With the possible exception of the Star Wars trilogy, no sci-fi film series seems to have as much rich potential for an easy translation as 20th Century Fox’s Alien films. Gritty sci-fi cool, a gripping storyline, gorgeously gruesome visuals and excessive gunfire should make for an equally engaging interactive experience, but capturing all (if any) of those elements in a videogame has historically proven to be as pesky a pest as, well, an alien with acid for blood. There have been a few exceptions, of course, but Alien Resurrection — like the movie that inspired it — doesn’t quite make the cut.
Everything here is straight-up first-person shooter fare – which, in the case of the PSX, hasn’t always meant a lot. Gamers are required to make their way through miles and miles of metal scaffolding and tunnels, shooting aliens, acquiring keys and backtracking all along the way. The game begins on the decks of the USM Auriga, where a cloned Ripley awakes to find the ship in the midst of an experiment gone terribly wrong. The long-term goal involves exterminating the alien plague and escaping the doomed spaceship, which is where the aforementioned backtracking comes into play. Along the way, she encounters numerous adversaries in the form of marines, sentry tanks, an Alien Queen and even the freakish human/alien hybrid seen at the film’s conclusion.
Of course, Ripley doesn’t have to go at it alone — all of the characters from the film make an appearance, and several crewmembers of the Betty, a mercenary freighter, are playable at appropriate times. Some of these, such as the android Call, have their own specialized weapons to accompany a standard complement of weaponry, which includes shotguns, pulse rifles and the rocket launcher. Gameplay certainly won’t offend, but it’s nowhere near as smooth as what gamers have come to expect from their shooters. Particularly niggling is the jerky targeting, which is handled by the Dual Shock’s right analog stick — with no run feature available, lining up a bead on a squad of marines (who don’t even move around much) can fast become an exercise in livid frustration. This, coupled with unforgiving (difficult) gameplay parameters, is sure to keep the player locked in for hours, although we don’t quite mean that in the best way.
Visually, the game is fine — with the requisite stretches of shadowy corridor, nice steam, spark and smoke effects and that nauseating bobbing animation as players make their way down the hall (although, admittedly, this can be turned off.) The levels are massive and load directly from the disc (cutting out that dreaded load time), but after a few hours of dark tunnels we found ourselves wishing they’d been pared down or spiced up just a bit. Character animations are generally lacking in polish or dynamism — even those of the aliens themselves. It’s a bad sign when the animated aliens rendered on a PlayStation fail to chill us as much as a rubber-suited actor from a film that’s nearly a quarter century old. The sound effects are actually slick and quite spooky, and judicious use of the Dual Shock’s rumble feature adds as much to the suspense as the plodding pace.
What’s most problematic is that the game’s developers for have chosen to stick so closely to the story of the film, which was generally accepted as a less than stellar fourth outing for Ripley and those dogged chestbursters. For some strange reason, game publishers insist on releasing what amounts to little more than a skeletal outline of a story, fleshed out with the actual game in between. And frankly, who wants to read/play through a movie they’ve most likely already seen? Of course, such standardized translations are a frequent occurrence in a time when “games” are churned out for every conceivable license and franchise – it’s a wonder we haven’t already seen a Starbucks game yet. Which is not to say it’s not coming.
It’s not that there’s anything significantly wrong with this game but if you are playing any game with exploits like COC, but it’s such a banal misuse of a popular franchise that its mediocrity really shines through. It’s had a long history of being held up — having once been designed as a third-person shooter — and, as is often the case with these delays, the final product isn’t on par with similar titles we’d spend our money on. We love Aliens, we love first-person shooters and we love the PlayStation — but precious little about this title, much like the movie that it’s based upon, makes us want to visit it a second time.