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Kingpin: Life of Crime is a First-Person Shooter based on the Quake II engine and released by Interplay Entertainment in June 1999. It was developed by Xatrix Entertainment, also known for Cyberia, Redneck Rampage, and the single-player portion of Return to Castle Wolfenstein (as Gray Matter Interactive).
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Set in an unnamed, Diesel Punk flavored, dystopic Retro Universe city, players take control of an unnamed low-level criminal (referred to as "Thug" by the in-game chat, and therefore by the game's fans as well). Some time before the events of the game, Thug crossed paths with Nikki Blanco, head of the local Blanco Industries chemical plant, and also a resident Lieutenant of the titular Kingpin, the criminal overlord of the city. For reasons unknown, Blanco wants the Thug banished from his turf, Poisonville; to that end, he has his enforcers give Thug an old-fashioned No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, and leave him unconscious in Skidrow, one of the outskirts ghettos of the city, with the warning never to show up in Poisonville again. What follows is Thug's Roaring Rampage of Revenge, first aimed against Nikki Blanco and then against the Kingpin's entire operation, taking him through all major districts of the city, from the outskirts through poisonous chemical plants, rusty shipyards, massive steelworks facilities, and a gigantic railroad network, right into Radio City, the heart of the Kingpin's criminal empire.

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While the game is notable for its technical accomplishments (such as the well-made allied and enemy artificial intelligence for its time, a somewhat non-linear level design encouraging map exploration, a rudimentary quest system with neutral and recruitable NPCs, and a basic economic system that allowed players to hire armed muscle and buy equipment), it is more remembered because of the controversy it generated at the time of its release. Unfortunately for Xatrix and Interplay, Kingpin was the first major shooter to be released in the wake of the Columbine high school massacre, generating increased attention (and criticism) from Moral Guardians in the US (although the game's premise, excessive gore, and profanity-laden dialogue didn't help either). As the game was getting Overshadowed by Controversy, most major video game retailers decided not to put Kingpin on sale, resulting in the game being a huge commercial flop (and also a Creator Killer, as Xatrix has closed shop on the day the game shipped). While Kingpin therefore never could become a classic FPS experience of that time period like Half-Life or Quake 2 did, it still garnered a loyal cult following, who keep hosting multiplayer servers for it to this day.

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The game is available on both Steam and GOG.com. Bear in mind that playing the game in widescreen on a modern system involves altering the game's .exe file, which can cause conflicts with Steam's authentication procedure. A fan patch has been made to allow for widescreen resolution, with a separate Steam version of the patch to address the authentication problem.

In January 2020, 3D Realms announced a remaster of the game titled Kingpin: Reloaded, co-published with Interplay and developed by Slipgate Ironworks. The remaster is due for a release later in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.


In the Lighting Strikes of Radio City, Kingpin: Life of Crime provides examples of more than 16 Tropes Till There's No Tropes Left, or until there's a Checkmate:

  • Adjustable Censorship: On the retail versions, players are given a one-time option to choose between a Bowdlerised version and an uncensored one, blood and expletives intact. This was done to appease Moral Guardians who were shocked to see an M-rated first-person shooter to be released in the wake of Columbine. The manual describes it as "permanent" which could only be changed upon reinstallation, though there are console commands to override this even when the censored version is installed.
  • Antagonist Title: Played with. The Kingpin is the Final Boss of the game, so this trope is fully in effect - until the finale, that is. Once the Big Bad is killed, Thug takes his place and becomes the new kingpin via Klingon Promotion, subverting the game's title into a Protagonist Title by the credits roll.
  • Alternate Universe: Mostly apparent in the Retro Universe setting of the game. Most weapons (such as the Tommy Gun), vehicles, the teamsters, the Art Deco architecture, and the whole Gangster Land vibe are coming straight out of The Roaring '20s; the big-city urban decay, pollution, and poverty are reminiscent of the The '70s; while some contemporary-looking character designs (such as the scantily-clad prostitutes or the Kingpin himself), the pop-culture references (see Shout-Out below) and the soundtrack from Cypress Hill are mixed in from The '90s. The resulting Diesel Punk setting is described by the game manual as "a past that never happened".
  • Artificial Brilliance: Compared to other games of its era, Kingpin has remarkably good NPC A.I. Both enemies and allies can navigate the entire level relatively intelligently instead of being limited to a single area (like in Half-Life), and are reasonably maneuverable in combat instead of just standing and firing. Injured or outmatched enemies will even run off and hide, or run to another area to look for reinforcements. They can even climb ladders or leap from ledge to ledge, which was quite a feat in its day. Overall they behave a lot like a multiplayer bot, and in fact the A.I. was written by the same guy who made the EraserBot for Quake II.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Despite all their strengths, the allied AI can still give you some headache. In small rooms and narrow corridors, they have a tendency of blocking doorways when following you, essentially trapping you in tight spaces. They are also prone to be accidentally killed by the No OSHA-Compliant elevators of the game, if you activate them without making sure that your hired guns stand completely on the elevator platform, and wouldn't be cut in half by the approaching ceiling.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: All bosses have a lot more health and generally better guns than the regular mooks. This makes sense, given the survival-of-the-fittest nature of the game world.
  • Badass Bystander: An enemy example: When raiding the office of Moker (the steel mill manager and local Lieutenant of Kingpin in Steeltown), his secretary at the reception pulls a gun on the player (and their guns-for-hire) as soon as she notices them. She stands no chance of course, but she deserves recognition for trying to slow them down and cover her boss' escape.
  • Big Bad: The title character of the game, who also happens to be the Final Boss. Although Thug only has a bone to pick with Nikki Blanco, the Kingpin's Poisonville lieutenant, later he decides to take on Kingpin himself as well, to take over his operations that he managed to ravage through by that time.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: The boss of Chapter 6 (the Railyards) has no name and is indistinguishable from the regular goons found throughout the chapter. You only know he's a boss because he appears near the end, can take a lot more damage than the regular goons, and wields a rocket launcher.
  • Boobs of Steel: In the world of Kingpin, all female characters are short-haired, fight and swear just as good as their male colleagues, and have clearly visible secondary sexual characteristics. About 95% of the male characters, on the other hand, fit the World of Muscle Men trope.
  • City Noir: The urban locations feature everything between desolate ghettos and the classy, but equally vile Radio City, with its neon signs and Art Deco architecture.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • The game is loaded with foul language, so much so that it's a lot easier to count the characters whose dialogue contains no swearing than the ones who constantly spout expletives.
    • The official soundtrack consists of three instrumental tracks from Cypress Hill's IV album (16 Men Till There's No Men Left, Checkmate, and Lighting Strikes). However, the Railyards chapter features the regular version of these songs. Let's just say that their lyrics are just as explicit as the game's dialogue.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Recruitable gang members all dress entirely in blue or grey, to help you identify them as friendlies during frantic firefights.
  • Crapsack World: The world of Kingpin is definitely not for the faint of the heart. The location of the first chapter, Skidrow, is a hopeless ghetto whose population consists mainly of criminals, prostitutes and homeless folks. Poisonville is an uninhabitable chemical dump, the Shipyards are full of rats and warring crews, Steeltown's mills fit the No OSHA Compliance trope to the letter (with the Thug's journal also implying that forced child labor is not uncommon in its factories), while the gigantic Railyards are the blood veins of black market smuggling. Even the flashy Radio City is not free of the open street fights of the warring gangs.
  • Dark Action Girl: Blunt is a named example of this trope, who also happens to be the Kingpin's second-in-command, in charge of the Radio City operations. However, all enemy groups in the game have numerous female fighters, who fight (and swear) just as viciously as their fellow male gang members. On higher difficulties, the female enemies can even be more dangerous as their bulkier male colleagues, given their smaller statures (and thus, smaller, harder-to-hit hitbox).
  • Dual Wielding: Male enemies armed with pistols fight with guns akimbo, while female enemies armed with pistols fight with a single pistol wielding Gangsta Style.
  • Elite Mooks: The gangs get progressively tougher as you go through the game, but the difference is usually only a couple more bullets more to kill them. The Kingpin's personal bodyguards, on the other hand, are very tough and can survive almost as much damage as the game's bosses.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Of all the people in this game, Kingpin and his Lieutenants are this. The enemy gangs under the payroll of Kingpin consist of a variety of different ethnicities, with Caucasian, African-American and Asian enforcers all taking on Thug. Moreover, we frequently run into female enemies as well, indicating that a sizable portion of the organization's manpower consists of women. Interestingly, the trope is also avoided by the game's Villain Protagonist: while Thug can pay off a hooker in Poisonville to distract some well-armed thugs (and thus, avoid a firefight with them), and helps out Bambi, Steeltown's female bartender by rescuing his brother, he can never actually recruit any female characters to fight alongside him. All available guns-for-hire are male.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Thug seems genuinely disturbed when he finds out that the girlfriend of a potential ally in the shipyards has been decapitated by the goons of Heilmann, the Kingpin's local lieutenant.
  • Excuse Plot: Although the game has a detailed dialogue and NPC system (well, for its time and for an FPS), little to no background information is provided on why Nikki kicked Thug out of Poisonville, and why Thug decides to take over the Kingpin's organization (apart from his obvious Roaring Rampage of Revenge). Character dialogue itself is also pretty hazy and out-of-context in most cases, requiring players to constantly check their journal to piece together what mission objectives were actually given by neutral characters.
  • Expy: The Kingpin is modeled after Marsellus Wallace, down to the small band-aid on his neck. Several lines of his dialogue are also lifted almost verbatim from Marsellus as well.
  • Final Boss: Kingpin and Blunt. However, you can only kill the Kingpin.
  • Flunky Boss:
    • Jesus, the boss of the game's first area, will run off and summon a large pack of nasty junkyard dogs once the fight starts going poorly for him.
    • The Kingpin is accompanied by several Elite Mooks as well as Blunt, who's invincible and armed with a heavy machine gun.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: The Thug, of course. He starts out as a lowlife gangster who has a bone to pick with Nikki Blanco, the Kingpin's Lieutenant in Poisonville. We never learn why the two went against each other, but Blanco only considers Thug a mere nuisance, so instead of having him killed, he just orders his goons to kick his ass, and banish him from Poisonville, with the warning of never showing his face there again. This proves to be a fatal underestimation on Nikki's part, as Thug then proceeds to wipe out the whole organization as a true One-Man Army.
  • Harder Than Hard: The "Real" difficulty is one of the most difficult FPS experiences in existence, especially early on, when your equipment is very limited. To survive, players must explore every secret location for supplies, and loot all enemies to get the funds for buying ammo, armor, weapon upgrades and hiring the available thugs.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Played with. In Poisonville, a female bystander (implied to be a hooker, but not really dressed as one) offers the player to distract some well-armed enemy muscle for a small amount of money. This is completely optional, but given that the mooks are considered heavily armed at that stage of the game (packing Tommy Guns that are not even available in stores for the player in that chapter), her offer comes really handy, especially on higher difficulties. It is not obvious whether she makes the offer out of sympathy or just to earn some cash, though.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: An almost literal example comes in the form of the Joker gang in the last chapter of the game.
    • In true heroic fashion, they are involved in a turf war with the Kingpin's local forces, and are available as allies throughout the chapter.
    • In true comedic fashion, their members feature tattoos and face paints that resemble a smile.
    • In true sociopathic fashion, they offer their help for Thug free of charge, if he beats three homeless people to death with a crowbar, apparently for no other reason than to enjoy themselves. Failure to do that (or using a firearm in taking them down) does not make them turn their back on us, but they charge recruitment costs afterwards.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: In line with the first-person shooters of the era, Thug can easily carry the game's entire arsenal and their ammo at once, without any limitations. This does not look that off at the early stages of the campaign (where you are packing a melee weapon, a pistol, a shotgun, and the Tommy Gun starting from Poisonville), but once you take your hands on the Grenade Launcher, the Rocket Launcher, the heavy machinegun and the flamethrower, you may start wondering how baggy Thug's coat is.
  • Immune to Bullets: Blunt, who just also happens to be one of the final bosses as well. There is no reason for her to be (especially given how unarmored she is compared to other regular mooks), other than to escape alive and leave a Sequel Hook for the game.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: Thug's main goal is to get back at Nikki Blanco, the head of the thugs who beat him up at the beginning of the game. Kingpin gets involved because Nikki is his Lieutenant, and the gangs Thug's cutting through to get to Nikki are technically under his payroll, so he's got to deal with this disrespect. Thug isn't even really interested in Kingpin - it just happens that Blanco retreats back to the Kingpin's HQ, the Crystal Palace towers in Radio City, so Thug decides to kill him too in the end after capping Nikki Blanco more for the chance opportunity to rise to the top than a vendetta.
  • Kick the Dog: After Nikki Blanco escapes Poisonville, Thug decides to follow him to Radio City, hitching a ride to the shipyards in the process. The truck driver, however, makes the mistake of asking for the fare that the Thug promised he would pay. This results in the truck driver getting blown away by Thug's shotgun.
  • Klingon Promotion: At the end, Thug becomes the new kingpin of the city after killing the old Kingpin, and the closing cutscene shows that the daily income is a lot higher than it was during the previous management. It's doubtful this has anything in the way of his managerial skills, but Thug has got plenty of minions to take care of that for him, so it could be assumed that even if he is far from being a nice guy, he is at least a bit closer to being a Benevolent Boss than his predecessor was.
  • Misidentified Weapons: A category designation error. The burst rifle in Slot 5 (acquired during the Steeltown chapter of the campaign) is referred to as "Heavy Machine Gun" in the game, which it clearly isn't. Given its caliber, portability, burst-fire mode and appearance, "Battle Rifle" would probably be a more accurate term.
  • Nintendo Hard: This game is really hard, even by the high standards of its era. The resource management aspect of the game is particularly unforgiving of careless gunplay, especially in the early levels. It's comparable to its contemporary, System Shock 2, except unlike System Shock 2, you can't avoid most combats.
  • No Name Given: The player character. Most have given him the Fan Nickname of "Thug".
  • Orcus on His Throne: The player's journey is interspersed with cutscenes of the Kingpin sitting at his desk, playing pinball, and generally lounging around while barking at his henchmen for failing to stop the player.
  • Pipe Pain: The melee weapon you start the game with. You can later replace it with a crowbar.
  • Product Placement:
    • The game has a tie-in with clothing maker Diesel. The idea was that the developers would put the Diesel logo on some character textures (there's also a big billboard in one level), and in return, the retail copy would be sold in Diesel stores. The textures appear in the game, but it's unknown if the game was ever sold in a Diesel shop. Given the game's notoriety back then, and the fact that most retailers pulled it from their shelves, it probably wasn't.
    • Cypress Hill is also prominently featured in the game's splash screen. Given that three of their songs comprise the game's soundtrack and their frontman also did some voice acting in the game, this is not surprising though.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Although the majority of enemies we run into are vicious teamsters or gang members, some of them apparently really just try to make ends meet.
    • Frankly, the warehouse security guards of the first level are just doing their job protecting the premises (even if they work for Heilman's company, according to their guard uniform). Granted, their approach in protecting the building is really excessive, but given Skidrow's reputation and the game's Crapsack World in general, their shoot-first-don't-ask-questions-later approach is understandable.
    • The female receptionist/secretary and the accountant in Moker's office really don't look like the gang-banger part. Although the receptionist pulls a gun and attacks Thug when entering the office, her reaction can just as easily be attributed to panic or self-defense as to Too Dumb to Live viciousness. The accountant, on the other hand, begs for his life and even opens Moker's safe for you if you don't attack him.
    • Granted, the homeless folks residing under the Radio City train station attack us on sight. However, it's perfectly sensible they do so: Thug intentionally enters their turf and wants to kill them, all due to a test of the Joker gang, who want to see if Thug is tough enough to earn their support in his war against the Kingpin. When traversing down to the homeless, the Jokers shout to Thug that they can hear what he does - meaning that the homeless probably also heard their exchange, and already know that Thug is there to take them out, acting in self-defense later. We never learn why the Jokers want to see the homeless folks dead - for all we know, it might be simply because beating downtrodden bums to death with a crowbar amuses them.
  • Psycho for Hire: The majority of the Kingpin's manpower fit this trope perfectly.
    • Nikki's security force in Poisonville has no problems torturing and killing Nikki's unarmed rival, and then throwing his body into a vat of acid.
    • Heilman's crew don't have any reservations in decapitating a helpless young woman in the Shipyards (who happens to to be the girlfriend of a rival crew's enforcer, but still).
    • Moker's steel mill guards happily intimidate the steel workers in Steeltown into coercion, imprison their leader, and (according to the Thug's journal) enforce forced child labor in the factories.
    • The guards of the Railyards have no issues with derailing trains and destroying portions of the railway network just to prevent Thug reaching Radio City.
  • Recurring Boss: You fight Nikki Blanco twice in the game: in Chapter 2, where he serves as the boss of the Poisonville segment, and then at the finale before the final boss fight.
  • Revenge: The reason why Thug takes on the Kingpin's entire operation. Given that he originally went after just one of his Lieutenants for for personal reasons, and that he kills off a good portion of his "employees" in the process, Thug's revenge trip heavily falls into the Disproportionate Retribution and Roaring Rampage of Revenge territories as well.
  • Scary Black Man: Given that the Kingpin is an Expy of Marsellus Wallace, this is probably not surprising.
  • Sequel Hook: The game ends with Blunt fleeing Radio City and swearing revenge against the player for killing the Kingpin. This was, unfortunately, never followed up on: while a sequel was announced in 2004, nothing came of it and it was likely quietly cancelled.
  • Shmuck Bait: After getting tickets to the Skytram, you will come across a ringing telephone booth. Answering it will instantly kill you via the booth (and you) exploding.
  • Shout-Out: Kingpin is heavily loaded with pop-culture references, mostly toward Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski, but also to several other novels, movies or even paintings:
    • The majority of Kingpin bosses are based off existing movie characters. The first boss, The Jesus, screams out lines that are taken from the similarly-named character of The Big Lebowski. Heilman is an homage to Dr. Strangelove: he even screams the iconic "Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!" line during his boss fight. Blunt and Tyrone lift various lines from Pulp Fiction. Finally, the Kingpin himself looks like Pulp Fiction's Marsellus Wallace.
    • During the intro cutscene of the Shipyards chapter, Thug shoots the truck driver who gave him a ride, splattering blood onto the truck's windows. This was made as a reference to Pulp Fiction's "I Just Shot Marvin in the Face" scene.
    • One of the multiplayer skins is a clear reference to The City of Lost Children, a movie whose visual style Kingpin was heavily borrowing from.
    • The name of Poisonville is a reference to Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest.
    • The final chapter in Radio City also contains numerous references to Payback. The Art Deco Crystal Towers at the end of the game resemble the "Outfit" building, while the ringing telephone in the street that explodes if the player answers it is a reference to the scene in the movie where Porter tricks the gangsters into picking up the phone in his apartment that was wired with explosives.
    • Also in Radio City, one building is an almost exact copy of the one from the famous Edward Hopper painting "Nighthawks".
  • The Dragon: Played with. From a gameplay perspective, this role is filled by Blunt, as she participates in the final boss fight. From a story perspective though, Nikki Blanco plays a much larger and more important role, as he's the one who kickstarts Thug's Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and appears more frequently than Blunt. He still ends up being a Sequential Boss only by the finale.
  • Unwinnable by Insanity: Being extremely careless with money can result in this if the player doesn't make sure to leave 10 dollars for paying into the bar in the next area and doesn't loot corpse before they despawn after leaving the area, same with the 60 dollar ticket required in the last area and the two safecrackers in an earlier level.
  • Updated Re Release: Kingpin: Reloaded is a remaster of the game by 3D Realms scheduled for 2020. It will feature support for modern resolutions (the original game requires fan mods to run at anything other than basic 4:3), rebalanced difficulty, and assorted aesthetic enhancements.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: A bit unusual for its time, Kingpin features numerous neutral NPCs throughout its campaign, allowing you access to a wider range of interactions (and rewards) than you could get just by merely shooting everyone in the face. Talking with these NPCs, you can get information on level secrets, undertake minor quests for a reward, or enlist them either as diversions or armed reinforcements. On rare occasions, you even have the option to avoid bloodshed with some of the punch-clock villains.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Given the pseudo non-linear level design and campaign structure, it's possible to complete the game with killing everyone on the city's streets, including bystanders and potential allies as well. However, by going the Sociopathic Hero route, you may need to spend money on rewards you would otherwise get free of charge, miss out on some secrets you may not find without the help of NPCs, or may make some rewards outright unavailable.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Thug, of course (with some Sociopathic Hero tendencies thrown into the mix, given his Kick the Dog moment with the truck driver at the Shipyards). He was a small-time thug who got beaten up by the muscle of a criminal middleman. He starts off trying to take out Nikki Blanco to get revenge on him, and then, as part of a Disproportionate Retribution, escalates to taking on the Kingpin himself.
  • World of Jerkass: In the world of Kingpin, almost everyone seems to have anger management issues: the game's dialogue is basically one long list of diverse expletives, and even company security personnel cannot grasp the concept of warning shots, shooting trespassers instead with extreme prejudice. However, given how crapsack the world of the game is, and that about 97% of the cast is made out of violent criminals, this is not really surprising.
  • World of Muscle Men: Most male characters are built like linebackers and even the fat ones have giant muscular hands. Female enemies, at the same time, all have Boobs of Steel.
    Tehsnakerer: This past talk must go way back into our evolutionary history, because humanity in this world seems to be made off of bizarre protomen, who are made mostly out of muscles and anger.
  • Wretched Hive: Given that the majority of the characters we meet are gangsters, gun-for-hire muscles, shady business opportunists, hookers, or alcoholic homeless, most of the city qualifies.


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