Narc (video game)


Arcade flyer for Narc
Developer(s) Williams Electronics
Publisher(s) Williams Electronics
Designer(s) Eugene Jarvis
Programmer(s) George N. Petro
Composer(s) Brian L. Schmidt
Marc LoCascio ("NARC Rap")
Platform(s) Arcade (original)
Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, C-64, ZX Spectrum, NES
Release date(s) Arcade
Genre(s) Run and gun
Mode(s) Up to 2 players simultaneously
Cabinet Upright
Arcade system Williams Z-Unit
CPU: TI TMS34010 (@ 6 MHz)
Sound CPU: (2x) M6809 (@ 2 MHz)
Sound chips: Yamaha YM2151 FM, (2x) DAC, Harris HC55536 CVSD
Display Raster Medium Resolution (Horizontal) CRT: Color

Narc is a 1988 arcade game designed by Eugene Jarvis for Williams Electronics and programmed by George Petro.[1] It was one of the first ultra-violent video games and a frequent target of parental criticism of the arcade game industry. The object is to arrest and kill drug offenders, confiscate their money and drugs, and defeat "Mr. Big". It was the first game in the newly restarted Williams Electronics coin-op division, after being acquired by Midway.

Narc was ported to the Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and Amstrad CPC home computers by Ocean Software in 1990. Narc was ported to the NES in 1990 by Rare. In 2005, the franchise was re-launched with a brand new game for the Xbox and PS2.


The game's main characters are Max Force and Hit Man, who have received a memo from Spencer Williams, Narcotics Opposition chairman in Washington, D.C. dispatching them on Project NARC. Their mission is to apprehend Mr. Big, head of an underground drug trafficking and terrorist organization.

The player controls either Max Force or Hit Man, who shoot or arrest junkies, drug dealers, and organized crime kingpins. Max and Hit are each equipped with an automatic weapon and a missile launcher. When an enemy is dispatched using the latter, they explode in a torrent of scorched and bloody appendages. Some enemies can be arrested after they surrender and then float away with "busted" over them. This is then added to a tally at the end of the level along with drugs and money confiscated from other enemies that they dropped when killed (the game awards more points at the end of a round for arresting enemies without killing them).

Technical details

The game features what in arcade terminology is termed a "medium resolution monitor": higher resolution than televisions and normal arcade monitors, although often in a smaller physical size. Narc is also the first arcade game to use the TMS34010, which is a 32-bit processor with graphics-oriented instructions built-in.

Ports and other releases

Programmed by David Leitch at Sales Curve Interactive and published by Ocean Software, the versions of the game for the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC computers generally received positive reviews, including 9/10 from CRASH, 8/10 from Sinclair User and 72% from Your Sinclair. Matt Bielby of Your Sinclair called it "one of the most objectionable Speccy games I've seen in ages", and called it "repetitive" and the plot "utter nonsense. ".[2]

This 1990 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version of NARC, published by Acclaim Entertainment and developed by Rare was billed as "the first video game with a strong anti-drug message".[3] However, Nintendo forced all drug references to be removed from the actual gameplay. Despite the NES's system limitations, the game retained most of its violence and gore.

The gameplay was significantly handicapped as the NES controller only has two buttons whereas the arcade version has four. However, the ability to jump and fire missiles was preserved. In 1990, Acclaim released NARC as a handheld LCD game.

Most of the computer ports had their music ported by Tony Williams, credited as "Sound Images" and David Wise ported the arcade music to the NES.

In 2004, Midway Arcade Treasures 2 included an emulated version of the arcade game. But due to some problems in emulating the game, the sound was prone to cutting out during gameplay, and during stage three, a glitch (usually triggered by crashing the player's vehicle into an enemy helicopter) caused the stage to end abruptly and then move on to the score tally screen).

2005 game

Box art for the 2005 game.

The 2005 update of the 1988 arcade hit of the same title was developed by VIS Entertainment and published by Midway Games for the Xbox, PC and PS2. A planned Nintendo GameCube version was later canceled. Although the update was slated to be a straight remake of the story from the arcade game, the version that was eventually released featured a totally new story. Several well-known stars are involved with the voice acting in NARC, including Michael Madsen, Bill Bellamy, and Ron Perlman. The game's soundtrack features artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Cypress Hill, Grandmaster Flash, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and indie artists such as Point Game and Camden. The update casts the player as narcotics officer Jack Forzenski and DEA agent Marcus Hill, former partners reunited who are instructed to investigate a new drug on the streets called Liquid Soul.

One of the most controversial aspects of the game is that after arresting dealers and confiscating their stock, the player can either take the confiscated items to the evidence room, or keep them for future use. This confers benefits such as improved weapons accuracy. Dealing drugs for financial benefit is also possible. The integration of drug use by the protagonist is in complete contrast to the anti-drug message of the original arcade game. The game's source code (engine) dates back to the then three-year-old State of Emergency.[4]

A March 21, 2005 press release announced the game's shipment to retailers and emphasized that NARC was designed for an "older audience".[5] Indeed, the game was given an M rating. According to Chris Morris, "Its timing, though, couldn't be worse – and could have long-term ramifications on the industry".[6] Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who ironically later went to prison for trying to sell a US Senate seat said, "These kinds of games teach kids to do the very things that in real life, we put people in jail for. Just as we don't allow kids to buy pornography or alcohol or tobacco, we shouldn't allow them to buy these games." [7] NARC was banned from Australia before it was released.[8]


  1. "NARC". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 6 Oct 2013.
  2. "NARC". Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  3. "NES Instruction Manuals: NARC". 1997-01-17. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  4. "NARC; God of War; Heritage of Kings: The Settlers". The Washington Post. March 27, 2005.
  5. "Midway Ships NARC for the Xbox". Archived from the original on 2008-11-20.
  6. "Weed, speed and LSD – in a video game?". CNN. March 12, 2004.
  7. Internet Archive Wayback Machine
  8. "Australian Office of Film and Literature Bans NARC at Video Game Law Blog". 2005-04-13. Retrieved 2012-09-20.


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