Mad Dog McCree and Who Shot Johnny Rock (DVDs) [reissues]
As a note before reading, these two games, technically, could have had separate reviews. Why don't they? It could be one of two reasons: (1) both games are extremely similar, or (2) I succumbed to my unrelenting laziness. Believe the first or second explanation -- even both. The facts that don't change is that we here are lazy and that Mad Dog McCree and Who Shot Johnny Rock share essentially the same presentation, control, visuals, and gameplay. Also, they are both remakes of uber old FMV arcade games. For the review I'll be talking about both games, but mostly I'll refer to Mad Dog McCree, because you're probably more familiar with that title.
From what I read, the early 80's was filled with these light gun games, saturated almost to the point of a supernova like combustion. It all started when developers figured out they had the technology to make full motion video (FMV) games. They said to themselves, "Forget Pac-Man and all those other well designed games. You know what... we could put real actors into our game, and it would have the most realistic graphics around. Then, to save money and storage space, we'll hire awful actors, replay scenes again and again, and use the script that I wrote after a fever dream one night in my basement. People will be playing our games even decades from now." Well, they were right; people are still buying and playing these two games today, whether it be for posterity, nostalgia, or sadomasochism. Going into the vault and reading old reviews of Mad Dog McCree when it was released Sega CD has showed me one thing: people only barely tolerated these games when they came out in the first place. Nonexistent gameplay and gut bustingly bad acting under normal circumstances make a severely atrocious game, but under all of the layers of bad gameplay is a glimmer of hope. You'll have to read the whole review to find out what I'm talking about.
Back in the 80's, MD McCree sorta, kinda felt like you were playing a movie -- at best. In late 2001, WSJR and MDMC feels like your passing a kidney stone, but, thankfully, it's a very short passing considering you can beat both games in about an hour. The DVDs remastered video quality is remarkably good for being filmed in the 1980s on what were obviously not state of the art cameras even for the time. On the downside, why do you want to look at it if you can't stand the acting or aren't enticing by the insipid gameplay. Another nail in these game's coffin is the fact that it doesn't give DVD owners what they scream from the hilltops for. The DVD people want 16x9 anamorphic transfer so they can use their elitist widescreen high definition televisions. If they don't have 16x9, there's nothing that separates these high-def gods from mere mortals, so MDMC and WSJR just don't deliver.
I understand that the bad acting is part of the experience, part of the allure, part of the mystique even. Some of the campiness seems like it was done purposely. The acting in this game is so horrible, so atrocious, however, that it puts to shame even the worst acted Hollywood movie, and even some home videos. A standout character who bucks this trend is the undertaker in Mad Dog McCree. I mention this only because I don't want to put that character on the same boat with all of those awful, awful characters.
This is what you have been waiting for, and lo and behold this dark cloud reveals its silver lining in various ways. First off, there's a sort of nostalgia that comes from playing a game like this. Playing MDMC brings me back to my days at the arcade, a time spent slinging quarters into games better than this one, (because I good had sense) but the effect is the same either way. Next, you might want a copy for reasons of posterity, to own some arcade throwback to show your kids how far arcade games have come. Also, there's nothing like MDMC to get a group of people laughing, whether the game was meant to or not. Mix a room full of people with a big screen TV, then add MDMC, and you have the recipe for some hearty laughs. The gameplay won't really matter when you're spending so much time thinking of ways of making fun of it. The kicker is that you don't need a next-gen console to run this puppy. It can run on a computer's DVD-ROM drive, a Playstation 2 or X Box, and even an old-fashioned DVD player using the remote as a light gun.
The Bottom Line: Mad Dog McCree and Who Shot Johnny Rock fail as video games, and where they don't fail at being good games, they fail at being good DVDs. But, for reasons of posterity, nostalgia, a good hearty laugh, or a lack of a video game console and/or competent computer, these two title might be worth a look. Albeit a sneering, suspicious side glance, but a look nonetheless.