NYR: Autobahn Polizei

We want the money Lebowski

I recently posted a poll on our Facebook page, encouraging people to vote on the last game that I would play for my NYR series. Rather than give them a broad choice – I know those gits too well – I included a selection of weird, mostly obscure, mostly rubbish games left in my collection. I figured they might as well do their worst.

They did not disappoint and picked Autobahn Polizei.

To say that Autobahn is bad does not do the game justice. Most bad games have obvious flaws; design decisions that were implemented poorly or ideas that seemed good at some point and have failed in their execution. Really bad games are full of bugs and are just plain unfinished, they are often wobbly and broken but most of them have evidence of some intelligent design. Bad games can often be loving and even loved in the right light. I would like to think that I am the kind of person who looks for the shine in these games through frequently spotty experiences.

In this existence Autobahn Polizei stands out: it is an alien being from another planet with different social laws. Perhaps a more accurate description is that it is a game from an alternate reality; a universe where it isn’t actually a bad game.

The tutorial – if you can call it that, as it barely explains how you are supposed to drive the car that you’ll be chasing criminals around in – is a harrowing experience. Imagine having the side of your head dry-humped by a slobbering fat bulldog that is also shitting on your shoulder. If you can imagine this then it pretty much sums up the opening to Autobahn Polizei: it is a nasty and not a little frightening experience that leaves you needing several hot showers and bleach pouring directly onto your eyeballs before you will ever feel clean again.

Autobahn Polizei 03

It is so obtuse in its delivery that it is hard to believe Autobahn is not doing this on purpose.

While playing I could feel the game arguing with me in a truculent manner: ‘What’s your problem? That’s how we do tutorials in my alternate universe. What is this “User Interface” you keep muttering under your breath when you think I’m not listening?’

It somehow seems so assured of its delivery that, in the alternate reality it comes from, I can only imagine the inhabitants of that sordid place must have hearts made of solid marble and listen to Merzbow as a means of relaxation.

It doesn’t seem humanly possible for so many mistakes to be made in quick sequence or for Autobahn Polizei to remain a consistent and hideous experience from the offset and yet it does.

After the hateful, hopeless tutorial the game dumps you into an open world with no real indication of what to do next. As if sated by the abuse it has inflicted on the player it appears to just roll over like a selfish lover and proceed to ignore them.

There are no mission way points. The map highlights locations like a hospital and a stadium but when you arrive there the game presents a glowing arrow with no further prompts or explanation.

As I continued to drive around this city populated by drone vehicles and no objectives I began to wonder whether I had encountered a bug. I rebooted the game and reloaded my save and found I was no better off. After thirty minutes of nothing I then wondered if the game wasn’t some ultimate commentary on the life and aspirations of a young police officer. It begins with joining the force amid delusions of being in high speed chases and busting criminals; the result of seeing too many TV shows and films. The reality turns out to involve a lot of aimless driving around under a growing sense of despair and disappointment.

At this point I started ramming anything I could, running off the road at any opportunity followed by jumping off a broken bridge in a Groundhog Day style.

It was at this point that I first fully experienced the game’s physics. The handling of which is awful but again there is a strange stoicism to the delivery, a rigidity to the determined nature of its inadequacy such that it makes the game take on the properties of Marcel Duchamp’s toilet. Making commentary on the art form itself: it is meant to be shit and if you don’t get it then you are an idiot and if you do get it then you are probably still an idiot.

After growing bored of destroying my car I drove around for another ten minutes with the game continuing to ignore me.

Could this really be all there was?

I checked out gamefaqs and other sites for a walkthrough and there was nothing; Autobahn has almost no visibility whatsoever on the internet. I felt a chill. This was the perfect setup for a horror story around a campfire. You know, like when a guy gets a book from a mysterious shop, the book documents things that happen in the future including people’s deaths, and when he tries to return the book to the store from whence it came the building no longer exists and everyone he asks seems confused by his insistence that such a place ever existed.

Before I really freaked myself out a prompt appeared onscreen telling me to go to my first mission. Relieved that I wasn’t going to have to leave my house and try to lift some ancient curse, but depressed that I was going to have to play more of the game, I gunned my car to the destination indicated.

If the tutorial was like being dry humped and defecated on then the analogy I would use for this mission experience would be the same dog repeating the experience but now adding the act of pissing in my ear and talking dirty to me, in a Gilbert Gottfried voice. As this is occurring, Samuel L. Jackson walks in and narrates the prompts in his screaming-from-the-Pulp-Fiction-scene voice:

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“Follow that truck, NOW!”

“Don’t get too close!”

“Okay, now catch up. Catch up MOTHERFUCKER!”

“Chase those guys. NO, not those guys. THOSE guys!”

“NOW, GET AWAY FROM THEM!”

“What? Say ‘what’ again. Say ‘what’ again, I dare you. I double dare you motherfucker, say ‘what’ one more Goddamn time!”

It is a brutally belligerent experience that ends abruptly and viciously only to dump me back into the game world with no prompts whatsoever.

I turned the game off.

I need to reiterate that Autobahn Polizei is not simply a bad game. Bad games can be reasoned with; there is generally method to their madness and once you have extrapolated that routine then a manner to negotiate with them can emerge.

Autobahn is vile in every respect, a cold unfeeling mass that only consumes and does not give (unless administering abuse is considered giving). H. P. Lovecraft spent pages, chapters, entire books trying to describe the unimaginable evil of ancient unnameable horrors like Cthulhu. I am certain he didn’t have Autobahn Polizei in mind but having looked into my own personal abyss I found this game staring back.

It will remain on my unfinished backlog list forever. I can’t trade it in – partly because I no longer have the case – for fear that someone might buy it and then play it. I certainly would never give it to anyone, I don’t have enough hate in me against any individual to ever do that. I am too scared to just smash the disc and discard the pieces in case that unleashes whatever malevolent force resides within.

Do not buy this game, not even as a joke. Go get Jumper: Griffin’s Story or Blackwater if you must. In fact, if you even see this game on a shelf somewhere, leave the establishment and alert the appropriate authorities.

You have been warned.