Playing Lethal Enforcers is like opening a time capsule from the late 1980s. Technically, the game is from 1992 (in its original arcade form, this version is dated 1993), but you have to consider the amount of time it takes to actually develop a game. Most of the digitized video was probably filmed in 1990-91. Nor is it taking into account the fact that the pre-Clinton 90s were basically one long 80s hangover. So it’s no accident if you start playing this game, see all the boxy cars, grainy video, big hair, and racism towards the Chinese, and think that you’ve warped back in time to 1989 – culturally speaking, ‘89 was like an extended year that went on for 36 months instead of twelve, with Lethal Enforcers coming out somewhere near the end of that.
Looks like a scene out of a straight to video movie starring Brian Bosworth.
The game’s first level is The Bank Heist and takes place, as you probably surmised, at the bank. Except in this case, it looks like the robbers got confused and instead of robbing a branch, inadvertently invaded the corporate offices. There are lots of desks and employees in suits, but no counters with teller windows or those little tables with the pens chained to them. It’s a light gun game, so the gameplay is pretty simple – bad guys pop up on screen and you either you shoot them in the face (if they’re behind cover), or in the testicles (if they’re not). I guess technically you can shoot them in the chest of the arm or whatever and that still counts, but all the time I’ve spent playing it, or watching others play it, those are the only places anyone has ever aimed for. At heart, we’re a nation of sadists.
It quickly becomes apparent that this is no ordinary bank robbery (the fact that it was going on in the offices instead of at the branch probably should have tipped you off already), as evidenced by the fact that there is a virtual army of robbers in the bank. We didn’t make an official count, but I’d estimate that there is somewhere between 50 and 100 bad guys in this first area. Clearly this is a foreign invasion – probably some Latin American rebel group trying to steal some money to fund their revolutionary efforts back home. Or maybe it’s a corporate takeover by a competing bank, which would explain why they’re in the office building. And you probably thought that hostile takeover stuff in the business section was all boring crap with stock brokers and whatnot.
In addition to the bad guys, there are also some civilians trapped in the bank. Innocents have a bad tendency to jump out from behind desks like the robbers do, but you have to be careful not to shoot them because doing so will cost you a life, and more importantly, a promotion. Kill enough civilians and at the end of the stage, they will make you do it all over again. Which seems like an unnecessarily dangerous disciplinary action to bring against an officer who they already knows has a tendency to shoot civvies.
You know what, Lethal Enforcers? Fuck you. I just stopped an invading army all by myself armed with only a pistol. I deserve a goddamn medal, not a lecture about those two bank tellers I shot in a cross-fire. It’s not like I chased them into a corner and shot them in the back.
This bank was prepared for the inevitability of a takeover-style robbery though, and has taken the precaution of stashing weaponry all over the building. A Magnum and a shotgun can be obtained, naturally, by shooting them. Of course, since one shot from your pistol is generally enough to kill anyone (this is a realistic crime simulator after all), the extra firepower isn’t really that helpful. It does make each shot hit a larger area, though, which is handy for accidentally hitting bystanders. That might be the reason real cops generally don’t bring 12 gauges to hostage negotiations.
A few stages later, the bad guys make their getaway, in four separate cars, including the epitome of 80s vehicles – an old Camaro. We can only assume it’s an IROC-Z. There’s about 4 guys to each car, which sort of makes me wonder if the bank parking lot is still full of now abandoned getaway cars from all the guys we killed inside on the previous stage. There’s probably about 20 or more cars back there.
The fourth getaway car is a cargo van with a sliding door. If you’ve ever played a game like this before, you already know what that means – there’s a guy with a rocket launcher inside. Sure enough, that door slides open to reveal another business suit an sunglasses man, this time armed with an RPG and about 10,000 rockets. Between the number of guys involved in this robbery and the amount of expensive weaponry being used in it, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever stealing enough money to cover the costs. Maybe this is more about making a statement or something. Fortunately for you, rockets are easier to shoot out of mid-air than bullets, so he’s actually easier to defeat than your average bad guy, even if he does show amazing resilience to being blasted in the junk repeatedly.
The next stage takes place in Chinatown, but without light guns, this game is impossibly hard and we didn’t get very far. I’d really love to know who the hell traded in a copy of both Lethal Enforcers games to Stryker’s store and decided to hang on to the guns. Hope whoever it was enjoyed those other few Genesis games that were made for them.
The only way this could get any more racist would be if that Chinese chef was chasing an alley cat with the kitchen knife in hand.
Control: Is it really fair to judge the console versions of Lethal Enforcers without the guns? While we’ve usually punished games for not using the standard controllers (see: just about every fighting game on the Genesis that required the 6 button pad), we’d be more willing to cut Lethal Enforcers a break since it came with the gun controller. But more to the point – yes, it is fair. We’ve played the home version without guns, and we’ve played the arcade version with guns, and our brain can kind of conceptualize what playing the console version with guns would probably be like.
Graphics: Though there may be a lot of them, the bad guys all look pretty much the same. There’s a guy in a ski mask, a guy in a suit with sunglasses, and an older guy in a red jacket who looks like he should be strolling to a bowling alley or maybe playing bocce on his front lawn.
Sound: As one of the the poorly recorded audio clips from the game might say, “Eat lead!”
Final Verdict: Lethal Enforcers isn’t anything special. It’s basically Duck Hunt with three guys in different outfits standing in for the ducks. And believe it or not, shooting the same crappy video of a guy with a gun over and over gets old pretty fast.