A glorious ride down a futuristic California that never was.
Full Throttle wears its testosterone like the leather jacket it earned from riding with Hell's Angels when it was ten: with gusto, some verve and a kind of unrestrained joy. The original was a point-and-click classic, unsubtle about its affection for rock music and biker gang mythology, selling over a million copies in its lifetime. The remastered version is all of that and developer commentary, improved audio, and brand-new graphics.
But I'll get to the new features in a minute. For now, let's take a detour down memory lane. What's Full Throttle? Sometimes categorised as an action-adventure game, it opens without excessive exposition, with a luxury hovercraft gliding down the highway. Two old men in expensive suits sit inside, bickering. Through the rear window, we see a biker gang coming up behind them, '90s spike-studded cool on full display. They don't wait for the limousine to make way. The gang rides past and over the vehicle, crushing the limo's hood ornament beneath its wheels.
Their audacity, of course, earns the attention of one of the two men. And after the introductory credits are concluded, we see the geriatric pair pulling up to a rough-and-tough bar. One thing leads to another, and Ben finds himself waking up in a dumpster, poorer by a crew, and richer by a grudge.
Needless to say, Ben's pissed.
Unlike Guybrush Threepwood or, really, so many adventure game protagonists, Ben doesn't waste time on niceties. From the moment you regain control of the man, Full Throttle makes it clear that there's nothing wrong with punching life in the jaw. Ben's approach to the world is beautifully exemplified by the user interface. The pie wheel of available actions is, quite literally, Ben's biker gang tattoo. Use it to kick, grab, eyeball, and rudely lick the world around you. And don't worry. Ben will tell you if he doesn't feel like putting his lips on something.
The world of Full Throttle is tactile and larger than life, a futuristic California done up in chrome. There's a sense that something epic is always happening somewhere, and if Ben wasn't so subsumed by his personal quest, we might be able to ride into the stand-off that decides the fate of the world.
And it is gorgeous. The original was fantastically adept at working around the limitations of its engine, and oh-so exquisitely detailed. (I disliked the 3D elements of Full Throttle but their use, I suspect, had a lot to do with the fact that it was a burgeoning trend.) But I don't know how I feel in regards to the remastered artwork.
There's nothing wrong about the chosen style, per se. Care was clearly taken to preserve the look and feel of the original. Unfortunately, this occasionally results in some visual anomalies. In conversation, characters sometimes twitch and judder, heads snapping back and forth with every other word. It is a strange, strange thing to witness. But then you flip back to the original artwork, and it all makes sense again.
But this wasn't a deal breaker for me and it'd unlikely be for you. What I did love, though, was the crispness of the music, the clarity of the cast's voices. Roy Conrad might have passed on, but his growling, hard-as-nails baritone lives on in high-fidelity.
Now, onto the nitpicking. If you were hoping that this might be something you could sink hours into, you're likely to be disappointed. Full Throttle is a relatively short experience and the puzzles are rarely very elaborate. Ben, as I've mentioned earlier, is an efficient character. He doesn't mince words or chase red herrings. The only thing that could be construed as time waster, perhaps, is Full Throttle's mildly fiddly combat sequences.
To be fair, they're fun when you have the mechanics figured out. Two bikers on their vehicles, rousing music, some smack talk. Punch, kick, and weaponize whatever you have on hand. There are no rules except for one: knock the other person off their hog before they can do the same to you. But if you fail, it's no problem. Ben knows how to take a licking. Even if someone pulls a chainsaw on Ben, he'll just shrug it off, dust himself down, get up, get on his bike, and get going again.
I've always had a soft spot for Full Throttle. I continue to love it still. Sure, it suffers from some of the genre's fallacies. But it was -and still is- wonderfully sharp-witted, deliciously funny, and tautly plotted. Enough of my yapping, though. Full Throttle has a tank full of fuel and a whole world to show you. Get going. The Polecats are waiting.