Sure, nowadays you can stream just about any movie to your computer. But in the '90s, you could be the star. That was the main selling point of Digital Pictures' unreleased CD-ROM game Maximum Surge — well, that, and getting to fight bad guys alongside Baywatch star Yasmine Bleeth.
Originally set for release on multiple platfoms in 1996, Maximum Surge was a full-on post-apocalyptic sci-fi adventure set in the year 2076, some fifty years after terrorists destroyed ALL THE WATER with nuclear bombs. A genius scientist named Drexel, played by Walter Koenig, aka "Chekov" of TV's Star Trek, has discovered a means of recreating — "condensing," if you will — the precious H20, but being an evil dickweed with plans to turn the surviving humans into cyborg killers with butt-shaped foreheads, he's not very helpful. As a member of the Resistance, it falls to you and Jo, played by the tanktop-clad Ms. Bleeth, to infiltrate Drexel's fortresses and break his hold over the wastelands.
Like Digital Pictures' other CD-ROM games, such as the infamous Night Trap and Sewer Shark, Maximum Surge mixed full motion video of live actors with rudimentary arcade-style gameplay — in this case, on-rails shooting sequences. But where DP's early games had had featured minimal sets and crude greenscreen effects, Maximum Surge boasted pretty decent production values reminiscent of syndicated genre shows from the period, at least on par with the average episode of, say, Viper, M.A.N.T.I.S., or Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict.
However, by the mid-'90s, interest in "interactive movies" had died down, with consumers abandoning the genre in favor of more sophisticated games boasting 3D polygon-based graphics. Digital Pictures itself shut down before the end of the decade, its assets acquired by an outfit called Cyber Cinema Interactive. Although Maximum Surge was never released, Cyber Cinema recycled its FMV sequences for a 2003 direct-to-video feature called Game Over, which combined an hour of new footage with sequences from other DP games like Corpse Killer, Supreme Warrior, and of course, Quarterback Attack With Mike Ditka. (Apparently the company had abandoned the "Interactive" part by then — though presumably the "Special Features" on the DVD included chapter selection.) The clips were recontextualized as part of a larger TRON-meets-The Matrix-meets-Lawnmower Man framing story involving a VR gamer and an evil but basically pissy robot adversary. But the footage from Surge looks surprisingly decent, even if it's at a lower resolution than the new material.
Today, we live in a different world. Games are bigger than movies, PCs are a vanishing breed, and the Yaz hung up her Speedo a long time ago. But '90s cheese lives on, and not just because it's non-biodegradeable and stays in your body even after you die. I would put Surge on the shortlist for a MST3K revival or RiffTrax. It hasn't just earned that honor — it's a birthright.