Area 51 – This conspiracy sucks.

So I’ve slowed down on my gaming in the last couple weeks. I think it’s because I’m sitting on a bunch of really involved games that I don’t have the time or concentration to sit down and learn, so I’ve been playing more brainless stuff in the meantime.

Lately I’ve been giving Area 51 a shot. It’s EVERYTHING that’s wrong with first person shooters today. Please note I’m not referring to the old arcade shooter game. That one is a classic in many ways. I’m talking about the shooter from 2005…. it’s just awful.

Let’s start with the story. I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting a really original or involved plot, but man is this one run of the mill. Ready? Something goes wrong at Area 51, and your dude is sent in with a bunch of other dudes to stop it. Oh noes! It’s a viral infection that’s turning everyone into bloodthirsty aliens! Oh noes! Your squad is slowly but surely killed off by scripted in game events!

David Duchovny voices the main character, who dumps huge amounts of already revealed exposition in voice overs between levels. Now, I love David Duchovny. I’m a big Californication fan. His voice acting is up there with Tobey Maguire’s for the worst ever in a video game. He sounds like he was woken up in the middle of the night and forced in front of a microphone. It’s awful.

Eventually, you’re the only dude left and you get exposed to the virus. For some reason, instead of turning you into one of the monsters you’ve been fighting, it gives you the ability to switch between mutant and human form… Neither one of these are interesting.

Human form gets the typical array of FPS guns as you take on about 3 or 4 different enemy types in really repetitive environments. Mutant form lets you shoot parasites (which behave quite a bit like bullets) or claw people, but you constantly need to replenish your mutagen. I found human form to be far more effective anyway… so that gameplay element gets immediately shot down.

It has all the things that games this recent should not be able to get away with, which I shall list in sentence fragments: Labeling objectives that are five feet away. Inane fetch quests where you get a key in one room and use it in the next room over. Repetitive level design that gives no sense of tension, progression, or exploration. Ridiculous amounts of health and ammo so that you’re always maxed out, even at higher difficulties.

There’s talk about making a film about the game. Hoo boy. It’ll be REALLY dull unless they punch it up and depart from the story big time. Wikipedia says they’ve hired Grant Morrison (a huge comic legend that I think is pretty okay) to write it. He’s known for really original stuff though, so maybe he’ll do something cool with it, like maybe portraying the aliens as sympathetic and the humans as the bad guys! Maybe they just want to leave Area 51 and we’re keeping them here against their will and experimenting on them! Oooh maybe the evil scientists are trying to capture boring protagonist guy because he is the only one that can mutate at will to use their abilities!

Nah that’d be stupid.


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September 2009
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