If you have read my other reviews, you would probably know that I tend to enjoy video games that are interestingly disturbing, sadistically violent, and tend to push the limits. Back in 1992, Mortal Kombat was released and caused some people to wonder whether or not a game could be too violent. Ultimately, because of Mortal Kombat and other violent titles, the ESRB rating system was implemented in 1994. However, in 1998, a game was so violent and suggestive, it was going to be released as the first AO (Adult-Only) rated game. I say, "was going to be," because the game was so violent, it was never legitimately released. This infamous fighting game is known as Thrill Kill.
Thrill Kill was developed by Paradox Development and was published by Virgin Interactive. News about the game first appeared in various video gaming magazines and spread like wildfire. When people read how graphic the game was supposed to be, morbid curiosities began to kick in and anticipation began to grow. Additionally, players were enthusiastic to know that the game would allow four players to fight in the same area at the same time and the sexually explicit content within the game caused a lot of stirs. In actuality, the game did come close to being released, it even had its own booth at E3 in 1998. Regardless of all the hype, the game was never released. Virgin Interactive was bought out by EA, and the project was cancelled. EA claimed that the game was too sadistic and had too much of a focus on senseless killing. To elaborate, EA claimed that Mortal Kombat was a "fighting game," while Thrill Kill was just a senseless killing game. The real kicker, however, is that Paradox Development did not immediately receive proper final payments for the release of the game's rights and the developer had to hear about the game's utter demise via an article on IGN. Ironically, at the time of the cancellation of Thrill Kill, EA was attempting to buy out Take-Two Interactive. The reason of the irony is that the aforementioned publisher was partly behind Grand Theft Auto, a game which has a great opportunity for in-game "senseless killing."
Not long after Thrill Kill was cancelled, a Beta version of the game was leaked onto the Internet. This incomplete version of the game could be downloaded and played on emulators or "modded" PS1 consoles. There was no introduction video to the game, nor were there any "ending" videos for the characters when a player had completed arcade mode. Instead, a short Virgin Interactive logo animation would play. Soon, a second, more complete version of the game was leaked. This version had all of the videos and music tracks that were supposed to be present, however, the game had been slightly censored. All of the blood and gore was still ever-present in the game, but some suggestive themes were replaced. For example, characters that were normally wearing thongs, were now wearing less-revealing clothing; as opposed to a character moaning suggestively, the character would giggle. One character named, "Cleetus" normally chews on a severed leg and the player can hear a disgusting flesh-ripping noise while he chews. In this censored version of the game, however, all the player hears from Cleetus's leg-dinner is him saying "yummy!" Despite these censorship-related changes being small, many players felt like something was just not genuine. Perhaps developers of the game had decided to try to re-do the game to get an M (Mature) rating as opposed to an AO rating.
After some time, one last version of Thrill Kill emerged. This version of the game had the intro video, all of the character's videos, all of the music tracks, and was completely uncensored. For the hardcore fans of the game, this was a treasure. Having played all three versions of the game myself, I can say this version is the best. The AI is pretty intelligent, the graphics are not too bad considering it is technically an unfinished game, and the unfiltered controversial content adds to a great concept.
The actual gameplay of Thrill Kill involves four opponents fighting to the death inside of a closed 3D room over the course of three rounds. Each character has a bar for them at the top of the screen, but this is no health-bar. As opposed to a health-bar being drained, each player has a bloodlust-bar, if you will, which fills up with each attack inflicted onto other opponents. Once a player, fills their bar, they are able to kill one of their opponents. The kill usually involves either decapitation or being turned into a bloody mess, depending on the button pressed. From here, the match continues with the remaining opponents trying to fill their bar to kill off another enemy. The final kill in the match is a more brutal execution, however. Much like "fatalities" from Mortal Kombat, these final "Thrill Kills" are unique to each character and are best described as "cringe-worthy." Although some may begin to accuse Thrill Kill as a copycat of Mortal Kombat, it should be noted that Thrill Kill's gameplay plays fairly differently and has its own type of storyline.
Ten different characters have died and descended into Hell. Each of the characters is some twisted version of their former self and/or some manifestation of their inner evil. For example, there is a former plastic surgeon who is armed with a scalpel and has a bear-trap like contraption for a mouth. Some other examples are a cannibal serial killer, a murdering dominatrix, a torture-happy vigilante judge, and a pyromaniac. Within Hell, The Goddess of Secrets, known as Marukka, seeks entertainment and decides that the aforementioned 10 souls will fight in a fatal tournament with reincarnation being the grand prize. When looking deeper, players can see how evil this game is. While some characters in video games fight for friends or for justice, each character in Thrill Kill is fighting purely out of self-preservation.
"Fighting to survive" is the key rule to completing this game. Unlike other fighting games, Thrill Kill has no time limits; it is kill or be killed. As I played, I found the best method was to be as brutal and as swift as possible. Normally, I am a fairly defensive-to-balanced fighter in video games. However, when playing Thrill Kill, it is best to get caught up in the moment of the characters and go on a rage-filled rampage. Because of the game's interesting characters, disturbing concepts, and playability, I give it a thumbs up. The only flaw that I can easily point out is that the "end" videos for each of the characters are weak at best. More often than not, the animation was poor and the videos did not provide much additional information about the characters' background stories. The weakness in the videos can be attributed to the fact that the developers only allowed a production company roughly two weeks to complete said videos. Additionally, even on lower difficulties, the final boss is unfairly difficult and uses the same cheap attacks over and over.
The fact that this game is incomplete cannot be stressed enough. Because of this, the game is not totally perfect and can even crash at times. Nevertheless, being in the state that it is, I would recommend everyone I know to give it a whirl. It is a shame this project was never carried all of the way though, it could have been something big. Nevertheless, Thrill Kill has left a legacy. On one hand, Paradox Development was allowed to keep the engine they were going to use for Thrill Kill and instead used it for the game, Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style. On the other hand, Thrill Kill itself has amassed a strong cult-following. Grant it, this is not the best game ever, but it still can provide a great deal of entertainment. If the opportunity presents itself for you to try this game, take a stab at it.