Remember that time Iron Maiden made an FPS game? Neither did we!
Here at UDS we talk about a bunch of different things. We have a YouTube channel for videos games, films, music – heck we’d make one about sandwiches if we had time. That’s why when we find something that crosses multiple mediums, genres or interests, we love to check it out.
That’s why after seeing Iron Maiden live in London the other week, I was reminded of the game Ed Hunter, this weird footnote in my childhood game collection that probably isn’t worth bringing up in 2023, but damn it it’s my YouTube channel and I can waste my time however I like.
So let’s go Somewhere In Time (the mid-90s, to be specific) to start our story. Maiden were in a weird place – struggling to keep their former relevance with long-standing vocalist Bruce Dickinson being replaced by the frankly less good Blaze Bayley, and their style of classic horn-raising metal falling out of favour to the burgeoning Nu-Metal scene.
Not ones to simply fade into obscurity, the Maiden lads started toying with the idea of releasing a video game. Evidence of this can be found all the way back in 1996, when on the cover of their greatest hits album Best of the Beast, there appeared a little sticker. This read “Available soon… Melt, Eddie’s own state-of-the-art 3D game”. This is literally the best picture I could find of a copy of the CD featuring the sticker, so I’m not exactly sure how many copies were printed with it, but either way it showed something was in the works.
The only thing is, apparently it was bad… real bad. Even Blaze called it “crap” (his exact word). So with little more than a teaser announcement, the Iron Maiden game was cancelled with no knowledge of its genre, format or basically anything.
But much like the band’s famous zombie mascot Eddie, it just wouldn’t stay dead. The project, now named Ed Hunter, was rebooted by developers Synthetic Dimensions, and much more enthusiasm from the band.
Founding band member Steve Harris said “it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. I don’t get shocked very often, but Ed Hunter was so good. It’s like walking into a 3D version of the Somewhere in Time album cover, like going into the bar at the Ruskin Arms, only full of aliens and stuff. You go in and we’ll be, like, holograms playing in the corner, or sitting at a table gambling. And then you’ve actually got the game itself, which is, like, this big shoot-’em-up chase through space and time to catch Eddie. It’s brilliant.”
Big words from a man who definitely didn’t have a financial stake in the success of the game. But the thing is, of all metal bands to work on a video game, Iron Maiden made the most sense (aside from maybe Kiss, but anyone who calls them metal is clearly only judging that on looks). All of Maiden’s music makes you feel like you’re going into battle, and there’s already an iconic character in Eddie to base everything around. If I weren’t more than a babbling baby at this point, you could colour me excited.
So eventually in July of 1999 (to coincide with Bruce Dickinson’s first tour since rejoining the band), Ed Hunter released as a three disc package, mixing another greatest hits collection with the game itself.
Now I’ve waffled on about everything around the game except for the game itself, so I should probably do that now.
In Ed Hunter, players assumed the role of the eponymous protagonist, a self-proclaimed “Headhunter” tasked with tracking down various incarnations of Eddie throughout time and space. From ancient Egypt to futuristic cityscapes, you’ll go through a plethora of different levels based on the album covers of Maiden’s discography.
It’s ostensibly a 3D on-rails shooter, where you’ll have to blast your way through armies of hooligans, monsters and eventually the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to secure your target.
In terms of raw gameplay, there really isn’t much more to the core gameplay than that. The real reason you check it out is the Maiden theming. You get the music, the album concepts and frankly that’s enough to make up for some pretty shallow gameplay.
But the thing is, this was 1999. There’s no getting past the fact that this was after Goldeneye had released on the N64 and even longer since Doom had shown us what could be done with the FPS genre. With that in mind, it felt dated even at the time. The gameplay is solid, but it gets really repetitive. Like I said, if you’re not big into Maiden, it’s not going to be for you.
With that being said, it’s fun to see a band try something like this. I’d rather see bonkers projects like this than bands that phone it in with a well-established formula. It makes me think of other groups who could move into the realm of video games like this. Are there any that you’d like to see do a crossover? Let me know in the comments below, I’d genuinely love to read your thoughts.
And while you’re down there, don’t forget to subscribe for plenty more videos on all things gaming, and check out UDS Music for interviews with bands and all manner of other musical fun.
Until then my name is Tom, this has been UDS and we’ll see you next time.