Area 51 PS2 Review

Innovation is much requested, but rarely ever delivered in games, and whilst gaming may still be in its infancy, it’s still old enough that genuine originality can be near impossible to find in the games of today. It’s not as if the industry is lacking brilliant minds, it’s just that potential new ideas are hard to come by. I believe that people who expect every game to be innovative are simply expecting unreasonable things, and I have always argued that fun is above all, the most important aspect of any game. Which brings me to Area 51, that whilst highly enjoyable, is about as innovative as err…shooting aliens in games.

The same goes for the storyline of the game too, the themes of conspiracy and aliens, though heavily clichéd, are solidly executed here and far better than the vast majority of other shooters currently on the shelves, this also includes the two Halo games (anyone who read through my recent Pariah review will know how I feel about these). It’s hardly a surprise, but Area 51 features some celebrity voiceovers. David Duchovny lends his voice to the main character of the game, Ethan Cole, and does a moderately respectable job, though on occasion does sound rather bored and as if he didn’t want to be in the recording studio. The voices of Marilyn Manson and Powers Boothe are also featured for anyone who cares, me? I’d rather have professional voice actors doing “their” job any day.

The actual game may play just about identically to almost every other FPS on the market, though with its hordes of mindless aliens looking to rip you apart and its reliance on a nice eerie atmosphere, Doom is without doubt the best comparison for Area 51. Little in the way of brainpower is required and all you’ll need is a very itchy trigger finger to play the game, which is not unlike ID’s classic shooter.

The only real aspect of Area 51 which offers something a little different are the alien powers. Later on in the game, Cole ends up infected by an alien and from this point on, you can shift between both human and alien forms. As an alien, you can toss balls of energy to fry your hapless enemies and even possess them to do your bidding for you. But this form isn’t half as satisfying as the human role, I prefer shuddering firearms myself as opposed to overpowered gimmicks.

Like the majority of its kind, Area 51 offers online multiplayer and it’s some of the most gratifying that I’ve encountered thus far, particularly on the PS2. Most probably has to do with the satisfying shaky weapons. Another thing that I particularly liked about this aspect is the fancy named “level scaling”, this ingenious idea means maps are altered based on how many people are currently in the game. A perfectly serviceable two player split screen mode is also available for people who want to play people a bit closer to home and, of course, for those who don’t have the means to play online games.

Area 51 looks great, and even near exceptional if your sole machine happens to be a PS2. The game has a distinct, almost Killzone like, style and thankfully has a consistently good framerate. Another highpoint is the impressive shooting effects of the guns, the shuddering screen and satisfying sound makes you feel as if you really do possess serious tools of death, which is, of course, a good thing in a game that involves shooting guns for almost the entirety of the game.

Though Area 51 isn’t up to the standard of similar titles like Doom 3, it still manages to be a highly playable shooter, which excels in both the solitary and multiplayer aspects. Some will fear it for its overall familiarity, which in itself has become an irksome outlook; we always thought innovation was vastly overrated anyway.