More skeptic than believer.
Area 51 is a first-person shooter from publisher Midway. Through the course of the game, players will encounter elements of the well-known legend surrounding the alleged UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico. The problem is that the story that frames Area 51 is little more than an excuse, so the player doesn?t feel like the game is a gratuitous bullet fest.
You play the role of Ethan Cole, member of an elite military HAZMAT troubleshooting team. You and your squad are sent down to Area 51; apparently some strange things have started happening at the old alleged crash site (go figure) and some cleansing is in order. From there, events just keep getting stranger and stranger, involving everything from the predictable alien invasion to the Illuminati (sounds like someone on the Dev team has been reading Angels and Demons). All the ingredients in the mix attempt to tell a great all-inclusive conspiracy theory, a goal that?s not easy to achieve and which, in the end, fails to materialize. The story in Area 51 tries to do so much that in the end it just becomes a lot of nothing.
Two specific things come to mind as the game?s main failings. First of all, the Area 51 myth is more of an urban legend at this point than true science fiction. By now it?s pretty much a given that the incidents in Roswell, New Mexico in the 1940?s are false and the stale material doesn?t ignite the imagination like it did years ago. That may not be that bad, considering that many games are based on fallacies, but Area 51 never manages to rise above the hackneyed source material. Another area that hurts the title is its consistent lack of originality. In today?s videogame industry, technical competence just isn?t enough to make a memorable game- something more is required to grab and hold an audience?s attention. Originality can catapult a game from mediocrity to the Hall of Fame, but this is not a title that will get those kinds of accolades. However, despite the title?s unoriginal plot and game play, it would be unfair to say that Area 51 doesn?t offer some thrills or good entertainment value.
Graphics- 6 We are pleased to announce that the graphics employed in Area 51 get the job done and then some. Frightening ambiance is achieved thanks to great lighting and particle effects– the general feel of many of the levels resembles that which can be found in horror-themed shooters such as Doom 3. Even some character designs have a striking resemblance to that title. Unfortunately, the resemblance is fairly superficial: Area 51 pales in comparison as the result of a more careful look. Enemy design is uninspired and lame; mutant man-zombies can only have so many designs but there has to be an effort to differentiate from the rest of the bunch. I?ll grant that these are some gruesome-looking enemies but their unoriginal design, in the end, fails to provide much of a scare. After playing the game for a while the gamer will feel like something?s missing- in the final analysis, graphics-wise, Area 51, unfortunately, does not excel.
Sound- 7 FPS titles rely heavily on environmental effects other than visuals to create a believable space, and Area 51?s sound effects help to put the player in an intense, believable world. Both weapons and enemy sound effects grow progressively more menacing as the title plays out. In some instances the game?s rich aural effects may distract you from Area 51?s other failings but then the lack of originality takes you back to the reality of a mild gaming experience. Unfortunately, as good as the overall sound experience is, the musical soundtrack isn?t up to par; in a word it lacks personality and serves up nothing but a series of monotonous beats that barely get you going.
Game Play- 6 Area 51 plays like almost all FPS titles out there. That?s not a flaw, per se, but it?s not a positive thing, either. As with so much of the title, Area 51’s biggest problem is its failure to bring anything new to the table. You will feel that you are playing a watered-down version of Halo.
Value- 5 With so many other FPS?s in the market, it?s hard for a mild game like Area 51 to stand out but some players may find the game?s mix of wonky conspiracy-theory plot and old-fashioned run-and-gun game play to be a pleasant diversion. Unfortunately, unless you still believe in the Area 51 legend, with its secret alien weapons, alien corpses and mutant soldiers, then you won?t be too excited when playing this game. The best thing we can say about Area 51is that it is ?good enough?- a label that ultimately makes for a forgettable game.