This run-and-gun platform/action game is based on the 1995 film starring Sylvester Stallone, which in turn is based on the infamous comic strip from British science fiction periodical 2000AD. Judge Dredd was developed by Probe Software and published by Acclaim Entertainment not long after the film’s release.
You play as Judge Dredd – a lawman of the 22nd century – who must confront criminals and can act as judge, jury, and executioner to maintain order. Dredd must also track a renegade Judge, called Rico (actually Dredd‘s brother), who is trying to destroy Mega City One (the conurbation where Dredd lives and works) with the help of the sinister Dark Judges (four dark lawmakers who come from a twisted demon realm and who feature in a number of famous Judge Dredd storylines in 2000AD).
To do his job Judge Dredd can use a variety of different weapons, as well as his iconic sidearm, The Lawgiver, and he can also punch and kick opponents into submission, whereby he can then choose to either arrest or execute them.
Dredd is quite agile and can run, jump, duck, crawl, shoot his gun and even shimmy along bars on the ceiling. That said: his movement is quite clunky for some reason. I think because his animation isn’t that fluid and the controls are a little convoluted.
The initial levels of the game follow the plot of the film relatively closely, with a block war (a war between buildings in the city) breaking out and Dredd stepping in to stop it, although the mission objectives are pretty banal for an action game (finding ammo crates and destroying them is hardly the exciting opening I was hoping for). Eventually Dredd is framed for a murder he didn’t commit and is sent to a penal colony from which he must escape and prove his innocence.
Judge Dredd has twelve different levels in total, set in various locations based on the film and comic, including sections in The Cursed Earth (the irradiated desert around Mega City One). I did read that some levels use backgrounds that were created by digitising photographs of sets from the film, while other levels are based on locations and artwork from the comic book, although – to be honest – you wouldn’t have thought that as they’re not that impressive. Yes, there are details from the original comic strips that Dredd fans will recognise, but in general the graphics are nothing special. Compared the SNES version of this game, Judge Dredd on the Megadrive/Genesis does look a bit dowdy. And compared to other, similar games such as Flashback and Super Metroid this game is found to be seriously lacking. Lacking finesse; lacking playability; lacking excitement.
One day someone might make a seriously good Judge Dredd game, but this game ain’t it. This game is basically another unimaginative, cynical cash-in that fails spectacularly. A bit like the film that it’s based on… When you choose Stallone to play Dredd in your film, you deserve to get laughed at… And I just wanted to say that I watched the film again (for the first time since I saw it on the big screen in 1995), because I wanted to remind myself what it was like… And Stallone is absolutely terrible in it. It’s one of his very worst performances. The opening scene where he walks into the middle of a block war and says “I am the law!” is just pathetic. Danny Cannon, the director of the 1995 Dredd film; I just looked him up on IMDb and noticed that he didn’t do much of note after Judge Dredd. Mostly TV and TV movies. Which figures. Whoever decided to give Cannon and Stallone the Dredd gig should be encased in a iron ball and fired at the sun…
Final note: weirdly this Judge Dredd game is still available to buy on Steam (at the time of writing). I’m not sure if it’s the SNES or Megadrive version (it looks like the Megadrive version, looking at the screenshots), or whether it’s emulated or not. But I will admit that I have little interest in buying it, because it’s just not a very good game.
See also: 2000AD Special.