TL;DR: It's been 25 years since Crusader: No Remorse was released. How does it stand up today? In one word: GREAT!
on the crusade
“I’m unarmed! Don’t shoot!” begged the factory worker as I pointed the barrel of my gun right at him. I thought about not shooting him for a second but remembered that only minutes ago, he raised the alarm calling in more guards to take me out. Unfortunately for them, I took cover behind some pallets and took them out the only way I knew how – quick and painful.
I pulled the trigger and BAM! the factory worker crumpled to the ground in a pool of blood. I rummage through his pockets in search of access cards to unlock a door. I find it, open the door, and blast away at the remaining enemies. And I do it with absolutely no regrets and no remorse. After all, I am a Crusader.
Released in August of 1995 by Origin and published by Electronic Arts, Crusader: No Remorse had a simple but elegant story. The gladiator clad Crusader was a former member of an elite, but highly feared military group called the Silencers. But just like any rogue bad guy turned good, Crusader was betrayed by the government and joins the Resistance to topple the fascist regime and redeem his name.
While the story was simple back in the day, the gameplay was not. Viewed from an isometric top-down perspective, it added a breath of fresh air to the slew of copycat first-person titles wanting to cash in on the popularity of Doom. The first thing Crusader impressed me with was the details. Every bit of the art, the sound, and the action was so well done, that I found myself replaying levels again and again just to see if I missed anything. Also, the attention to detail was impressive – throw a grenade close by to a chair and watch it spin like an uncontrollable top. I know that doesn’t mean much now, but back then, it was a revelation.
I pulled the trigger and BAM! the factory worker crumpled to the ground in a pool of blood. I rummage through his pockets in search of access cards to unlock a door. I find it, open the door, and blast away at the remaining enemies. And I do it with absolutely no regrets and no remorse.
I have no regrets and no remorse
The games’ setting was also unique in that it was all indoors and industrial, meaning no trees, no water, no flowing lava. Each level was filled with switches, locked doors, CTV cameras, and enemy mechs that seems to be made out of plastic instead of metal judging by how easily they could be destroyed. The Crusader himself moved very fluently even when barrel rolling across the room. The animation between crouching, standing, and running were all very lifelike making the game a joy to play. The explosions were the only thing that just did not look right. Regardless of what exploded, a mech robot, a computer terminal, or a barstool, the explosion animation was always the same.
The only real drawback was limited to the technology of the time and not with the game itself. The transition between levels was slow and loading times were noticeable, even if you only had to move ten feet. In hindsight, Crusaders: No Remorse doesn’t look all that great now, but back then it was the game that started a whole new trend in the top-down-isometric genre and set the standard for every game to live by.