors and scale models to give the 2D game characters more of a realistic edge. It was a technique which was used to memorable effect in Eugene Jarvis’ ultra violent, anti-drugs shooter – NARC. Midway’s contribution to the Dredd franchise looked very much like a combination of that infamous shooter and their most famous franchise – the aforementioned Mortal Kombat series.
This Judge Dredd game took many influences from arcade brawling hits such as Final Fight and Double Dragon. Perhaps it’s greatest inspiration was the brightly coloured Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade game, which revolutionised the gaming industry at the time. In an interview with Retro Gamer magazine, Dredd’s lead programmer stated that Midway had installed the Turtles coin-op in the building in an attempt to inspire developers.
Most readers will be familiar with the Judge Dredd film in the 90’s which starred Stallone. Rumours of a film adaptation had began long before this however, with Midway acquiring the rights when the optioning process had just started. It was this foresight of Midway to acquire this gaming property that could have seen one of the greatest games based on the bloody lawman’s exploits released.
What resulted however was a typical beat-em up with Midway’s digitised twist. It saw Dredd beat his way through Mega City One with his hands and feet. In his attempt to keep law and order he faced foes such as the Angel gang, thugs carrying baseball bats or throwing garbage bins and giant sewer rats. The gameplay was fairly rank and file by all accounts. What set it apart was the quality of the backgrounds of the futuristic city. Tall, exotic buildings loomed in the background, flying vehicles passed overhead and the humorous advertisements gave a clear nod to the characters comic origins. The most notable being references to Otto Sump, a reoccurring character in the series.
The game was never released for a few reasons. The first being that it tanked with the gameplay testers at the time. There were complaints of Dredd using his fists too much and few instances where he drew his famous lawgiver gun. Secondly, with the rise of Street Fighter 2 and one on one fighting games in the Arcade, the relevance of classic side scrolling beat em ups was waning. The Dredd game was never fully released, even though it was almost complete. The good news, however, is that you can play the almost complete version on MAME. I found it a very enjoyable game, packed with comic book references and old school gameplay.