PC hardware enthusiasts are always looking forward to the newest advances in tech. New hardware and features are introduced and promoted by hardware manufacturers with the intent to use said advancements as selling points for their products. The promise of better graphics or faster performance can drive PC gaming enthusiasts into a rising tide of hype and expectations, but all the new features in the world won’t mean much without software that can take advantage of them. In 1997, Liverpool, England-based development house Psygnosis was fresh off several releases that reside in the upper echelon of the Sony Playstation’s impressive catalog. During a two year span, Psygnosis released Destruction Derby and Wipeout (and their respective sequels). The next big project announcement was for a futuristic shooter called G-Police. It would release for the Playstation and Windows 95 in the fall of 1997.
Earlier that year, Intel released their newest desktop chipset, the i440LX. It also went by the internal code name, Balboa. The buzz surrounding the i440LX Slot 1 chipset was the introduction of the new AGP port. An evolution of the original PCI bus that was commonly used for graphics cards in the years prior, AGP slots had the huge advantage of being able to communicate directly with the CPU. AGP graphics cards would be able to use textures directly from the system RAM, whereas PCI graphics cards were required to copy textures from the system memory onto the card’s dedicated video memory.
Things were different back in 1997. You couldn’t simply hop into your hoverboots and slide into Walmart to buy an 11GB GTX 1080 Ti. The best case scenario was that you slipped on your stylish LA Lights sneakers and hoped that the Babbage’s in your local mall carried a 4MB graphics card. PC games were getting better looking and more complex. The common 4MB card configurations of the day were not enough to keep up with the breakneck advancements in graphics technology. AGP cards were billed as the solution to our memory woes. Psygnosis’ G-Police would be the first major game to release for Windows that supported AGP graphics.
The listed system requirements for the software rendered version of G-Police called for a relatively light setup. Players would need a Pentium-class CPU, 16 megs of ram, and a 4X CD-ROM drive. The AGP Enhanced Version of G-Police required equipment that was on the cutting edge of PC games hardware in 1997. Lifted directly from the AGP Enhanced G-Police demo readme file:
AGP Enhanced Version Requires:
Processor: Intel (R) Pentium(R) II, AGP Graphics Accelerator
OS: Windows 95
RAM: 32 Megs
Hard Drive: 2 Megs
CD ROM: 4X or better
Controller: Keyboard, Joystick(optional), SideWinder Force Feed Back Pro Joystick, SideWinder game pad
Also listed in that readme file were detailed descriptions of the game’s graphical options and what each option did in the game. It explained that some features would not be visible to players unless they had a compliant graphics accelerator installed. One of the graphics options was for animated textures. The game came with two options: low and normal. Owners of powerful AGP graphics accelerators had the option of enabling two additional levels, high and extreme. As quoted from the readme file:
“If you have a graphics card with AGP facility, you will also have a high and possibly an extreme option. This affects the number of frames for the advertisement boards in the cities. High and extreme settings will have movies on the advertisement boards, and enhanced explosions.”
G-Police’s in-game levels were filled with dark towers in a futuristic cityscape. Giant, Blade Runner-esque advertisement boards littered the play area and were often the backdrop for aerial combat. Moving ad boards increased the level of immersion and were the first taste of what AGP could offer PC gamers. In addition to the AGP enhancements, G-Police was one of the first games to offer PC players a Dolby-encoded audio playback option. Surround sound PC gaming was still in its infancy in 1997 and the game-changing Aureal Vortex 2 sound chip was still a year away. The PC version of G-Police also had videos in-game that supported the new MMX instruction set that had recently debuted on Intel’s Pentium and Pentium II CPUs.
As 1997 passed into 1998, graphical improvements started to take off at an accelerated pace. Landmark graphics powerhouses like Unreal, Thief, Blood 2, Forsaken, and Shogo: Mobile Armor Division featured visuals that rivaled or beat what was seen in arcades. 3D accelerators were selling well and a big chunk of them were on the AGP bus. By early 2000, all flagship graphics cards were using AGP. AGP graphics cards were king until the mid-2000s, when the new PCI-Express standard began to take over on mainstream motherboards. The AGP graphics card had it’s last gasp in early 2006 when nVidia announced that the GeForce GTX 7800GS would be released as an AGP card. The 7800GS was a cut-down version of the super popular 7800GTX GPU. The 7800GS gave the old dogs hanging onto their AGP motherboards one final hurrah.
G-Police was not a huge success on the PC platform. It reviewed fairly well, but was known for its insane difficulty and never stood out among the titans with which it shared a release window. While the game itself is not remembered fondly, the advancement in graphics technology that it helped push forward was a benefit to all PC gamers. Unfortunately, G-Police does not play nice with modern hardware and operating systems. Workarounds can be found online for those willing to sift through the crashes and headaches. Thankfully, those who missed it on the first go or players looking for a nostalgic look back can find high-quality video capture on Youtube.
Did you get the chance to play G-Police during its launch window? Do you remember your first AGP graphics card? If so, tell us about it in the comments section.