- PAL release: 30th September 1998
- NA release: 20th October 1998
- JP release: N/A
- Developer: DMA Design
- Publisher: Gremlin (PAL), Midway (NA)
- N64 Magazine Score: 91%
Body Harvest was originally going to be a large collaboration between DMA Design and Nintendo, but Nintendo ended up pulling out, leaving DMA to work it all out on their own. Despite this, DMA turned out something impressive in size and scope.
This game was the birth of the current open world modern-day open world games – many people associate it with GTA 3 on PS2, but many aspects of that can be found in Body Harvest. Of course, both were made by DMA Design (now known as Rockstar North), but it’s amazing how much of what they did started on the N64.
Alien bugs keep harvesting humans and, as humanity are on their last legs, the hero Adam and his assistants (a woman in a skimpy outfit and a robot) are sent back in time to stop multiple invasions to save humanity.
Roaming out of your time ship, the game feels like a 3rd person shooter – the controls are pretty good for the time, with a big help from autoaim. However, before you encounter your first enemies, you’ll come across a car, that you can hop in.
The vehicles are very odd to control by today’s standards, but you can get used to them. There are a massive amount of vehicles in the game – and not just cars, but tanks, planes, boats, helicopters and more. Some have their own weapons and special abilities, while all essentially act as armour for you – you don’t lose your health while in a vehicle, becoming vulnerable once they blow up.
The vehicles aren’t just for getting to places, ether, they’re all part of the “puzzle” of each area. The open world isn’t just a backdrop for the game, but is integral to the design of the game. You’ll encounter many roadblock and will need to figure out how to get past. It’s something that I feel a lot of open world games lack and you’re constantly thinking about how to get about the landscape.
The first area itself is impressive in size and scope, and that’s just one of the maps. There are four main areas – Greece 1916, Java 1941, America 1966, Siberia 1991 – that have unique looks and vehicles, all with its own puzzle to figure out. There’s also a final mission that takes place on the alien comet, but it’s a more straightforward combat mission.
I did find some parts of Java and America a bit too difficult to navigate, and sometimes a harvest will happen in an inconvenient location – as humans are eaten by the large harvester bugs (one of many different types of bug aliens), a bar will go up and losing too many humans will result in failure -and every so often a mutant will be created to hunt you down.
The difficulty of the game is very unfair, especially due to how the game saves. Each location has 3 or 4 alien processors and you can only save at beacons placed after these have been destroyed. This means that there can be a very long time between saves and messing up a fight can cost you hours of time.
On top of that, the game unfortunately has technical issues. Vehicles can sometimes get stuck, and some are required for progressing. Making a wrong turn when exploring can also lead you to a place where you can’t return, meaning you have to reset. These issues make it a pain to play the original version of it, so I highly encourage playing in a way that utilises save states.
While it certainly shows its age, Body Harvest is a phenomenal game. It’s simple, yet expansive at the same time, and the open world is designed around the gameplay. This game gets overlooked a lot, yet it was definitely an important step in the evolution of video games.
I also do wonder how different Rockstar would have been if Nintendo properly supported this project – would GTA3 had become a GameCube exclusive?
Body Harvest is magnificent. In many ways, it’s the ultimate 3D shoot-’em-up: packed-to-bursting with aliens, peppered with explosions, awash with blood and innards and rollicking good fun. Get it in.Tim Weaver, N64 Magazine #22
Remake or remaster?
Body Harvest is perfect for a remake. there are four amazing levels to recreate in higher detail, sort out the issues with saving, add some bonus challenges (perhaps let people return to previous levels to explore fully), better driving mechanics. The game’s world is wonderful, it just needs updating.
Official ways to get the game.
There is no official way to get Body Harvest
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