Area 51 Review


Area 51 shares its setting, aliens, and plenty of gunfire with its arcade predecessor of the same name, but that’s about it. What was a simplistic light gun shooter in the arcades has evolved into a full-blown first person shooter, complete with a storyline and some big name voice talent. The evolution is a good change as the result is an action packed, high body count game that puts the “shooter” into “first person shooter”. Although it has a little trouble sustaining the thrill until the end, it is definitely worth a look if you’re a shooter fan.

Screenshots
Double-barreled destruction.

As the game’s title suggests, the action takes place in the infamous, unconfirmed secret military base in the Nevada desert. In case you’re out of touch with popular conspiracy culture or have never seen an episode of The X-Files, Area 51 is supposedly where the government keeps the remains of the UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico and routinely performs autopsies on any aliens it can get its hands on. Serves those aliens right for butt-probing American citizens, but I digress.

In the game you are Ethan Cole, a HAZMAT specialist called in when an incident at Area 51 explodes into a full-blown crisis. While the first thing that may come to your mind when you think of HAZMAT is guys in white spacesuits spraying things with hoses, this HAZMAT team does its cleanup work with automatic weapons and grenades. Area 51 is no ordinary place and so you can expect that you’re not faced with any ordinary crisis here. Before you know it you’ll be up to your eyeballs in aliens, mutants, psychics, and even Illuminati – those mysterious folk who are really running the world despite what governments would have you believe. There’s a story here about how all of this mayhem started and what’s behind it, but it’s a bit of a mess that comes across as the plot of a B-movie that tries too hard to be deep or feels obligated to force constant plot twists into a basic storyline. Better not waste time trying to make sense of it all – just smile and kill anything that comes at you. And believe me, there will be plenty of things coming at you.

Right from the beginning the action in the game ranges from frenzied to frantic, separated by brief moments of tense quiet. You may enter a room and find a horde of aliens charging in through another entrance, followed shortly by another way that breaks in through a high window. You’ll hardly have time to breathe as you empty hundreds of rounds into alien flesh punctuated with a few timely grenade blasts. Luckily you will have some help in the form of your squad who prove to be quite competent in killing aliens, mutants, and the like. They are invulnerable to enemy attacks until scripted to die, and so are quite helpful during the particularly hairy moments. They’re even invulnerable to friendly fire, so if you accidentally pop one of them in the back you’ll get an expletive deleted from him but he will keep on fighting. All of this mayhem makes for some great action and consequently fun as well. To give you a feel for the kind of action it provides, I can tell you that Area 51 is one of the first games that captures the tense and chaotic feel of the movie Aliens. Well, for a time at least…