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Voyeur Reviewed by Adam Romano on . Rating: 57%
  1. 1990
  2. 1991
  3. 1992
  4. 1993
  5. 1994
Voyeur
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Voyeur Voyeur Voyeur
  • Review Score:

  • C+
With the philandering of Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, and Bob Packwood fresh in the national consciousness in 1993, the Philips Company helped fuel the public's cynicism toward civil servants by releasing Voyeur, an interactive "political thriller" in which you try to derail the presidential campaign of a man with a seedy past and Machiavellian ethics. Former war hero, astronaut, and entrepreneur, Reed Hawke (played by Robert Culp), invites his family for a retreat at his home a few days prior to formally announcing his presidential bid. Some of his relatives, however, do not want Hawke to succeed for various reasons, and they're willing to put their lives in jeopardy in order to expose his sordid past. Luckily, there are many windows in the manor and the blinds are rarely drawn. With the aid of your video camera, you will need to keep vigilant watch over Hawke's nest and protect your country from electing this scoundrel as its leader.

Like any good mystery, Voyeur creates immediate intrigue. Its opening screen shows a numeric keypad intended to lockout minors from playing it. After entering the encryption code (provided in the instructions manual), you quickly learn why this game comes with a security system; as the credits roll, you witness a woman in lingerie handcuffing a man to a bed - an auspicious start to say the least - and this one moment presages the game's major themes: power, control, and sex.

Whatever your perversion, you'll find it referenced in Voyeur: adultery, incest, bondage, domination, lesbianism, molestation of a minor, and even a lewd appropriation of a common vegetable. Yes, Voyeur has all this without the aid of nudity or any depiction of little girls in sailor costumes. If you want to win, however, you may have to curve your curiosity in order to record high priority scenes with your camera. For example, if you see two women about to make-out in one room (as interesting as that may be), you may want to train your camera elsewhere to find something incriminating to Mr. Hawke.*

As you watch family members shuffle into the house, you learn a little bit about each person's gripe with the candidate. It is very easy to become confused about who is who and how they're related to Hawke, especially when you see things like his younger sister, Margaret, seducing him. You will need to fail the game a few times before learning the intricacies of everyone's background, and while this is a flaw in its design, it gives it a high replay value, especially when you realize that there are at least four different endings.

Watching the same scenes over and over again does become redundant, especially if Robert Culp, its only established actor, isn't in them. Your enjoyment depends of how willing you are to stick with it. Since there is no formal pause or save features, you will need to make a commitment each time you play.

If you overlook the boredom factor and the bad acting, you may appreciate the complexity this game offers. Details change subtly according to four different storylines and it's difficult to tell which version you're playing at first. Red herrings abound, but with some memorization and perhaps some note taking, you will know where and when to point your camera. You just don't want to be late moving your cursor to the window where the murder will take place.

Even if Voyeur isn't a great game, it's still an interesting social artifact, revealing the perceptions and attitudes of American politics in the 1990s. The script never reveals Hawke's party affiliation, but one can easily surmise that he is a Republican. A letter from Ronald Reagan hangs in his office, he doesn't embrace environmentalism as a campaign issue, and he insists on showcasing family values as a way to appeal to his voting base. Another glaring clue to his Republicanism is his support for a missile defense system (MDS), an idea similar to the Reagan's SDI program (dubbed "Star Wars" by opponents) in the 1980s. Hawke's conservatism shouldn't be surprising. The entertainment industry has often painted Republicans as bad guys (see The American President, Bullworth, The Contender, Dave, or most episodes of The West Wing).

Voyeur has left its legacy on the industry. It is a game more known than actually played. It did have something of a cult following, however, and this led to a sequel for the PC a few years later. The original's star, Robert Culp, was apparently not turned off by this acting experience; he has since lent his talents to PC hit, Half-Life 2.

For a full-motion-video title, Voyeur does what it does rather well, but like most FMV games, it demonstrates that films and video games should remain two separate mediums ... at least for now.

*Amazingly, this game was not brought up at the U.S. Senate hearings held in late 1993 exploring "inappropriate content" in video games. One would think that Senators would take greater umbrage with a sex-laden game involving a politician rather than focusing their attention around the relatively benign FMV title, Night Trap, which only showed girls running around a house in flimsy teddies.
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