Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy
June 14th 2005
Introduction:Aliens are nothing new to the videogame world. We've had alien themes going all the way back to Space Invaders, and now in this generation of consoles the myth of these little grey fellows continues in Midways telling of Area 51. If it's not Master Chief saving the world it's some other avenger with a hate for the visitors armed with a machine gun. Read on to find out if it's all just particle beams and saucer dreams in Midways shooter Area 51.
The Game:95 miles north of Las Vegas is a small patch of government controlled land known as Area 51. Shadowed with secrets, controversy and mystique the site is the birth place for many movie ideas, conspiracy theorist and videogames. It's no wonder Midway decided to revisit this theme in their newest shooter Area 51.
In Area 51 you will play a US HAZMAT
agent Ethan Cole . Cole and his team are called into Area 51 to investigate a strange mutant occurrence. This is when everything hits the fan and the entire facility is in red alert with a fast spreading mutant virus. You start a the top level of Area 51 and go deep into it's secret levels as you battle zombiefied humans and other unexplainable creatures. Like Doom 3 you will be confined to the indoors for the most part, but the environments differ enough to give some variety.
For the most part you will be going level to level trying to find answers to the weirdness that is happening around you. The game is driven by cinematic cut-scenes usually triggered when you hit the end of a level. These scenes look great and help you get into the plot even more. Surprising Area 51 managed to keep me interested even though this subject matter has been done to death. This game is pretty fast paced and you'll be gunning down constant waves of enemies. It's almost too much, but I think they found a great balance to keep you going full out for most of the experience.
Area 51 also has an abundance of unlockables which is a nice bonus that keeps you motivated to explore the areas. To get these unlockables you'll have to scan hidden top-secret files which get added to your main menu. Each file will add a document or video clip that boast to the rumors and mysteries of this wonderful facility and other alien phenomenon's. These unlockables are great if you're a conspiracy fan and if not it might raise some new thoughts about the whole alien ordeal in your mind.
Area 51 is a great ride even if its ends a little early, I'd say on average it can be completed in 6-8hrs. The gameplay is above average compared to some other first person shooters out there. It's no Halo 2, but Area 51 has some stellar sequences that will have your trigger finger itching.
Graphics & Sound:Rag Doll Mania! Bodies will be flying through the air contorting in ways unimaginable once you pull that pin from the grande. Area 51 serves up the madness in a good way. The graphics are stunning in Area 51 for the most part. The games look stays mostly to neutral tones and doesn't serve up much in the special effects department until the later half of the game. The character design and animation of the mutants is the most impressive, although they are little boring after the first fifty, it's very cool how they move and react almost giving them a realistic quality. The quality isn't up to the Doom 3 standard, unless you're checking out a cut scene. It's more about action then beauty and it's good enough to pass through our radar.
The sound work is great in Area 51. If you have been reading critic's reviews they all say the same thing. David Duchovny performance is emotionless. I agree to a certain degree, I mean he does sound like he is bored out of his mind, but that is his style. Even when he did voice over work for the X-Files it was the same unfluctuating tone. I think it serves up good enough for the game and when you know its Duchovny its more acceptable. Powers Booth and Marilyn Manson add their celebrity vocal chords to the mix as the "Major Douglas Bridges" and the bizarre alien freak "Edgar". Their voice work is excellent and the characters match their tones perfectly. Although I'd like to know what's up with Manson's hat (bonus footage). The music and effects perfectly round out the game and they do a great job adding ambience and heart pounding metal when needed. This game's audio will have you on the edge of your seat pumping bullets into aliens with the sound cranked up!
Innovation:It's getting harder to be innovative in the FPS genre with so many excellent tiles out there, but still Area 51 managed to add some interesting ideas to the game. First off the coolest feature is when you get infected. During the game you will experience what it feels like to be on the other side of the situations, you become the enemy. This feature can be toggled off an on and provides alternatives to just blasting away with your gun. As the inflected you have extra powers and abilities that are majority beneficial in tough times. I'm going to spoil it all, just know its pretty wild.
Secondly I loved the scanner idea that they implemented. Cole has a scanner which he can use to get details on items you come across in the game. It gives an investigative quality that makes the game more interesting, sneaking around scanning classified documents and alien bodies. You can even scan your buddies if you feel like it. The scanner although not essential to the game is a great addition.
Mojo:Who wouldn't want to go into the infamous underground labyrinth of Area 51? The mojo oozes out the pours from Marylyn Manson's Edgar character to the blank glares from the grays as they examine the inners of a human body. Stan Winston Studios has to get a nod of approval for adding some cool creatures to the game, like I'd have any doubt when the studio has names like Predator and Aliens under its belt. In the end, Area 51 packs a punch and doesn't let up until it's all said and done.
Lowdown:Area 51 is a well rounded FPS which gives you just enough to keep the controller in your hand. This game surpassed my expectations and was an enjoyable experience into dreamland. If you're a fan of shooters you need to look beyond the walls of Area 51.
Gameplay: 8.5, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 9. Final: 8