There was an age when people like Cory Feldman, Tia Carerre, and Mark Hamill were starring in video games: The Golden Age of Live-Action Video Games, or simply GALAVG as some call it (no one calls it either of those).
Of course. today we’re not talking about Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom, which at the time was developed for a then-unheard-of-in-video-games $12 million, and starred the likes of Mark Hamill, Jonathan Rhys-Davies, and Malcolm McDowell.
Hell, we’re not even talking about Cory Feldman’s Double Switch.
No, we’re talking about Ground Zero: Texas, released for the Sega CD in the fall of 1993.
Sure, this was full motion … but the motion itself was squeezed into a tiny window within a much larger control panel system, and it looked worse than when your entire family is streaming HD video at the same time on 50 different devices.
But, at the time (the same year Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love” came out), it was mind-blowing. That’s why developers kept throwing these more or less crappy games at kids like me.
Ground Zero: Texas didn’t have any marquee talent, or much talent at all to speak of—no offense to director Dwight H. Little (Halloween 4) or writer Edward Neumeier (Robocop)—but it did have a storyline that kids across the country could get into: saving the world from alien invaders.
It really was sort of like playing out one of the endless corny sci-fi movies I made my parents rent for me every weekend. And it beat out Independence Day by a solid three years. That was worth a lot.
The gameplay itself centered around a battle-camera system, where the player could switch between cameras located at different points in the tiny Texas town of El Cadron.
When something important to the story was happening, that camera would be highlighted and you’d have to switch over to play out whichever scenario was happening at the time.
The game suffered from similar quirks compared to other live-action games from the era: Weird timing issues where you either can’t find which camera you need to be on or switch over just as the critical moment is passing; clunky controls that don’t actually control anything; unnecessarily confusing moments where you have no idea what you’re supposed to do; and so on.
This is one that doesn’t really stand up to the test of time. If you have a nostalgic attachment to it, you won’t mind spending 30 minutes taking a trip down memory lane … or you’ll be over it immediately and switch back to Rocket League.
That being said, last year, the unthinkable happened: Someone apparently acquired the rights to this game and decided there was more money to be made off suckers who didn’t learn their lesson the first time around.
Thus, Ground Zero: Texas – Nuclear Edition was released in March of 2021 for PS4 and Steam (Windows). Calling it an “edition” is pretty misleading. It’s just the exact same game, except the video is now crisp and clear … which is something, I guess? But the storyline, cheesy acting, and everything else are exactly the same. So if you have an extra $15 to blow on getting to actually see what the actors look like, knock yourself out.
Sometimes, there’s a reason time forgot games. Ground Zero: Texas isn’t awful, but it’s not really that good either. It’s just kind of a novelty, which is likely why it’s not on anyone’s all-time greatest hits.
Still, there is something special about this game … even if it wears off after about 10 minutes.