STAFF REVIEW of Area 51 (Xbox)


Wednesday, May 25, 2005.
by TheCovenant

Area 51 Box art They don?t call Xbox the FPS console for nothing. We get more FPS?s thrown at us than the Washington D.C. county jail, and that just makes it hard to compete. Had Area 51 been released 6 or 8 months ago, it would have been much more well received then it is today. When you get right down to it, Area 51 is a solid shooter. The gameplay is tight, and the mechanics clean. The story is?complicated, at best. The title looks good, and sounds good, but when names like Halo 2, Doom 3, and Half-Life 2 are thrown into the mix, area 51 falls short of having the inherit epic attributes that follow the latter. With that said, lets get this review started shall we?


Fierce, tight, clean, and just plain cool. The gunfights make me say words like counter-strike, and John Woo, and there?s plenty of them too. Yup, the game takes a minimum of 15-17 hours. This game is LONG. The firefights get more and more intense, if not by making the environments bigger, but also by streaming in hordes of more enemies than earlier in the game. They try to go for the half-life 2 in game cut scenes, but the freedom to leave the conversation or scene is always too tempting, as the person talking is usually David Duchovny. Other then that, it?s a fairly linear FPS. Go into new room, clear out enemies, repeat. Along the ways you pick up newer, cooler weapons. As simple as this may sound, it?s actually pretty !&%$@#* fun. They even incorporated dual wielding into this bad boy, which only adds to the whole feeling of awesomeness. I know I?m pulling a lot of good words out for the game, cause at its core gameplay, it?s a good title. It?s not AS good as some other shooters, which will hurt the score a little, but all in all it?s a good single player experience.

Multiplayer is very bland. Deathmatch, King of the Hill, capture the flag are all here. Nothing really new, except for a select few modes where you can turn into a mutant. These are fun, but still nothing to make you shell out 50 dollars.


The game is also on the ps2, so right off the bat, the game had to be dumbed down from its true graphical potential. That?s not to say the game looks bad, it just doesn?t compete against other games that do. The lighting is there, with muzzle flashes that light up rooms, there?s even reflective mapping, and some normal mapping can be found in some areas. The guns look like guns. There have been many shooters where I?ve never been convinced that I\'m holding anything more than a toy, but these guns are guns. They look like guns, and when they fire they thrash around like guns should. Mowing down a crowd of alien/mutants looks exactly as it should. Animation is smooth, but again, throw in a name like Doom 3, and it isn?t AS smooth. There?s lots of particle effects, as you?ll notice in the first level of the game, when glass, bullet shells and blood are all being slung at each other in the City of God fashion. The chaotic gunfights look great, and add to the immersive aspect that is robbed by some of the sound and story of the game.


Full use of 5:1 Dolby Digital is always nice. The sound is great. The gunfights, which are the highlight of this game, sound incredibly realistic, with bullets whizzing by, broken glass crashing behind you, and monstrous growls and moans coming from all directions. The guns, again, I must mention. They sound like they?re firing and I think in that aspect Area 51 even beats out Doom3, which I had a real problem with how weak the guns sounded. Sound really adds a whole new dimension to the game. However, sound is also one of the games weakest aspects. Hired to narrate the game is the ever-boring David Duchovny. His teammates get mauled over by humanoid mutant alien monsters (I really don?t know what they are) and all we get out of Dave is a weak ?my god?. Terrible. I want to know why David would try to butcher the genre he so helped advance. David! show a little emotion! Show a little sympathy! David Duchvny, why won?t you love Area 51? Well, The times where David is quiet are very fun and energetic. Not to mention Marilyn Manson also voices an overly grotesque creature. Between David and Marilyn, I?d call Marilyn my own personal jesus.

Area 52? Or is it Area 51,2? Or area 53?.

With the few minor things, this is a great shooter. If you?re a die hard shooting fan, you shouldn?t miss this one, for the rest of us, we can rent it, or remember that we have plenty of shooters on the system to satisfy our fragging needs. However, there is a lot here to salvage so maybe a sequel that has addressed these issues could be a killer app for a certain next gen system?


Suggestions:
All the production quality that went in to this title would have been great, had it not been botched by David Duchovny and a story that wants to be so much, but ends up being so little. A good sci fi story isnt anything impossible. C\'mon midway, can you flesh out a story(pun intended) with only one plot twist?


Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.6 / 10
Sound: 8.6 / 10

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