Added to the lair: 10/12/20
Take No Prisoners
A new perspective on death
Take No Prisoners is one of those games that I come across, play for a bit and immediately wonder why I've never heard of it. It's genuinely great, and even ahead of its time in a number of ways. I really think it's highly underrated, and I say that with zero nostalgia attached because my first time playing it was only a week ago.
You play as Slade, a fairly generic "badass" character that knows how to get things done: by murdering everything in sight. He's clearly inspired by Snake Pliskin (hell, change two letters and it's the same name) and, indeed, the game overall takes heavy inspiration from Escape from New York. That's fine by me! The world has gone to shit and humanity is on the brink of annihilation. A gigantic mysterious dome has appeared in Texas and it's believed that getting inside is mankind's only hope for survival. That'll be no small feat considering the various pieces of a widget needed to accomplish that are scattered among a number of vicious gang factions in the city. It's your job to kill 'em, get what you need to gain access to the dome, and save the planet. No pressure.
The city in which all this takes place is massive. It's broken up into many different districts which contain the various murderous gang factions ("Zoners" as the game calls them) you'll have to blast your way through. The game is surprisingly non-linear - you'll regularly come across trucks, subways, boats, etc. that will transport you from one zone to another, but you're often given a choice of multiple zones you can access from any given transport and you'll unlock additional shortcuts as you progress through each zone. It gives you far more freedom than you would typically expect for this type of game. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword because it means that the game allows you to access areas that you will be woefully under-equipped to deal with if you visit it at your first available chance. As you explore and progress (i.e. murder anything you come across) your arsenal, tools, and armor will continually be expanded and improved. Some enemies are particularly resistant or weak to specific types of weapons - the rat men are pretty hardy against traditional projectiles, for example, but will practically evaporate in less than a second if you hit them with a flamethrower. Some enemies are very difficult to deal with until you get the right equipment to put them down; though in nearly all cases it's doable without it, but you'll burn through all your ammo.
So, let's get this straight: it has a large open map to explore in the order of your choosing, with the potential to get yourself into trouble if you stick your nose into places that you're unprepared for, you unlock shortcuts to different areas as you progress, and it can be fairly difficult if you're not smart about how you approach enemies... what is this reminding me of? Hmm.. HMMMMMM.. quite a pickle indeed!
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that this game would have been significantly better received if it were released today than it was in 1997. That's a pretty rare claim from me, and not one that I make lightly. It does feel somewhat at odds with games in 1997 but I honestly think it would fit right in today among some of the better retro-flavored indie titles on Steam. The top-down perspective, in and of itself, was quite unique for this type of game in 1997. Laughably, the Gamepro review said that "overhead angles for action games simply don't work" and complained about "spending hours in a complex multi-layered world"; boy, there are some critiques that sure didn't age well.
Graphically, the game still holds up pretty well thanks largely to some nice spritework and gloriously over the top violence. Raven Software made the rather infamously violent Soldier of Fortune, but clearly their penchant for gore didn't start there - it's not uncommon to see enemies explode into bits with limbs flying everywhere, being cut in half at the torso, etc. It's all ridiculously over the top and I love it.
There's a wide range of weapons with which to wreak havoc and various utilitarian gadgets to play around with. These vary in usefulness but they're generally all pretty fun to use.
I don't want to oversell it, but I honestly had a complete blast with Take No Prisoners. It's yet another case of a great game which I had never heard of and went into with zero expectations and came out kindof amazed by its relative obscurity today. I never got around to playing Raven's other similar game Mageslayer (which I was at least somewhat familiar with) but after playing Take No Prisoners I really want to now. Check this one out!