In the 90s, Mortal Kombat changed the gaming landscape with its violent fatalities and violent… Everything else. The media attention was huge, and as a result, other developers wanted a piece of that gory, bloody pie. One such developer was Paradox Development (later known as Midway Studios) with their game, Thrill Kill. Though nearly finished development, it never saw release. So, what happened?
What was it?
Thrill Kill was a PS1 game set to be released in 1998 that was created with an innovative engine which would allow four players to fight at the same time in the same room. This alone was enough to garner all kinds of interest from the gaming world. The cherry on top, however, was that it wanted to be the next Mortal Kombat, going out of its way to be as gory and violent as possible, but with the added edge of sexually charged brutality. You know, to make it really stand out, because everyone and their Grandma had seen a guy punch another guy in the face so hard it popped off, spine attached. That’s old news. Throwing in some BDSM flair though? Innovative. Genius.
The concept was that ten incredibly awful people died and were sent to Hell. Except a modern day Hell with padded cells and public toilets (the true Hell on Earth) and stuff. These damned souls are pitted against each other by a bored Goddess who promises the winner reincarnation. Which, as you can imagine, isn’t a super good idea with a cast of murderers and stuff.
Speaking of which, I want to share a few of these with you, because they’re honestly delightful.
Belladonna was a librarian in life, and found her husband cheating on her with her sister and her first instinct at that point was to become a dominatrix and kill them both. She died via electrocution when her electric cattle prod (standard dominatrix issue) fell into the bath with her. Dr. Faustus was a plastic surgeon who just liked messing up peoples faces For Funsies. Also he has metal bear trap jaws that he put on himself. This is how he died, by the way, because he got an infection. Cleetus, a redneck cannibal from Kentucky, fights with the severed limbs of his victims. He starved to death after getting tapeworms. There’s a bunch of other characters and they’re all this level of absolutely ridiculous.
Also the training dummy is literally just a regular gimp who gets off on having the crap beaten out of him. It’s. That kind of game.
The game allowed up to four players to duke it out in a 3D space, where they could move around, punch each other a lot, normal fighting game things. As players continued to beat the stuffing out of each other, it would raise their ‘bloodlust’. Once the bloodlust is at maximum, the player can perform a ‘thrill kill’ ranging from ‘eating a guys face off’ through to ‘tickle torture’.
The ability to have four players fighting simultaneously was hugely innovative at the time, especially having them move around in 3D environments. The animations were also top notch. In fact, so much effort had gone into the game it was basically complete when it was axed.
So what happened?
Originally, the game was supposed to be published by Virgin Interactive, but in 1998, Electronic Arts bought the right to publish the game in their buyout of another developer, Westwood Studios. So now EA has the rights, things are still chugging along, and the game was set to be released in a few weeks.
Then, just before shipping on the game was about to begin, EA turned around and said they weren’t actually interesting in publishing a, and I quote, “…senselessly violent video game”. The game itself was already sitting on an AO (adults only) rating, the first to achieve this rating through violence alone (though the sexual content certainly helped).
With the game scrapped, the developers took matters into their own hands, distributing the nearly completed copy of the game to a group who finished it, and then distributed it online along with the beta versions, meaning a wide audience still got to try it out.
But that’s not where this story ends. Paradox still had an innovative, perfectly good engine and they weren’t going to just let that go to waste. The engine was then used to develop Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, also for PS1, which toned down a lot of the violence (though still had its share of blood, fatalities and whatnot going on).
Also, it had that ridiculous looking limited edition Wu-Tang PS1 controller that I really want.