Foolish Fancy: Judge Dredd Games

I’ll probably end up doing one of these for every geeky thing I loved as a kid. Last time it was Transformers, but currently I’m deep in a Judge Dredd phase (mostly thanks to this lovely new collection. I’ve subscribed, but every time I think about how much it’s going to cost me if I go the distance I curl into a ball and start weeping uncontrollably). I’m still bitter about how underwhelming Dredd vs Death was, so I’ll try to salve the wound by imaging how games could get Mega-City One’s finest right.

BLOCK MANIA

I’m thinking something like Atom Zombie Smasher but side-on to a impossibly huge towerblock (or two, or three) that’s descended into riotous chaos, with you playing the all-seeing satellite eye of the Justice Department, despatch Judges, air support, meatwagons, targeted missiles and more to try and deal with the violence as it spreads from level to level.

CURSED EARTH

A roguelike set in the blasted Earth outside Mega-City One’s walls, with Dredd trekking through a proc-gen wasteland trying to stay alive as he battles starvation, muties, radiation and, of course, sporadic appearances from the Angel Gang.

MEGA-CITY NOIR

Following a trail of evidence and bodies in pursuit of serial killer and master of disguise PJ Maybe. Ideally set in an open-world with freeform Lawmaster driving/chases, more realistically Telltale-style but with actual puzzles/detective work. Call in Anderson for psychic assists with interrogating difficult suspects.

Actually JUDGE DREDD: A TELLTALE GAME

Only every single conversation option entails charging whoever you’re talking to with various lengths of jail sentence, maiming or summary execution.

22ND CENTURY DEMOCRACY

Management-style game in which the Judges must hold and rig elections to ensure only pathetic or powerless politicians win, and simultaneously lure out/arrest troublemaking liberals and protest groups. It’s for the greater good.

APOCALYPSE WAR

Basically Devcon reskinned with Megacity One vs East Meg One.

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 JUDGES

Dredd must voyage around the globe, checking in with the Judges of every other Megacity and experiencing their strange customs and culture, but if he’s not back in time then Chief Judge Cal goes bananas and stages a coup. Again.

DREDD: CALL OF JUSTICE

Open world FPS in the vein of the apparently cancelled Prey 2, but starring the lawman of the future rather than a bounty hunter. It’s just a day in the life of Dredd – take on missions (i.e. respond to crimes) of your choice, bust heads for kicks, run into random robot riots or mutie invasions, explore the Mega-City, grab 10 in the sleep machines whenever you’re flagging.

Oh, I could go on, but basically, anything but the Dark Judges. I like ’em and all, but I much prefer the hard sci-fi of Dredd’s dystopic Mega-City, rather than the mystical voodoo and dimension-hopping stuff Judge Death and chums bring to the table. Dredd is at its best when it’s about politics – the terrible turn justice has taken in the name of preserving order and trying to keep a city with an impossible headcount stable. The futility of it, the brutality of it.

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58 Comments

  1. Earl-Grey says:

    Funny you should write this now, just as I’ve rekindled my passion for Dredd…
    Has the Hivemind finally aquired it’s own Psi Division?

    • bill says:

      Me too. Someone just lent me several of the Judge Dredd Case Files collections and I’ve just burned through the first 5-6 years of Dredd.

      It was interesting, because I never read 2000AD regularly as a kid, so acutally my image of Dredd was about 50% real memory and about 50% made up.

      The first few are a heck of a lot less epic and serious than I remembered/imagined. Having disliked the Stallone movie and loved the recent one, I was a little surprised to find that the stallone movie is probably a lot closer to the weird random comedy tone of the early dredds than the new movie.
      Though TBH early dredd seems to be REALLY inconsistent in tone and character. But it’s also incredibly creative at times.

      It’s a lot less violent and generally less epic than I remembered. But in later issues they seem to have started to string together a few more epic stories like The Judge Child.

      PS/ I’ve been saying for years that Rebellion need to do something with the 2000AD license. First step – 2000AD humble comic and game bundle. 2nd step – give the smaller license out to some indie developers to play with. 3rd step – make bigger budget Dredd/Rogue games to tie into the next Dredd movie.

  2. Rizlar says:

    Yes! Something like the last suggestion seems most obvious and most appealing.

    Procedurally generated Mega-City 1 with layers, dead ends, convoluted slabways and blocks. Probably isometric perspective. Play as Dredd, tasked by your bike computer to hunt down various targets/respond to requests. Upon completing your mission Dredd dispenses justice. Tasks vary appropriately, from Dredd noticing a littering offence and dispensing cube time, through vehicle theft, suspect chases all the way up to massive gang brawls. Basically it would be like GTA 1 or 2 except you are supposed to be the law and it takes place in an endlessly sprawling, massively multi-level Big Meg.

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      Harlander says:

      Sounds like something in the spirit of the highly ambitious roguelikes could work for that. Cataclysm, with better NPC behaviour, suchlike

      • Rizlar says:

        Yeah, I was thinking roguelikey. The important things to get right would be the complexity and depth of the city and the joy of riding through it, using the tools at Dredd’s disposal to complete tasks (how fking cool would ricochet and heatseeker rounds look from a top-down perspective?!). No need for unnecessary simulation though, it would probably be best to just generate the city on the fly, so that if you turn around the city looks completely different. And like you say, NPC behaviours would be vital, it would have to be fun to chase someone in a vehicle then into a foot chase or to watch a mob tearing up the place (the latter requiring a totally different and much simpler AI than the former).

        Thematically there would also be something interesting about a joyous ride through the city, a chase and a desperate fight, then when the perp lies at Dredd’s feet all control is taken away from the player – there are no choices, the law is absolute. So onwards, to the next chaotic mess.

        • Guvornator says:

          I’d just like to be a judge in Mega City One. I’m not a long time Dredd fan, but I got out one of the The Complete Case Files from the library after watching the utterly underrated Dredd 3D*. What impressed me was the richness and depth of the lore. There were some stories where Dredd wasn’t the hero, but merely a catalyst, or just turned up at the end to lock up the perps and clean up the carnage. I want to be part of that, not as Dredd, but as my own Judge, with my own way of handling things.

          *I still haven’t forgiven the human race for not pushing it into profit.

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            Harlander says:

            I completely agree. When it comes to a licensed property I know as well as Judge Dredd, I’d much rather play as one of the many unnamed characters implied by the setting than be constrained by continuity and an existing character

          • salattu says:

            I’ve been reading all the Complete Case Files I can find at the library as well and share your view. I couldn’t *be* Dredd, and would much rather be some other judge witnessing the lead characters’ work in burst here and there as the game touched on some of the major plot points affecting the whole of MegaCity 1. It would be neat to start off in the academy as someone like Giant.

        • Shadowcat says:

          Your game is very confusing. First it’s isometric, then it’s top-down, and then it’s some view where turning around changes what you can see. (How many years in the Cubes for wilful inconsistency while describing a hypothetical game?)

          • Rizlar says:

            Isometric is top-down enough for the elements I was describing. Turning around just means going back the way you came.

    • Stevostin says:

      Count me in on the last suggestion too.

  3. jezcentral says:

    Or make another Rogue Trooper game.

  4. Colonel J says:

    Anyone else have fond memories of the Judge Dredd board game?

    Man, we loved that game. But so long ago that I’m not sure how good it really was, in hindsight. We played it as a break in our D&D sessions, so much so the cards were dog eared and torn.

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    corinoco says:

    I’m going directly to GTAMC1 – just do GTA as Judge Dredd. Just to make it sensible, you can play as Dredd, Anderson or a creep.

    It amuses me that I acquired my taste for it when Dredd was in the Sunday comics in the newspaper. Clearly no editor ever looked at it – they just said “huh, comics, must be for kids”. It was delightfully subversive, and of course so very violent. Way better than the Phantom, who only ever punched people, and only used his pistols for boring stuff like shooting ropes.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Or “Dredd’s Row” anyone?

      The Third Street Precinct needs a new leader, only Dredd can go in, bust heads, defeat gangs, commandeer vehicles, take over territory (with watchtowers and peepers), unlock new weapons and vehicles AND keep the muties out. Throw in Batman:Arkham melee combat and you have a winner :)

    • ZerodB says:

      When I first played GTA3 I remember thinking how amazing a Judge Dredd game based around it would be… someone make this.

    • Shadowcat says:

      I don’t think we had Dredd in the newspapers, but we certainly had The Phantom. I didn’t look at the papers consistently, though, so I’ll always remember those strips as being an intriguing but utterly-incomprehensible look into a random two-minutes of a story that had probably lasted for years. It was always a bit surreal compared to all the stand-alone comics.

      I can only imagine that a Dredd comic would have seemed similar.

  6. Kefren says:

    There is a boardgame called Block Mania. With the expansion I play games of four players, each with their own block. Rah rah rah! It can be fiddly but there’s nothing as much fun as a gang of crocs managing to plant a firebomb in the enemy’s power house and disabling their lifts, lights and pedways, and leading to them losing loads of juves trying to get past the fire and repair things.

    • skink74 says:

      I once lost a game of that on my first turn after one of my opponent’s citidef units planted explosives in the basement and had an unbelievable run of luck with the subsequent structural damage rolls, leading to my whole block collapsing. Hilarious.

      • Kefren says:

        Ah, those pesky structural damage rolls. Fiddly with dice and counters, but fun to see the cracks spreading upwards!

  7. Turkey says:

    Limited open world Deus Ex style with guns and conversation hubs and mission areas that you can solve in different ways.

  8. Shiloh says:

    I was in a Judge Anderson story once, I think it was “Shamballa” (where she goes to Tibet). Just a single frame cameo (with my dad, oddly). We’d met the artist Arthur Ranson on the Trans-Siberian Express on the way to Irkutsk, he was doing some photography/research for a story and was looking for background Soviet-era colour (or lack of it, if Sverdlovsk is anything to go by).

    He was part of our group, I plied him with cheap vodka and he put us in the mag, which was good of him.

  9. Easy says:

    I <3 Dredd.

  10. Janichsan says:

    Oh yes, please. An open-world Dredd game would be plain awesome.

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    MonkeyMonster says:

    Well thanks for informing me on another monthly drain on my bank account. I’ve got a number of the collections already – Mechanismo and Young Death being most excellent but still couldn’t resist… Perhaps it’s time to get my 7 y/o niece into liking the judges… Proceedurally created could work but most of the city has been semi established I’d say in the various story arcs from the comics. It’s the proper scale that would be more difficult. Each tower is a (simcity2000) archipelago. Chuffin huge. You could have a mmorgable thing that allowed for full on block wars… :D

  12. Pich says:

    With GW being so license-happy these days, i can see an Adeptu Arbites game in the near future and they are basically rip-off of Judge Dredd

  13. GallonOfAlan says:

    Survival horror on Deadworld pitted against the Dark Judges and Sisters Of Death please!

  14. Trelow says:

    Became a supporter just to read the Transfomers post that was linked.
    More Transformers please.

  15. G_Man_007 says:

    I’m working my way through the entire run of 2000AD on my tablet, currently between Progs 70 and 100; the early stuff is rather hard going compared to the soon to come upturn in quality a couple of hundred Progs in, the excellent 80’s/90’s heyday, and the current nuanced work (Trifecta was a triumph and a stroke of genius in one – THAT Prog was unexpected and impressive in equal measure).

    Still, I’m reading Dredd’s journey across the Cursed Earth to save Mega City 2 from a plague; this is where the 60’s/70’s traditional comic monologuing nonsense begins to fade away, and the more modern approach fully brought to the fore by seminal efforts such as Watchmen and The Killing Joke (by writers and artists who cut their teeth in the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic such as Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland) takes over. Not to mention the World of Dredd begins to fully flesh itself from here on out.

    I’d kill for more good Dredd games and an expanded 2000AD gaming universe; c’mon Rebellion, sort it out!

    • ZerodB says:

      I will never understand why Rebellion are doggedly pursuing their Nazi Zombie Sniper bollocks when they’re sitting on a huge number of much-loved untapped licenses. I know 2000AD has only ever really been big in the UK and they have to chase a global audience, but surely Dredd at least is well-known enough to do some tie-ins?

      Or just go the Games Workshop route and license their properties out to any indie who wants it? Preferably with a little more quality control than they’re exhibiting at the moment…

      • Guvornator says:

        The obvious question is –

        would you want Rebellion to make another Dredd game?

        I have to say I’m not totally sold on the idea…

      • tormos says:

        Maybe this is a bad measure but I am a nerdily inclined, occasional comics reading, internet using 22 year old American male and I had heard of Judge Dredd maybe like twice before this article? So I think you may be overstating the international audience here.

  16. ZerodB says:

    Great article! I been mentally designing my own Dredd game recently, which is:

    Crime Blitz – top-down Hotline Miami/Monaco style, play as a squad of Judges with their own abilities (ie can switch between Psi/Tek/Med/Street Judge etc), working your way up an apartment block doing crime blitzes. Each apartment is procedurally generated, has a random number of inhabitants doing some kind of wrong-doing which generally results in a shootout. Gets harder as you go up the block, as apartments get bigger and more affluent (ie they can afford more hired goons) – every once in a while you hit a floor with a CitiDef store where you can get new equipment, or a Med Centre where you can heal everyone up and maybe upgrade stats. Could do big pitched battles in the tween-block plaza as boss levels. In my head, it’d be ace.

  17. Jac says:

    Bethesda should pick this up for fallout treatment. Or repurpose prey2.

    Can’t remember there being many Dredd games tbh – only one I remember playing was a snes platformer type one. Was pretty decent

    • salattu says:

      See, I’d love a first person MC1 open world game too, but no open world game I’ve seen can touch the scope you’d need to be in MC1.

      Perhaps not coincidentally, no open world game has been detailed or big enough to satisfy.

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    Harlander says:

    I think Telltale could, nay, should handle a game based on Low Lifeor The Simping Detective. They’ve already shown they can handle a stylised comic-esque look

  19. UKPartisan says:

    I’ve been reading Dredd since 1984 when I inherited a load of 2000AD back issues from my aunt’s boyfriend. I’ve been obsessed with Dredd ever since, my wife despairs at the piles of 2000AD and Dredd comics that are stacked up around the house.

    There was a Dredd game published by Melbourne House for 8 bit home computers in 1987, it was a multiscreen platformer and it was atrocious. In 1991 Virgin Mastertronic also published a Dredd game which was mediocre at best.

    link to gamebox64.com

    link to gamebox64.com

  20. Lodin says:

    Might be worth a mention that there is a JD choose your own adventure book from Tin Man Games for iOS and Android. It’s pretty fun if you have fond memories of the Fighting Fantasy or Lone Wolf books.
    link to gamebookadventures.com

  21. Chaz says:

    I did think about getting that new collection myself, but £20 a month is just a bit much for me to justify, especially since I’ll very likely already have most of the Dredd stuff in 2000Ad’s and Dredd comics and books etc. Titan books reprinted a lot of the best Dredd stuff. I just won’t really have anything more recent than about the mid 90’s.

    • salattu says:

      I wasn’t aware of this collection before and began to salivate upon reading the first paragraph of this article. Then I realized I was really just wanting to dive into the Complete Case Files. I’m rereading everything Dredd I can get my hands on in the library, and it all started with Comple Case Files 15. Numbers 14-16 contain probably my favourite arcs, followed by the terrible Judgement Day in #17.

  22. Archonsod says:

    Or make a SWAT style game where you’re a Judge cadet with Dredd as the instructor. Take on various crimes in the streets and blocks of Mega-City 1, with the added challenge of summary execution if you fail to follow correct judicial procedure.

    • salattu says:

      “Correct judicial procedure”: You could include a spot-the-difference-game a la Papers Please, where you have to match elements of the crime to law in the law database to arrive at a sentence.

  23. mattevansc3 says:

    I’d much prefer a game based in Mega City One as opposed to a game where you play Judge Dredd.

    I love 2000AD and Judge Dredd but he’s not the most flexible of characters with Bury My Knee at Wounded Heart being the exception rather than the rule. Its why the new Judge Dredd movie worked and the prior one didn’t. You don’t humanise Dredd, Dredd is the establishment in all its rigidity and uncaring harshness. Instead you bring along a more humane character that the audience can identify with. Having the game centre around a cadet gives you that gateway to Mega City One which is meant to be alien to us and allows the flexibility of choice and failure.

  24. Themadcow says:

    X-Com Apocalypse was originally visioned as a Judge Dredd game, fact fans:

    link to nowgamer.com

    “At one point they did want me to do a game based on their Judge Dredd board game.

    I wanted to do a strategy game where you controlled a squad of judges and sent them to crimes, with a tactical combat sequence where you dealt with the perps, but they didn’t like it, and opted for some sideways-scrolling platform game with Judge Dredd on his bike, which was awful.”

    “The original idea for Apocalypse was somewhat going back to the Judge Dredd concept I had many years before, which was having a city that was a living, breathing entity with different factions and corporations with economic relationships to each other, and populated by traffic and people moving around. So we took that idea and put it in the X-COM universe”

  25. skyturnedred says:

    I actually really liked the first hour or so of the Dredd vs Death game. Going around arresting perps and sending them to the cube was fun as hell.

  26. bill says:

    I’ve been saying for years that Rebellion need to do something with the 2000AD license. First step – 2000AD humble comic and game bundle. 2nd step – give the smaller license out to some indie developers to play with. 3rd step – make bigger budget Dredd/Rogue games to tie into the next Dredd movie. Step 4 – Make sequel to Dredd movie.

    I’ll say it again here in the vain hope that anyone from Rebellion actually remembers that they own the 2000AD licenses and could be either using that to make loads of cool games, or at the very least trying to raise the profile of it online so that people will want to buy cool games in the future.

  27. MasterMahan says:

    Day of Chaos: Pandemic in Mega-City One, but jobs like Med-Judge or Meatwagon Driver. You can destroy infected blocks to try and control the spread, but at the cost of increasing civil unrest.

  28. ansionnach says:

    Perhaps an adventure game like Beneath a Steel Sky? Come on Revolution, must be dull making Broken Sword games all the time!