Forget about the Muscles from Brussels, Chuck "The Human Meme" Norris and The Ponytail of Power (that's Steven Seagal, of course): today I'm rifling through the videogame career of the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger by looking at some of the many ways his giant Austrianness was captured as a videogame sprite. His rise as an action star in the Eighties occurred at the same time as the explosion of home gaming, so it's no surprise that not only are there plenty of games based on his movies but that Arnie himself was a model for so many videogame characters. He was built like a videogame character, that's for sure. Anyway, let's get started with Pack-In-Video's attempt to bring Predator to the NES.
Predator, NES, 1988
Well, that hasn't gotten us off to a great start, has it? A pastel pink Arnie who makes a mockery of the concept of camouflage by dressing like an 80s aerobics instructor. Of course, that may well be why he's pink, because if he was dressed in his usual jungle fatigues the player would lose sight of him as he melted into the background. Predator is a very difficult game and I've never made much progress through it, but I assume that instead of fooling the Predator's infrared vision by coating himself in mud, NES Arnie tricks the remorseless alien killer with the liberal application of glitter body gel.
Because Schwarzenegger is famous and it's important that the people buying the game know that it has a famous person in it, this particular sprite history also gives me a chance to share some more detailed likenesses of Arnie from the various title screens and status bars of the games covered. In the case of the the NES Predator it's a pretty good likeness too, even if his eyes have a certain distracted air to them, as though he's trying to remember whether he posted his mum's birthday card before he set off for the jungle.
Predator, Amstrad CPC, 1987
Did I miss a scene in Predator where Dutch was pink or something? Maybe the games are based on an earlier version of the script from before the line "if it bleeds, we can kill it" was changed from "if we paint ourselves fuchsia, we can kill it." Okay, this one I can just about accept as being seen through the Predator's heat vision, even if it does imply that Arnie's armpits, eyeballs and hair are all the same temperature.
His in-game sprite isn't too bad, considering the technological limitations of the time. It's shaped like a human, and a soldier in the jungle might conceivably wear brown clothes. Yeah, I'll take it.
The Running Man, Commodore 64, 1989
In The Running Man, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards, a former cop who must participate in a deadly game show after being framed for a crime he didn't commit. In the Commodore 64 version of The Running Man, he does this in the nude, possibly while smeared with butter.
The Running Man, Amiga, 1989
The graphics are understandably much enhanced in the Amiga port of the game, although I'm not sure that's necessarily a good thing when it brings fresh new detail to Arnie's outfit. While it doesn't capture the "quilted" and "silvery" aspects that this costume possesses in the movie, it is still a bright yellow full-body jumpsuit, the clothing equivalent of a barbed-wire sandwich or a DVD of sex tips presented by your parents - something that could only be used as an extreme punishment for a terrible crime. Hang on, that makes it rather appropriate.
Anatomy-wise it's a mixed bag: Arnie's bicep is as big as his head, which seems about right, but I have no idea what's going on with his lower-right leg. I think his calf has secretly been working out on its own. Overall, it does not seem unreasonable to surmise that Ben Richards was feeling a little sensitive about his weight before his big TV appearance and so he chose a jumpsuit that works like those "illusion slimming" dresses with the panels down the sides.
Red Heat, Amstrad CPC, 1989
Okay, I'm starting to notice a theme here.
Pinkness aside, the the most notable feature of this sprite is that it has captured a facial expression of pure, malevolent evil. A stone-jawed grimace, eyes that are nothing but black pits devoid of emotion - if it it wasn't the colour of chewed bubblegum there could be some real menace to this sprite. At any rate, I now have a good idea of how the Doom movie would have looked like if they'd cast Arnie to the play the Baron of Hell. Awesome, that's how.
Red Heat, Commodore 64, 1989
By comparison, the sprite from the C64 version of Red Heat is a little dull, but at least he's hugely muscular and flesh coloured, a combination it took us a surprisingly long time to reach.
Don't worry, though, because the C64 version of Red Heat isn't without its own moment of graphical madness. In this case it's the loading screen where both Arnold and Jim Belushi have fallen right to the bottom of the uncanny valley. Amateurishly painted shop mannequins with the piercing blue eyes of a white tiger? Nightmarish latex masks like the ones featured in the movie White Chicks? God only knows, but I'd never have thought that Jim Belushi could look the better of the two. Also, in the Red Heat movie poster that this is traced from Jim Belushi has a cigarette hanging out of his gob, but it's been removed for the game's artwork. The fact that ultraviolence remains uncensored while other things are cut is a topic still relevant today, but in Red Heat's case it feels especially egregious because the game's composed of literally nothing but a shirtless man smashing other shirtless men's faces in by headbutting their noses through the backs of their skulls.
Total Recall, ZX Spectrum, 1991
The Spectrum's limited colour palette means that this incarnation of Quaid from Total Recall will cause your eyes to go on strike if you look at it too long, but it does capture the essence of Arnie quite well in that it has a freakishly large upper body. This sprite looks like the Incredible Hulk in slacks and sensible shoes, and it's making me nostalgic for the glory days of Teletext. For those of you not familiar with Teletext it was a sort of television-based pre-internet internet, or movie listings and football scores displayed in chunky pixels if you want to be more prosaic about it. This Arnie would be right at home on Teletext, possibly as a guest host of Bamboozle. There we go, I've set a new record for the reference that only the very narrowest slice of the VGJunk readership will get.
Total Recall, NES, 1991
Still mostly green but in a manner that's much gentler on the eyes, the NES version of Quaid is an oddly put-together sort, a shambling meat-marionette whose waist isn't attached correctly, the legs poking out at unusual angles as he tries to get himself into the pose of a Victorian bare-knuckle fighter.
A good recreation of the Governator's mug on the title screen, mind you: his skull may be a little taller than usual, but a solid likeness on the whole that's topped off with an expression of faint amusement, like maybe he's remember his favourite bits from the movie. "I used an elevator to rip his arms off and then as he was falling to his death I said 'see you at the party, Richter!' so that was cool."
The Terminator, Megadrive / Genesis, 1991
Admittedly I'm not one hundred percent certain that these sprites are supposed to represent Arnold - they could easily be a different model of Terminator, one based on the generic ideal of an eighties action star rather than a specific actor. It definitely doesn't look much like Arnold. The one firing its gun in particular looks far too cheerful to be Arnie. Far too cheerful to be a Terminator, even - this is supposed to be the efficient, emotionless extermination of the human race, not Skynet's Sillytime Smilestravaganza.
Also, the reason that you get not one, not two, but three of the same sprite in the screenshot above is that the Megadrive Terminator game takes place in an alternate Terminator reality where Skynet has the ability to build a new Terminator every seven seconds, leading to an extremely difficult game where killer robots swarm around like germs on a dive bar's urinals and I couldn't get a shot where they weren't overlapping each other like a murderous conga line.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day, NES, 1992
The NES take on Arnold's most famous role sees the T-800 Terminator wearing the biker leathers from the movie and... an eyepatch, possibly? It's hard to tell when the face is made of about 20 pixels. Dare I say that this Terminator is looking a little... chunky? Somewhat well-fed, like maybe they should have called this one Tum-inator 2: Fudgement Day? Oof, I'm sorry, that was bad. Here's a picture to make up for it.
It's nice to have constants in your life, things that are reassuringly unchanging. The fact that metal death skeletons from the future who wear Arnold Schwarzenegger like a winter coat are still The Coolest is one of those constants that I can cling to like driftwood in life's stormy waters.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Commodore 64, 1991
I don't know who this guy is, but he's not Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's the stunt double, the bootleg action figure, the star of The Asylum mockbuster movie The Eradicator. Impressively meaty forearms, though, even if a flat-top so perfectly level that you can land planes on it and a tiny button nose are making him less intimidating than he perhaps should be.
"Hasta mañana, kid. Follow me if you don't want to die."
Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Amiga, 1991
When Ocean made the Amiga version of Terminator 2, they were aware they had the license and they could have made the characters look like they did in the movie, right? This screenshot is taken from the Terminator's first encounter with the T-1000 in the mall, a scene where Arnie is wearing one of the most iconic outfits in cinema history - an outfit that Ocean apparently decided was just too good to use in their game, and so we get a Terminator wearing a spray-on shirt instead of his famous leather jacket and shades. Would it really have been that difficult to give his some sunglasses? He's even got a more accurately-proportioned nose in this one so they wouldn't slide right off his face.
Last Action Hero, Game Boy, 1993
"Arnold, honey, it's very cold today so make sure you wrap up warm if you're going out to fight crime, okay?"
Last Action Hero, SNES, 1993
Last Action Dad, more like. He reached middle age, saw that his hair was thinning and decided to reclaim his lost youth by buying a leather jacket and some blue jeans but he's not fooling anyone. Just look at those dark circles around his eyes, he's a tired old man with nothing to offer a world obsessed with youth and dynamism, and as such it's hard for me to not sympathise with with him. It's only that fact that he chose a jacket the colour of infant diarrhoea that's stopping me from declaring my solidarity.
Last Action Hero, Amiga, 1994
If your t-shirt is so tight that it shows off each abdominal muscle, then your t-shirt is too tight. Not that I would tell this lumbering sasquatch of a man that, I'd be too worried that his pop my head off and use my skull as a drinking bowl during his primitive bacchanalian rituals. I like that they didn't give him a face, just the idea of a face. It's a daring piece of impressionistic spritework, a Monet of the home console age.
Oh look, they did give him a face. Just not Arnold Schwarzenegger's face.
Alien vs. Predator, Arcade, 1994
As always seems to be the case with these sprite history article, we end on a high note with a Capcom arcade game. For legal reasons the Dutch sprite in Alien vs. Predator might not technically be based on Arnie, but it still totally is and what's more it captures his essence better than any of the others we've seen today. It's huge, it's imposing, it has loosely-defined facial features that still somehow suggest that their owner struggles with English pronunciation and I love it. Even better, someone at Capcom thought "you know what would make Schwarzenegger even cooler? If he had a giant robot arm," and that person was one thousand percent correct. He uses his robot arm to punch xenomorphs right in the mouth. Both their mouths, even, and with that I'm going to end this article and go play some Alien vs. Predator.