From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett wrote Crapshoot, a column about bringing random obscure games back into the light. This week its' Hopkins FBI. Anyone got a spare noose?
Hopkins FBI doesn't make me cross, it makes me sad. No, wait. Scratch that. Reverse it. I hate this game. I hate it. When I think of games that have made me genuinely angry, Hopkins FBI may not top the list, but its name is still circled, underlined twice, with little daggers sketched around the letters. It's so bad, I fire it up about once a year just to remind myself how much I hate it.
How much do I hate it? I hate it a lot. It's one of the most cack-handed, misogynistic, mean-spirited adventure games I've ever played, not to mention one of the stupidest. It's a game that doesn't seem to have been designed so much as congealed.
If it has one redeeming feature, it's that... no. No, forget fair and balanced. The only reason I haven't microwaved the disc is that I don't want the karmic fart-cloud of its ghost hanging around my kitchen for the rest of time. I cook food in there.
Warning: This week's Crapshoot contains uncensored nudity and some pretty graphic violence. For real this time, not like when I joked about it with Leather Goddesses of Phobos. It probably won't shock you, but it might 'surprise' your parents/boss/colleagues/gimp/hamster if they see it over your shoulder. Warning over. Read on like you were going to anyway.
That one picture sums up Hopkins FBI in a festering little nutshell. The cartoon graphics. The shit-eating grin. The lovingly drawn violence against women. The intense stupidity. Above all, its smug belief that it's being mature, or even worse, awesome. This murder, like all the murders in the game, is utterly pointless. Most of the victims don't even have names. The violence is typically sexualised, and utterly gratuitous, and if you think the plot is the kind of dark cop drama that might justify it, hoo-boy are you in for a shock.
The plot kicks off when evil terrorist Bernie Berckson—see? See?—mysteriously escapes the electric chair after pointlessly exploding two nuclear bombs in California, killing 50,000 people. Luckily, everyone's confident that this will in no way come back and bite them later on in their lives, so nobody seems to care much.
When we meet Hopkins FBI for the first time, he's simply stooging around his apartment, trying to find his keys. This is as close as he comes to doing any actual detective work in the whole game.
Having solved The Case of the Keys That Were Obviously Down The Back Of The Sofa, it's time to get to work. There's a bank robbery in progress, and only one man can save the day. Unfortunately, it's Hopkins FBI, who pulls rank on the policemen already there, and demonstrates the hostage negotiation tactic known as "Giving The Baddies Everything They Want". He orders them a helicopter and pilot, and immediately offers to exchange himself for the hostages.
The baddies, unable to believe their luck at having the world's stupidest man act as their own personal branch of Argos, accept, and celebrate by ripping the woman above's throat open. This being Hopkins FBI, nobody cares, notices or comments.
These scenes make up Hopkins FBI's least inappropriate use of violence . Remember that. They're also about the only ones where men are also shown being killed. Later on, it's all about the laydees.
Shockingly, the evil terrorists who just brutally murdered an innocent woman in front of Hopkins FBI's eyes turn out to not be trustworthy. They knock him out and fly away on the helicopter, along with the Cop Of The Year Award that Hopkins FBI was hoping to pick up at the FBI's annual convention.
He wakes up to find that they've left him a timebomb to remember them by, which actually has an LED on it marked "EXPLODE". That's nothing compared to the stupidity to come. Defusing it with a screwdriver that he helpfully picked up in his apartment earlier, Hopkins FBI races off to track down the dastardly thieves... or rather, just scoots around in his car a bit until the FBI dispatcher tells him they actually landed just a couple of blocks away. You could spit from the bank roof and hit this place. The robbers may as well have made their getaway on bungee cords as hold out for a helicopter to take them the swimming-pool width to it.
Needless to say, the FBI only manages to get there long after they've left, having decided to spend the whole time that Hopkins FBI was unconscious holding an impromptu press conference in the bank, instead of looking out of a window to track the murderous psychopaths.
Speaking of the murderous psychopaths, they've left a present for the investigators—the female helicopter pilot. Dead, of course. "Was she tortured?" asks Hopkins FBI, apparently oblivious to the fact that this is completely his fault and that he is the worst cop ever . "I don't think so," replies the on-site doctor.
"How did she die?" asks Hopkins FBI. "She was shot in the head," replies the doctor. Bones, this is not. Still, there is a forensic team back at FBI headquarters capable of tracking the killers down using nothing more than one of their shoelaces, which they luckily left behind, despite having apparently cleaned the crime-scene to the extent of extracting the bullet in the pilot's head as a souvenir. Actually, never mind the sloppiness. How the hell do you lose a shoelace, anyway? A whole shoe? Fine, that could slip off. A shoelace? It's as if the killers wanted to lure an unwary FBI agent into some kind of trap.
Of course, they don't, they're just morons. Still, just for a second, there's a sliver of doubt, and this game doesn't give you many of those to enjoy. Just take a look at some of the stuff going on back at FBI Headquarters. Unforgettable characters here include: The guy who's dressed as a gang-member so that nobody will realise he's FBI, but apparently hasn't realised that standing outside FBI Headquarters chit-chatting with obvious government agents might blow that cover; Hopkins FBI's fiancee Samantha, who has both breasts and a connection to our hero and therefore may as well have the words "DEAD WOMAN WALKING" written in blood on her forehead; A team of science freaks, one apparently a mutant, who are busy sawing a man's skull open right in the middle of their office.
Next to all this, Hopkins FBI almost seems to be a few IQ points up, but quickly loses them again when we find out that the password to his official FBI computer is "HOPKINS" and he keeps a live hand-grenade in his desk drawer. There's a line between "tongue in cheek", which Hopkins FBI is, in its grisly misogynistic way, and just plain badly designed.
Like a lot of bad games, it obsesses over the strangest things, like having roughly a million rooms but nothing to actually do in them, with conversations so stripped back, it's like they had to sacrifice a goat per word to the dark god Awoozl. Likewise, while the backgrounds look excellent, the character art is staggeringly bad, with the exception of those sadistic murder scenes Hopkins FBI can't get enough of. It's really bizarre, to the point of disturbing.
Using the power of bad writing, the head freak in the science lab is indeed able to tell you where the killers were based. It's the forest. The forest right next to the empty lot where the thieves escaped to. The forest next to the empty lot that nobody thought it might be worth taking a quick peek in to see if it might be hiding a collection of psychopathic cop-killers.
You know what? Never mind. In the kingdom of the single-braincelled, Hopkins FBI may in fact be King. A King so stupid that he promptly heads over there without any form of plan or backup, body armour or in fact anything other than his regular side-arm and desk-grenade, but a King nevetheless. Hail to the King. At least he'll save the city the cost of a pension.
The villains' hideout is carefully hidden at the end of a completely linear path, broken only by gunmen trying to shoot Hopkins FBI in his face with their guns. If they succeed, the game is over, but they won't, because this is the most embarrassing excuse for an arcade sequence since the space combat section at the end of Space Quest 3. (What do you mean, too obscure? Look at what you're reading!)
Hopkins FBI quickly blasts through all these people, but is pinned down by gunshots from their hideout. Luckily, he has that grenade! In one fell-swoop, it explodes, setting the evil cabin on fire. Then one of them steps out, shoots Hopkins FBI in the chest, and Hopkins FBI dies and goes to Heaven.
I shall repeat that.
Taking a bullet to the chest, Hopkins FBI collapses, and goes to Heaven. Well, half-way, anyway. It's Purgatory, which looks like an airport departure lounge, complete with a crappy bar and matter transporter beam for getting back to the land of the living. It also features a unisex shower room, because there hasn't been any gratuitous nudity for at least a few minutes. On the left, there are showers. On the back wall, sinks. On the right, urinals. Spot something missing? Bet you do if you don't have a penis.
Despite what it might seem like, Hopkins FBI has better things to do than hang around in the celestial realm of free booze and random nudity, and determines to head back to the mortal world. Obviously, this is Purgatory, so there are only two ways out—to find Manny Calavera and ask if ridding the world of his own arse is enough to score a ticket on the Number 9 (personally, I'd say it is), or convincing the Almighty that he has a greater purpose and should be returned to Earth to finish his work.
Nah, just kidding. He steals a woman's clothes while she's taking a shower, dresses in drag and chats up the guard outside the transporter beam room. Suitably distracted, the guard heads to the bar to await sexy-drinky time, and Hopkins FBI casually steps into the teleporter. Just another day in the office.
When he gets back to Earth of course, things are different. He's seen the truth of the universe—witnessed incontrovertible proof of the great beyond. How could this be anything other than a life-changing experience, one that forever changes the philosophical underpinnings of his—
Not bothering to check on the bank robbers who shot him dead, except dismissing them with a line about them dying in the post-grenade fire (including the one who quite casually shot him dead), Hopkins FBI picks up the sole $20 of loot he ever recovers from the bank heist and heads back into town. The robbery is officially irrelevant after this point, as we enter possibly the most insulting, misogynistic sequence of any adventure game ever. Including Midnight Nowhere.
Back at Samantha's place, a song immediately kicks in that suggests we're going to get to know her very well over the next few scenes. "I've lost my girl, I can't express," it starts. "My grief, my soul, my emptiness…” Yes, as if all the violence wasn't embarrassing enough, Hopkins FBI is about to pull the classic "Women In Refrigerators" bit. The only reason it takes any time at all is that if Hopkins FBI opened the refrigerator and found his lover, well, that would mean only one fetishistic murder scene, wouldn't it?
Instead, the game finally brings Bernie "Remember Me?" Berckson into the story, as Hopkins FBI finds a random naked woman strangled in his fiancee's bathtub, and a videotape from the arch-nemesis he hasn't bothered mentioning before now. Bernie happily tells him that he plans to torture him with a little game of tears, in which every corpse he finds will lead him little by little towards the missing Samantha.
And this is definitely painful, but not in the way Bernie thinks.
The first corpse is impaled and open-shirted on a hook at the local swimming pool. The third is nailed upside down but actually clothed at the local cinema, with the head-desk-interface mostly coming from the fact that Hopkins FBI has to pay to get in to find her, and he uses the money from the forest cabin to do it. The man retrieves $20 from a bank heist, and he spends it. Max Payne would roll his eyes at this guy. Still, that's nothing compared to the second corpse, who's waiting at the local museum.
Ladies. Gentlemen. Brace yourself. You are about to witness... drum-roll please... the stupidest puzzle in the history of adventure games. You are not prepared. Forget the cat-hair moustache in Gabriel Knight 3. Put the Rumplestiltskin and custard pie bits from the King's Quest games out of your mind. The goat puzzle in Broken Sword? You will never think of it again, once you discover that you find Bernie Berckson's second victim has been stripped naked and baked into a wax statue of King Louis XVI .
How do you find this out? By mixing a molotov cocktail from random junk and using it to light a fireplace in a public museum . Not to make it explode. To light a fire. Puzzles don't get stupider than this. It's physically impossible. Not 'faster than lightspeed' impossible either. Try 'swallowing Jupiter'.
Not wanting to be outdone by his own game, Hopkins FBI decides that he needs to step up his own incredible stupidity. The last clue leads him to the shooting range, where Bernie's told him "Hit the bull's-eye. Five, and you get the jackpot." Asking at the front desk, he finds out that Lane 5 has been booked out for the day by an Agent Bernie Berckson, and yes, that is indeed the equivalent of Osama bin Laden checking into a hotel using the alias "Dr. Osama bin Laden".
Lest we forget, because the game gives us no real reason to remember, Bernie killed 50,000 people with nukes . It's hard enough taking the disguise thing seriously without him signing into the FBI shooting gallery as anything other than a target.
Speaking of which, Hopkins FBI dutifully follows orders, gets into Lane 5 and begins shooting. Shocking him, but nobody else in the entire universe and all parallel versions in an infinite multiverse thereof, blood promptly starts seeping through it, and he realises to his horror that...
So horrified by this that he almost expresses an emotion, Hopkins FBI casually ambles back to Samantha's house, where Bernie taunts him over another pre-prepared video, and thanks him for killing her. Apparently, it wasn't just a bit of random cruelty, but all part of his plan. See, Samantha had discovered things that would have messed up Bernie's evil plans, but now she's dead, nobody knows that!
I like to imagine Bernie recording this tape, delivering it, returning home, making dinner, and getting roughly three bites of delicious, perfectly baked salmon into it before realising the stupid thing he just did and giving himself the biggest face-palm in the history of broken noses.
Hacking into Samantha's computer ('finding a piece of paper with the password on in her desk drawer' being technical enough to count as 'hacking' in this universe), Hopkins FBI discovers she had an informant who told her about a mysterious island, Condor Island, shortly before she disappeared. The Chief is unimpressed with this information until Hopkins FBI expresses an interest in going there. The Chief sorts him out a plane immediately. I suspect this has less to do with stopping Bernie than never having to see Hopkins FBI ever again. So eager is he to get rid of him, the plane won't actually land. Hopkins FBI will even be parachuted down there so that 'Berckson doesn't know he's coming'.
Yes, Chief. Of course that's what's going on.
Condor Island (unofficial motto: "The FBI Has No Jurisdiction Here") is full of stupid puzzles, but nothing of note by this game's low standards. Without any particular reason other than that it's there and therefore probably evil, Hopkins FBI infiltrates the local branch of Usinex ("A division of EvilCorp") by tricking his way past the guards and then just plain asking for a tour. His request is granted, and he more or less stumbles around pointlessly until he finds the underground submarine dock in the basement.
Really, what else would he find at this point?
Oh, right. Bernie Berckson's underwater supervillain lair. Of course.
Discovering some minor competence buried deep within his anus, Bernie immediately captures Hopkins FBI, who wouldn't know what it was if he moved a mouse-cursor over it and had the words 'minor competence' appear as a result. Bernie finally explains what's going on. He's invented cloning technology... just roll with it, the game's almost over... but they're only coming out as brainless monsters. He plans to seize control of the transporter beam in Purgatory, which presumably he discovered when he was zapped by the electric chair back in the intro, to make sure he can download himself properly.
This raises more problems than the obvious one, the obvious one being that this is a really stupid story. As we saw when Hopkins FBI came back to life, the transporter beam just put him back in his own body. Yes, Bernie could have done the same, but he'd still have come back strapped into the electric chair. It would have been a busy, unpleasant afternoon, and I think after being fried to death a few times, even he might decide he's had enough and just go submit himself to the mercy of Satan's sulphurous fondue fork.
There's one bit of good news though. For no good reason, Bernie's bothered to clone Samantha. True, she's just a lump of meat right now, but she's a woman—as far as Hopkins FBI is concerned, same difference. Hopkins FBI sees at least some potential to fix one of his many, many mistakes. Escaping through the worst FPS mini-game in the world, he takes a borrowed canister of nerve gas and a magic potion that makes him immune to it, and pumps it through the air vents. This done, he clones himself, with the clone immediately dying of exposure to the gas, and putting Bernie to shame in the 'most ridiculously cruel and convoluted death' stakes. Technically, he is sacrificing something to save the world, but I don't think anyone's going to be impressed by it when they weigh his soul.
The gas, incidentally, is useless against any of the guards, or Bernie himself, all of whom have apparently drunk the magic potion just in case something like this happened. Why Hopkins FBI couldn't just bash his brother-in-biological-horror over the head with something heavy as soon as he came out of the clone tank is never revealed. Either way, the clone appears in Purgatory as 'planned' and retrieves Samantha from the shower room, where she's a little confused, but has frankly had too weird a week to care.
Samantha, relieved to find out that the transporter beam doesn't just put her lost soul into her clone body but also kits it out with clothes and immunity to nerve gas for some reason, is quite happy about this. In Purgatory, the Hopkins FBI clone destroys the transporter using a knife plucked from a fairly apathetic dead man's chest, and then is apparently doomed to a life sitting around in a bar and a unisex shower while the man who murdered him in cold blood spends a blissful future with the woman he presumably loves. He's doomed to an eternity of loneliness, bitterness and regret that would make Curtis Craig want to pat him on the shoulder, and you just know that when the original Hopkins FBI finally arrives, he'll find his doppleganger there, stripped to the waist and soaked in the blood of the Almighty himself, ready to welcome him to an eternal Hell he will forever know as his own fault, and his own creation.
Or maybe he puts the wig and dress back on and goes and cops off with that guard who's still waiting at the bar. Who knows? If you think the game cares, you haven't been paying attention.
Hopkins FBI on the other hand has a Bernie to beat, which Samantha valiantly helps with by... pushing a button to open the door, because girls can do anything they set their minds to. Ngggh. Hopkins FBI and Bernie, being men, have a manly swordfight, even though Bernie utterly sucks at it, due to mistakenly thinking he doesn't have to worry about dying. Hopkins FBI explains the error of his ways with a practical demonstration, presumably leaving his clone and Bernie trapped together for eternity. Of course, nothing is mentioned about this, because the ending is far too busy being insultingly abrupt. How does it end? A quick video of Hopkins, at his computer, typing. Credits roll. And breathe...
The scary thing about Hopkins FBI is that despite being entirely, apparently willfully built of fail it does have its fans. Ignore them. If you are one, slap yourself. It's a foul little game, which would actually get quite a few points for being so bad that it's hilarious, if not for the insufferable misogyny throughout. The translation is ghastly, the character animation pathetic, the puzzles beyond a joke, the plot a travesty, and the background graphics actually pretty damn good. Of course, that's just my opinion. Here's the developers' version, as written some time before the sequel got canned.
"Let's just stay that if Quentin Tarentino had ever created video game, it would have been "Hopkins FBI" Hopkins FBI is a game drawing on American comic-strip cartoons. The action takes place in the present day, in an undefined city of the USA. It is a click-and-play adventure game.The hero of the game, Hopkins, is an FBI agent who at the start, is investigating a bank robbery. But very soon, the plot turns angry on him: a hardened criminal he had arrested years before succeeds in escaping from the prison where he was held, and is out to seek revenge on Hopkins...The visual treatment is very much angled on comic-strip graphics.The player has the feeling of being inside comic-strip boxes.The colours are bright, the decors detailed. During his investigation, the player will meet and dialogue with some forty characters.These are often caricatural, especially the women who, with some rare exceptions,tend to have dumb-blonde roles.The atmosphere of the game is fairly gory and violent. But this aspect is always mitigated by the black humour of the characters and dialogue, as well as the at times surrealistic air to the situations. It is all right to suggest the world of Pulp Fiction and the films of John Woo."
"Dumb blonde roles." Yeah, them stupid bitches, bein' tortured and killed by an evil terrorist like that. They totally had it coming! How dare they be pretty and have dates to the prom and everything!!!!
I'll give them the surrealism. I'll give them the decor. But frankly, the only thing I wanted to give them after playing this game was a damn hard slap. Making a game this weird definitely takes some level of genius, but so does writing out pi from memory with a stream of your own piss. Humour can mitigate many things, but next to lovingly fetishised pictures of corpses, it's creepiness that's going to win out.
Speaking of which, here's that picture of Hopkins FBI in drag you know you wanted.
Next week: Something old, obscure, and much less hateful! (And hopefully shorter!)