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Corpse Killer review: Let the bodies hit the floor (again)

Polygon managing editor Justin McElroy is a profoundly broken person who thought it would be a good idea to review every FMV game. This is his Full Motion Vision Quest. Further examples of his depravity can be found here.

YEAR: 1995

DEVELOPER: Digital Pictures

SYSTEM: Sega CD, 32X, 3DO, Saturn

One of the most frustrating things about the FMV Quest has been finding that not all FMV games are uniformly terrible. This is bad largely because if I'm not making fun of an FMV game, I don't really know what tone to adopt here. But it's also more than a little sad to see FMV starting to find its footing as it progressed into the mid-'90s and developers got better at employing it, only to find a swift end by 1996 or so.

Corpse Killer is one of those weird little bright spots on the desolate FMV landscape.

You're an unnamed Marine dropped into a tropical island under the control of the evil Dr. Hellman who's played with note-perfect camp by Ghost's Vincent Schiavelli. Hellman (great name) is reanimating corpses and the government (your bosses) want you to stop him. With bullets. Of course.

You're helped in your quest by Winston. What's Winston like? Well, let's meet Winston.

Now, it's possible that you missed it, but Winston is supposed to be a Rastafarian. Didn't catch it? Go on, watch again, I'll wait.

You're also "aided" by a reporter named Julie, but she doesn't actually help in any discernible way. All she does is complain that you're not helping her get enough scoops. In fact, I'm not even gonna talk about Julie. Screw you Julie, I'm not even putting your picture in the review.


You and your party must assault the base of Dr. Hellman, but you're not gonna wanna rush in. Hellman's forces are tough, and to even make a dent you'll need supplies from around the island.

Before any base assault, you'll want to explore some smaller locales to try to find juju sticks that ward off particularly mean foes, armor piercing bullets and plants that your buddy Winston (in stark contrast to Julie) will helpfully turn into a magical, bullet-coating, zombie-killing poison.

I say "explore" the locales, but you'll pretty much just be shooting zombies in a side-scrolling gallery.

OK, so it ain't Half-Life. But what Corpse Killer does offer is a sort of interesting balance between action and strategy. It's tempting to wait on a fortress ambush until you have tons of special bullets, but health doesn't refill over time, so you've got to eventually just take your best shot when the moment presents itself. It's ... kinda fun. Ish.

That's not to say it's a good game, of course. It was designed for use with the light gun and playing it without is ... rough. Also, developer Digital Pictures was still struggling with ways to make full-motion video feel three dimensional. So we have weird tricks like:

The Flying Zombie:



The "Is That Zombie Supposed to Be ... Walking?"


I didn't love this game, but I also didn't hate it, and that's not a position I ever expected to find myself in as I wrote this series. Let's hope the rest of the FMV Quest entrants keep their competence to a minimum.

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR COPY: Play it? I guess? I'm so confused.