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JFK Reloaded

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Kirk Ewing

GAME DEVELOPER:Traffic Management

GAME PUBLISHER:Traffic Management

Copyright 2004, Traffic Management

No doubt one of the most controversial games ever made, JFK Reloaded is a shareware game made by a Scottish company called Traffic Management that lets you recreate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Released on the 41st anniversary of the assassination in 2004, the game not surprisingly provoked a huge public backlash ranging from Ted Kennedy (who called it “despicable”) to scores of media criticisms. Perhaps due to intense backlash, the game was removed from circulation in 2005, and the $9.99 shareware game is no longer sold or supported. Let me say here first that I *was* concerned about whether this 40-year-old event is still ‘fresh enough’ in the minds of Americans for them to find the game offensive – that’s why I asked people’s opinions about whether they think it’s a good idea to upload the full version before doing so. Anyone who finds such games offensive is advised to stop reading now.

While I do find the game morally questionable, the designers deserve credits for shying away from focusing on pure “shock value” (which would be extremely easy to do, given the circumstances) – focusing instead on the physics behind the vent. The ‘official goal’ of JFK Reloaded according to Traffic is “…to debunk assassination conspiracy theories by buttressing the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and fired only three bullets.” Accordingly, the game places you in the exact spot that Oswald stood, and offers you the chance to re-create his three shots (the last of which was the one that caused “the fatal wound”). The perfect score of 1,000 is awarded if you can replicate the three bullets’ trajectories perfectly. You can replay as many times as you want.

As a simulation, JFK Reloaded is quite good: no matter how I shoot, I see bullets behave in ways that one would expect: smashing glasses, bouncing off the limo, etc. The graphics, while not state-of-the-art, is more than adequate: all passengers of the fateful limo, from JFK to his wife, driver and everyone else, are recognizable. After the event, you get a ballistics reports that tell you how your bullets traveled, and how closely they match Oswald’s shots.

As a game, JFK Reloaded falls short mostly because its objective and context are far too narrow: your only objective is to recreate that tragedy. And no matter how you try to cloak it, the game’s moral dimension still looms large and has a real impact; I am not American, yet I still felt my heart skip a beat when looking through the rifle scope in the game, seeing JFK’s face squarely in the crosshairs. For conspirary buffs, though, it is an interesting ‘tool’ that tries to prove the feasibility of the ‘magic bullet’ theory, and therefore they are probably the only ones who will have ‘fun’ with this game that we can all do without. The ‘educational value’ of the game, in my opinion, is questionable, but it does try to do more than simply shock and titillate. Preserved on this site for historical value as ‘abandonware’ – proceed at your own risk.



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