WARNING: This post contains a TON of photos, so R.I.P. dial-up users...if you even still exist...and you bother to read this blog. Eh, it could happen.
In the 1990’s, distributor videos for arcade games started becoming a thing. Some (Midway’s) were good, and some were…gosh awful abominations. Like this one, for instance.
While War: Final Assault may have been an awesome game, it’s product video is really something else. Seriously, I don’t know if they thought this would sell more units or what, because this doesn’t wanna make me go buy an arcade game—it just makes me laugh. A lot.
For the unitiated, War: Final Assault is a 1999 Atari arcade third/first-person shooter, one of the few of its kind. It features four characters and many, many weapons. The game also gives you the option of four-player co-op or competitive play. And like many 90's arcade games, it's super violent and over-the-top. It's also one of the many arcade games that I'm just dying to play. While the game itself sounds incredible, the video is...heh, it's not so great.
Not to say I don’t like this video, though. However, the only reason I like it is because of how garishly atrocious it is. So bad it's good kinda stuff, ya know? Ah, Atari. You made really good arcade games in the 90’s…but I guess you didn’t have a marketing budget for said games. Luckily for us, this lack of a budget has provided us with some hilariously cheesy promotional videos to look back on.
In case you were wondering, I got the inspiration of sorts for this post from a wonderfully bitter blog by the name of Full House Reviewed. That guy's reviews are comedy GOLD for the first few seasons. Unfortunately, by the time he gets to Season 8, the show is so boring that the commentary itself becomes a little boring, too. Also, I'm sure that after reviewing 8 seasons worth of Full House, you run out of ways to bash Full House.
If you want to see the whole video for a little more context, check it out below:
So, who wants read some super scathing commentary with some screencaps?
The video begins…and suddenly, white noise and static! This must be meant to imitate your TV, because it then cuts to the ATARI NEWS NETWORK logo! Hey, that actually looks pretty nice. Maybe I should have reserved my judgment—
And then we’re treated to the voiceover announcer who sounds like a 12-year-old boy pretending to be a police officer or something. You know, the kind of acting a kid would do for their school video project. “WE INTERRUPT THIS BROADCAST WITH A SPECIAL REPORT.”
Next, we’re taken “live” (in the sense that they shot this in one take) to some guy with an alliterative name that I can’t spell. Darrell something. We get this really nice shot of him standing in front of the wall with gameplay footage next to him. The game looks really nice. But our, uh…”Atari War Correspondent”…he doesn’t look too great.
If anything, he does give us a great briefing on the game’s plot. That’s nice. Oh, and this footage from the game looks good, because it’s a good game.
After talking for a bit, our good pal leaves us with these reassuring words: “I’ve got to tell you; it looks like a suicide mission.” Thanks, bud.
Would ya look at that? Now, we get to see behind-the-scenes footage from the Atari weapons lab! Fortunately (or unfortunately, you decide) for us, that’s when this product video completely loses its crud. Just one look at Mom and Pop here let’s us know that we’re in for a real treat.
Pop has extreme difficulty reading his lines. Luckily for him, the video editor spliced in the right word when he goofed explaining the controls. “The left set of controls is a series of cleve-buttons.” Oops, where’d that “R” sound go? Nobody’ll notice.
Mom tells us about the wicked weapons they’ve made us. She says they had to be totally LETHAL.
(But we also had to make them look really cool.)
Pop delivers some stilted techno-babble about the super cool cardboard gun he’s holding, and then asks us this really, really great rhetorical question: “Wouldn’t you just LOVE to wake up next to this baby…every morning?” And that was a genuine pause in his dialogue, not an omission. I guess we’re jumping straight to the hard-hitting questions here at Atari News Network.
Then Mom’s just like, “Tom!” and he’s all like this:
To make up for that scene, we do get to see a little more gameplay that shows us all of the guns. Still, though, I just can’t get over Tom.
After that, our Atari War Correspondent comes back, and we’re treated to a few more instances of splicing words back into goofed sentences (albeit much better instances). Now his hair is really messed up, though.
Next is a sequence where he explains all the fun little gameplay details, and unfortunately I can’t make fun of it. Here’s a gameplay screencap.
SPOKE TOO SOON! MOM AND POP ARE BACK! Mom tells us that it “Sounds like a death match has broken out. We thought this might happen when you give players THIS much power,” demonstrated accordingly by her arms.
Also, for some reason, Tom moves his lips like he’s talking the whole time, even when he’s not saying anything. Maybe he’s questioning his life choices under his breath.
Then Mom straight up calls Tom a lab rat and they start murdering the heck out of each other.
Oh, and then this happens.
Our dear Correspondent explains that thing are “really heating up” and that it’s getting “too intense” and he thinks he's being “sucked into War™!” So he cries, and the video fades out on that heartbreaking moment.
And then he shoots this guy’s TV.
Thankfully, this provides us with a few more seconds of precious gameplay footage followed by our dear Correspondent expressing his thanks to the Sargent for the assist.
Sargent Mike Taylor will be forever in our hearts, especially when he makes a point to say “war” a million times. Then, he leaves us with these…actually really deep words: “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a war—no, an industry—to save.” And you know what? That remark was really profound. A video so cheesy, so campy, so mind-bogglingly garbage—it had the guts to say what everyone was thinking. It had the guts to say, “Yeah, consoles are beefing up their specs, but we’ve still got great games that prove that arcades are still awesome.” It’s something subtle, but impactful, that you don’t expect from a video like this.
And it all ends so peacefully.
Then we get to see these same terrible actors all over again in a Road Burners video.
Hey, everybody! I know this “commentary” was DRASTICALLY different from my usual content, but it was really fun. And since I’m not really “feeling it” with any of the recent arcade news, it’s a fun diversion that’ll keep my site from falling into hiatus mode. Do you think I should do more of these? I think I will anyway. After all, I had been wanting to do this for a while, but I needed the right creative spark type-thing.
Today's article also makes me realize something: I REALLY wish developers still made distributor videos. Sure, there are trailers on YouTube, but they're nothing like this, and they certainly won't have the same historical impact. Raw Thrills, Namco, Sega: It would be totally cool if you made some distributor DVDs (because this is 2017) that "leaked" to the public or something. I mean, just saying.
Keep it real, everybody! Keep watching terrible distributor videos! Play War: Final Assault!
Oh, and speaking of War: Final Assault, here’s a Tumblr page dedicated to it. It’s really good.
I’m done now.