Several months ago while at a used game store, my older brother found and bought a copy of Minority Report: Everybody Runs for the GameCube, the licensed tie-in game for the 2002 film, Minority Report. His rationale was that he thought it’d be good for a laugh. Then we more or less forgot about it until a few weeks ago. My two brothers and I were hanging out one evening when Kyle, the aforementioned eldest, suggested we play the game and pass around the controller. Not having anything better to do, we shruggingly agreed. I have to admit, my brother was right: the game is absolutely hilarious in all the wrong ways.
The game is absolutely hilarious in all the wrong ways.
The game is a beat-em up, with your standard punches, kick, blocks, and how-the-heck-do-these-things-even-work grabs. In addition to standard punches and kicks, the game includes some under-developed shooting mechanics; anytime you pick up a weapon, you can just take aim and fire. Overall, the game is mechanically competent. Not a knock-out in any regard, just okay according to the standards of the time.
Like the movie it’s based on, Minority Report: Everybody Runs stars the head of PreCrime, a police force with the ability to predict when a murder will occur and intervene before anyone dies. The PreCrime unit is under a lot of scrutiny as legislators are hotly debating whether to implement similar systems nation-wide. Of course, our protagonist wants to prove it’s a success for…reasons? Unlike the movie, they never go into any detail as to why the main character—who I’ve taken to calling Lewis Cannon as they barely ever mention his actual name—wants PreCrime to succeed. Ego, I guess. Anyway, things go awry when Captain Cannon shows up on the crime predictor and he’s accused of a murder he hasn’t (yet) committed.
Things go awry when the protagonist is accused of a murder he hasn’t yet committed.
Like the gameplay, the story isn’t that interesting on its own. So what makes this game a riot to riff on with friends? A little something called ludo-narrative dissonance, referring to when the story, themes, and tone (i.e. narrative) doesn’t jive well with the actual gameplay and mechanics (i.e. the ludo, from the Latin ludum, meaning game).
Because our “hero”, Lewis, is trying to prove his innocence, you’d expect him to avoid fights, lest he end up committing an actual crime he would have to answer for later. The game, however, forces the player to fight through hordes of police officers and security guards who are only trying to do their jobs. To make matters worse, most of these officers are PreCrime operatives, meaning they’re Officer Cannon’s former team-mates, people he should have at least some empathy toward. That doesn’t matter to Lewis Cannon one bit: he beats them unconscious without remorse regardless. Heck, his opponents don’t even have to be conscious, unlike a lot of other beat-em-ups, the player can pick up defeated enemies and continue to pummel them for as long as he wants.
While I can’t say for sure, having not yet finished the game, the moment that I think best embodies the absurdity of this game is a cut-scene that plays right before a boss battle against an F.B.I. agent and his airship about a third of the way through the game. The level takes place on the roof of a sky-scraper, with the player having to fight through about a dozen and a half PreCrime officers to make it to the boss battle. Being on the roof of a high-rise, the easiest way to make it through the level is to simply pickup your opponents and chuck them off the side of the building to certain death. After doing this to at least 80% of the enemies in the stage, the protagonist has the audacity to tell the F.B.I. guy, “I’m not going to kill anyone!” He then proceeds to fire rockets at the flying personnel carrier.
And it is hysterical!
The best part of all is I’m pretty sure someone on the team knew. Throughout the game, the voice acting goes a long way to emphasize just how violent the protagonist is. Enemies don’t just grunt when they’re hit or when they finally pass out, they moan in agony, wheeze, and whimper for a short time afterward. The screams opponents let out when they fall to their deaths are particularly bloodcurdling. The cries of pain the enemies in this game make don’t sound like the deep, macho “oomphs” most games use. Instead, they sound like the sounds a normal person would make if they were thrown on the ground and stomped on repeatedly.
The best part of all of it is I’m pretty sure someone on the team knew.
Also, the protagonist is voiced by Lex Luthor. I’m not making that up: Clancy Brown, the voice actor who played Lex Luthor in Super Man the Animated Series, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited, plays the main character and does the exact same voice. I can just imagine the director telling Mr. Brown, “yeah, just do your Lex Luthor voice; he’s that kind of character.”
Really, there’s not much else to say. The mechanics of a brawler don’t jive with the tale of a fugitive trying to prove his innocence. It’s important that the tone and themes of a game’s story aren’t juxtaposed with the game’s mechanics; the story needs to support and contextualize gameplay, not contradict it. Okay, admittedly you can make juxtaposition work if your name happens to be Hideo Kojima, but for the rest of us, don’t have a character kill a bunch of people and then act like it’s an open question whether or not he’s a sociopath.
Author’s Note: Yes, I’m well aware the protagonist’s name is actually John Anderton.
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