They're out there.. Games like this of course. And it is beyond anything which the our world can imagine.
So let's begin the review, shall we? Keep in mind that I am an unbiased person and I will rate something based on how it actually is rather than because I felt like being generous.
Area 51 is a FPS released by Midway studios for the PS2/Xbox/PC. It's based of the 1995 light gun Area 51 created for Arcade systems. It comprises of intensive and fast action FPS with little to no slowing down between room to room and with just enough time to reload, lock up and stop a few seconds to smell the flowe- um.. the unnatural blue blood and guts of your nay slaughtered enemies from 30 seconds ago. Oh no! Here come more, Lock And Load Time! But no, seriously, this game is really intense. You will blast through more enemies than you could care to count. But this doesn't make it a bad game, no, oh no, not what-so-ever, Area 51 holds true to the FPS genre and remains filled with action the entire game. It never really pushes so many enemies at you at once that there is no way around and it never dies down to a pace that is crawl and boring. Complete with stunningly beautiful graphics and extremely varied environments and you have yourself one heck of a game.
Meet Ethan Cole. Voiced by David Duchovny (from the X-Files), he is a Hazmat soldier sent in with his team to Area 51 to begin the long winding story of figuring out just what the hell is going on down there. If the back of the box doesn't lure you right away, then the opening cutscene might just be the hook. It brings us to an army chopper, flying over the New Mexico desert with both Ethan and his following team players embarking toward a journey that will evolve into one of the craziest and most diabolical conspiracies known to man, again, that which is known as Area 51. Along the ride, it shows a little backstory to what has already happened and what you are about to experience.. Which involves a hell of a lot of crazy ****ed up monsters and creatures from.. well space and hell. Maybe not from hell, but they sure look like it. And what you are about to experience is a well layed out version of what Area 51 could actually be like if you were to use your imagination. Oh, an aliens of course. Gotta have them aliens.
[GAMEPLAY] - 9.5 -
Where should I start? I guess I could begin by saying the control scheme for the game is not quite what I expected at first. You got your basics, such as shooting with R1, melee with L3, moving with the Left Analog stick and looking around with the Right. However.. that's when things turn out a bit different than most shooters. For example, you zoom/secondary fire with R2, jump with L1, crouch with L2 and switch weapons with Triangle and Circle. Reloading is done with X and throwing grenades with Square. Pressing Up on the D-pad will activate your special power in which I'll get to later on. Unfortunately, there is no option to custom your controls, however the controls are actually very on track once you get used to them. Aiming and shooting are a little hard to get used to as the axis of the right analog stick does not go in a complete perfect 360 degree spin however you almost instantly get used to this within the first 30 minutes of shooting. Which, might I add from earlier again, is a lot of. You will be shooting lots of human mutated creatures, alien soldiers, Area 51 specialized engineered cybernetic mindcontrolled dummies (woo!) and quite a few others that due to spoilers, I won't list. Your weapons consists of the basic human brands such as a pistol, a shotgun, an SMG, a sniper and two other alien weapons. The only thing that really bothered me here was that this is a long game (anywhere from 12 to 15 hours) and you really only get 6 weapons the entire time. One of which you only get to fire about 10 shots from due to it being near the end of the game. Each of these weapons serve their purposes though such as the shotgun for clearing tons of enemies in a short distance and the sniper for long distances. To add on the fun of the six weapons, each weapon has it's secondary function. Some have increased aim, others have actual secondary fires. For example, the shotgun can shoot two rounds and one of the alien weapons has a laser designated shot that ricochets plasma rounds.
The gameplay in itself is very fluent. I myself experienced very few framerate slowdowns and even then, it never once ducked to a crawl. The game remained at a very steady pace the entire 14 hours journey under the earth. Enemies bodies do disappear quickly, however the game does this I'm guessing this is to help to keep a steady framerate. The game incorporates a nice physics system. Realistic? No. Over exaggerated? Not at all. In between? Dead right. A shotgun blast will send an alien back a few feet while a quick burst of an SMG will drop them right there. I quite enjoyed it. I've said this more than once but you will be shooting a LOT of bad guys. Without exaggerating, I shot probably a little over a thousand the entire time. But it was all worth the fight, the experience is unlike another game. The AI is actually quite smart as they will duck behind cover, throw grenades to flush you out of cover, come to rescue their dying comrades or at least step in front of them to absorb more rounds while the ones behind them recover.
One thing that I gripe about on this game is that during the lengthy campaign (for a FPS anyways), I recall only facing two boss fights. Both of which were pretty much the same enemy minus a few arms and stuff, just in different location and different parts of the game. With such an awesome combat flow, I would have LOVED to see way more thought put into boss fights especially with the design of aliens behind it. Just thinking off the head, I can think of 5 or 6 different monsters that could have been aliens. Thought there doesn't have to be that many in a game, there could have been more than two. There wasn't even a final boss fight. Well, there was one.. kinda, but it wasn't a boss. Anyways, moving on.
Considering this happens during the first hour of the game, it's not necessarily a spoiler. Towards the beginning of the game, Ethan ends up being infected by one of his dying teammates who decides to throw up into his mouth thus granting Ethan a massive virus which is in turn, supposed to turn him into one of the bad guys. However, Ethan for some reason, which I do not recall even being explained, is immune to the toxic virus, but only somewhat. He is able to turn into a mutant on command and utilize this ability to his advantage. It never explains what the name of it is so from now on I'll just dub it as his "mutant form." Well, anyways, as his mutant form, Ethan can transform on command and annihilate his enemies with a swift swipe from his claws and gain health by launching parasites from his own body to suck the life out of his foes. To extend this mutant form before the time on it runs out (or you can quit and save it, it regenerates) you must kill enemies during the form to refill it. When turned off, it refills by itself. When you first gain this ability, you don't realize it's potential until you get about 6 or 8 hours into the game. Halfway through, this becomes a life saver.
Speaking of which, the game isn't actually that hard. There are a few parts which I recall I died quite a number of times but that was due to trial and error. I wasn't doing something right or I wasn't utilizing cover to my advantage. Most of my deaths came from not moving fast enough away from grenades or staying out in the open to long. I even died from falling a few times. But all in all, the games difficulty is pretty perfect. I only p
d it on Normal but that was because Hard mode is not unlocked until the game has been beat first. Playing on Normal, the game was always intense. You have you watch your back on every turn, corner, walls and ceilings (yes.. they are creepy), vent shafts and just about every where you go. One thing I quite enjoyed was the fact that enemies do not spawn in random places. You will not kill twenty enemies and turn around to see one standing directly behind you when there was no way he could have gotten there. They will come out of doors, holes in the ground and just about every place plausible. Again, the gameplay is intense but you never feel like it is impossible or cheap. I'd have to agree with the way everything is set out and placed, it always feel legitimate and fair. If you're getting slaughtered, it's because of a reason, not because of a cheap trick they put in to make it harder.
[GRAPHICS] - 10 -
Oh gee. I'm not even going to try and butter you readers up with anything, I'm just going to straight out tell you. If there ever was a best looking game on the PS2.. this would be it. Or at least in the top 5. Seriously, this game is downright beautiful. If you've played Metal Gear Solid 2/3 and Shadow of the Colossus and think those look amazing, you haven't seen anything. Midway Studios has went out of their way to create one of the most beautiful PS2 titles even thought of. This review is being induced in 2012 and I've got to say.. people say that PS3 and X360 games with bad graphics sometimes look like good graphic PS2/Xbox games well this game in itself looks like it would have been a 2nd or 3rd year release title for one of the current gen systems. No joke. It may not have the extreme anti aliasing that they have but you'd be unlucky to find 2 or 3 jaggies in this game. Pretty much everything in this game is filled with detail. The character models for almost every NPC including enemy and friendly are just.. amazing. The mutants look dreadfully real. Blood splashes around everywhere as bullets tear through tissue and bones and when it's all over, the current area will look like a war zone. Area 51 really manages to push the PS2 to a limit in which I never even though one could do. Fire effects look downright perfect, particle effects are perfect, textures are perfect.. I recall only seeing TWO blurring objects in this game and that was only in the distance that was unreachable to the main character.
The environments are great. Rarely, if ever, will you see a repeated environment. You have weapon labs, army bases, deep underground testing facilities, alien.. environments, volcano areas.. man there is just so many places you visit in this game. Without spoiling anything (though I wish I could, so many places that I can't say will blow your mind!), there is one area which I found absolutely hilarious. It's the actual moon landing scene, except the conspiracy of it. You will find yourself at some point standing in a little set with the moonlander attached to a crane and a black wall behind it with gray rock colored sand/stone as grounding and in front of all of this is cameras. In the far back with the black wall, there is a cardboard earth picture. Another area in the game you will encounter an enterable UFO and it's wicked how real it actually looks. Like it would exist in the real Area 51. The graphics are perfect honestly.
[SOUND] - 7.5 -
Starting off here in this department is the music. Most of the game, I went with the music turned completely off because I feel more.. into a game with just SFX on, however I played about 4 or 5 hours with it on. During that time, I do have to say that it fit well into the moments. When areas got dark and all you had was your flashlight, creepy F.E.A.R. sounding music played. When action heated up, a dark monologue of heavy music kicked on. Even the aliens had their own music. Though after finishing the game, I cannot exactly remember the tracks that played, it did get me through the parts that I went with it on.
Weapons sounded pretty good for the most part. The SMG felt weaker than it should have and the pistol actually sounded almost as strong as a shotgun blast (which sounded rather authentic to a real shotgun) and the alien weapons sounded as they should, I guess I can say that the gun sounds were.. well average. There was nothing really special about them. They weren't bad, no, not at all, just not the best or what I expected. Everything else however, was fantastic. Walking down a dark, power outage corridor complete with flickering sounds from broken equipment and the loud batting of your footsteps echoing around the hallway never gets old. Explosions sound amazing and powerful just as grenades sound like, well, like a grenade should. All of the sound effects that I can remember except for some weapons were just as I would have hoped for. It's really a 'WOW!' moment when a UFO flies over top of you or when you get launched into a teleporter.
Coming down to the voice effects, as I said before, the main character Ethan is voiced by David Duchovny. God. No. Bad person to pick. The entire game, I never once experieced or felt ANY EMOTIONS coming from this guy. 50 people you know just got slaughtered and you're just like, "eh" .. no. David was great for the X-Files but he did not go around blasting away hundreds of aliens and fighting for survival every 3 seconds. They should have picked someone else. During each mission, or rather, after each mission/level, Ethan speaks about his current situation. And. Every. Time. It's. So. Emotionless. Hit voice isn't bad, it's actually top notch, it's just not for this game and not for this situation. He belongs in depressing movies, not action fliks. Now, one voice actor I did like was Marolyn Manson. He voices the main bad guy.. or good guy, I never was sure (I'll explain later) in is crazy, insane sounding voice. It's very.. deep, not as in deep sounding, but just deep. Like he really tried. His character doesn't speak very much in this game but when he does, it sounds good.
[MULTIPLAYER] - N/A -
I did not play the MP at all so I cannot rate this.
[STORY] - 7 -
And here we go with the biggest gripe I have against this game. Let me start off with this. Take the Area 51 secret facility base, a ****load of mutants and aliens, cybernetic crazies, Illuminatis, Marolyn Manson, a virus or two, UFOs, a mad scientist and a bunch of other stuff.. now humour me here and follow the directions carefully.. grab yourself a bowl, apply all of this inside of it and crack to eggs, then stir and that's the story in a nutshell. Really though, I never knew what was going on in this game other than I was supposed to enter Area 51 and figure out what was going on, try to stop it, then try to escape. Add in a crazy alien guy voiced by Marolyn Manson who I never even figured out if he was trying to help me or kill me and an illuminatic cult filled with clans and a strick pact that's about to be broken and you have the story of this game.
Really, they stirred all of the ingredients but they never decided to pop it in the oven and bake it. And it's not a no-bake cake. The story is really a story within a story. If you know what I mean that is. Like, you know what's going on and what you're supposed to be doing but it never really makes sense. Imagine moving your body. You know how to move your arms and fingers but you don't know how you're doing it. You're just.. doing it. I guess if I played it over and paid attention to every little detail, it would probably make a little more sense but this time around, it really didn't connect that much.
The ending wasn't exactly what I expected either. The game just.. ended. It wasn't a perfect ended and it never really tied up anything. At one point, the main alien says something and I guess it hints to a second game but the game ended. Some parts showed that there would be a sequel but the story was over in a form that there shouldn't be a sequel.
[REPLAY VALUE] 7.5
During the course of the game, you acquire a scanner. This little tool allows you to scan objects, documents, alien lifeforms, just about anything that would be of any interest. There are literally dozens upon dozens of these scattered around the world and a LOT of text notes such as the Bermuda Triangle conspiracy and Area 51 secrets. Teleportation documents, Black Ops mission details, Illuminati scripts, just a ton of stuff. Things about weapons, creatures, anything you could possibly want to know involving conspiracy contracts or aliens, it's there. However, the only bad part is that you must quit the game in order to view these. There is no way to view them on the spot after collecting them other than the main menu. This made no sense to me. I do have to say though, all of this leads to a good read and actually sitting down and reading all of it could take hours upon hours. There is a lot. And believe me, a lot of reading.. in a good way.
Further to beating the game, you unlock and addition difficulty levels. I know most people probably will not want to go through this game again, but I will find myself in a few months most definitely replaying it just for the single player experience. And there's always multiplayer with buddies/online. The game supports 4 player screens and I never got to play it anyways, I did hear some very good things about it.
Area 51. Probably ranks as one of my top 3 FPS's on the PS2. Beautiful graphics, amazing gameplay and shooting, extremely varied environments and landscapes minus a vague story line and a few issues with gun sounds, this game is one that your should most definitely buy if you enjoy FPS's. It will last you a decent 12 to 15 hours and it is a play you will not regret. If you still own a PS2, please take my words and go pick this game up. You will NOT REGRET IT!
Area 51 for the PS2.
- 8.5 -