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Apocalypse Now video game in the works, Coppola says now is the time

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Veteran team launches $900,000 Kickstarter

Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now Kickstarter

Francis Ford Coppola today gave his blessing for an official video game take on his iconic 1979 film Apocalypse Now. A team of developers is seeking nearly a million dollars on Kickstarter to fund the three-year development of the computer game which has players taking on the role of Captain Benjamin Williard as they explore the rough framework of the movie’s story to tell their own version of the tale.

“Forty years ago, I set out to make a personal art picture that could hopefully influence generations of viewers for years to come,” Coppola wrote in a prepared statement. “Today, I’m joined by new daredevils, a team who want to make an interactive version of Apocalypse Now, where you are Captain Benjamin Willard amidst the harsh backdrop of the Vietnam War. I’ve been watching videogames grow into a meaningful way to tell stories, and I’m excited to explore the possibilities for Apocalypse Now for a new platform and a new generation.”

The team says that they have already spent “several thousand man-hours in pre-production,” according to the Kickstarter page.

The game is being developed by American Zoetrope in conjunction with a team of veteran game developers. The team includes: Rob Auten, a lead writer on multiple billion-dollar gaming franchises including Gears of War, Battlefield and Far Cry; Lawrence Liberty, whose executive producer and director credits include Fallout: New Vegas, The Witcher and DC Universe Online; and Montgomery Markland, who was the lead producer on two of the most successful crowdfunding titles of all time: Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera. Obsidian Entertainment’s design director Josh Sawyer, who directed Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity, is advising the team on gameplay design, according to the Kickstarter site.

The Apocalypse Now game will aim to blend a cinematic narrative with role-playing game mechanics, according to a press release. As in the film, players will take on the role of Captain Willard, who is sent on a secret mission to assassinate renegade Colonel Walter E. Kurtz. The game is being described as an interactive recreation of Willard’s journey, “as seen through a survival horror lens in which players with limited resources face unspeakable horrors.”

Apocalypse Now teaser image
Apocalypse Now

“Throughout the course of the game, players will have the ability to make their own decisions independent of the original narrative,” according to the press release. “As players navigate the unspeakable horrors of the Vietnam War, their reactions to each situation will result in consequences that will alter their journey as the story unfolds. Every decision matters, and each player will tell their own story.”

The game opens in Saigon with Willard holed up in a dingy hotel: “Audio and visual distortion evoke Willard’s emotions and past experiences. The game provides you subjective access to a character who is already nearly insane.”

While the game has role-playing elements, it won’t focus on dialog, instead emphasizing actions, postures and avoiding combat through stealth.

“You will quickly learn that the gun-blazing solo war machine of other shooters would not have lasted long in the real Vietnam,” according to the Kickstarter. “Instead you will find rewards for proceeding cautiously and managing limited resources with care. Willard is your responsibility; make him an adept soldier and you will command respect in the jungle.”

Your actions as Willard will also impact the relationship the character has with those around him, most especially the crew of the PBR Streetgang.

“Your actions can endanger or empower them and will affect how they view you and their willingness to aid you.”

The game will also have your carefully tracking resources like food, water, first aid supplies, anti-malaria medicine, drugs, ammo, weapons, mission information and even gasoline.

While the game promises to have many of the characters from the film, it will also include new ones created in collaboration with American Zoetrope, according to the Kickstarter.

“Our goal is to immerse you in a tale of drama, magic, and horror.”

Game director Markland says the teams’ main goal is to challenge the concept of interactive experience, just like the film challenged the concept of cinema.

“We will deliver a greater variety of experience and interaction than is currently available within the the relatively static industry," he said.

For its part, American Zoetrope is sweetening the Kickstarter backer pot by including an impressive array of material from the film as rewards for backers. Backers of the Kilgore $8,500 level, for instance, get, among a slew of other items, Colonel Kilgore’s Death Cards and an Air Cav surfboard. The Chief $4,000 level lands you, among a slew of other things, a small prop from the movie. The top backer amount $10,000, includes things like a large prop from the movie, full motion capture to be an NPC in the game and a tour of the Family Coppola Archives.

Stretch goals for the game unlock things like an expanded soundtrack, voice over casting, bringing the game to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and finally, if they hit $3 million, delivering a virtual reality version of the game.

The game is set for an October 2020 release, with early access coming in 2019 to line up with the 40th anniversary of the movie’s release.

Coppola declined requests for an interview, but it’s worth noting that back in 2005 the auteur filmmaker slammed Electronic Arts creation of a Godfather video game, something he said at the time he was completely unaware of.