The Murky World of Alien Videogames: part…erm…4? 5?

Written by Gav Weir. Twitter over here.

Hey! Remember this thing? I almost didn’t until I started messing around with PSOne emulators on my newly purchased Android box and spotted a little game called Alien Resurrection. And yes, I have skipped past Alien Trilogy, I’ll come back to that soon.

So let’s get this out the way: the film this game is based on is a confused, horrid mess that not even a Josh Whedon script could save. The wrong director with the wrong script and the wrong cast all stunted with a redesigned Alien that took a sleek, insect-like killing machine and turned it into a slime-oozing mindless animal.  After the gloriously bleak and brutal finality of Alien 3, it just did not need to exist and anyone who does like it is simply not a good person.
So with that out the way: the game…

ALIEN RESURRECTION – PSONE, 2000

Alien_Resurrection_VG_cover_art

…is actually OK. Ok as in ‘not bad enough for me to pull my eyes out and use them as stress toys, but not good enough for me to keep playing for more than half an hour. The definition of middling. Like if you made the game equivalent of Lamb of God’s musical outputTotally just OK.

Developed by Argonaut Software (who you might remember did the c64 port of the Alien game back in the first of these posts and some game called Starfox) and published by a not-yet-evil EA.

After a slightly troubled development cycle, the game eventually settled in taking an FPS approach, one that almost every game from here on out adopts too – and for good reason: given the increase in power of consoles and PC’s, the ability to recreate environments seen in the films was now at developer hands.

The USM Aruriga is the only part of the film that stands out from the muddied over written mess that takes place inside it with its odd green/brown rusted hexagonal corridors and weirdly bio-mechanical ribbed walls making it feel almost alive. There’s hints of past ships in there and elements that seem familiar to the themes of the franchise, but it has it’s own identity and it’s pretty fatefully reproduced here. If anything, the atmosphere of the ship is more oppressive than the film. Dark corridors (possibly more due to the draw distance), hissing pipes m, flickering lights and some fantastic sound work create a dense feeling of dread, with the inevitable jump scares never telegraphed. Which is great because Alien is a series famous for tension, so getting that right puts you halfway to making a decent adaption.

However, the controls are confusing, though they take the now standard duel stick approach, strafing is on the left stick making it at odds with what you’d expect from a console FPS. I often found myself walking down corridors at an angle rather than struggle with them. This also makes aiming an absolute chore skin to pulling your own eyes out. Trying to track the aliens as they dart around the screen is damn near impossible given the broken state of the controls. I did appreciate the quick turn button as Ripley moves like you’re actually playing as one of her failed clones and takes roughly 6 years to turn around.

So really, this is a big bag of a missed opportunity. Sure, it was on the PSone, so you can’t be expecting a modern-level of shine from it, but since this came out a whole year after the sublime Alien v Predator on PC, this feels so far behind that game in terms of quality and adaption of the franchise. Looking ahead slightly, it’ll be a few years before console gamers could enjoy a game of that quality.

It’s not all bad though, like I said the atmosphere is fantastic and it is pretty scary. The weapons all have a nice kick to them, chiefly the double barrelled shotgun (a solid 6 DOOMS out of 10). And the models of the Aliens are big and chunky and moved in a convincingly ‘Alien‘ way.

Better controls would’ve gone a long way to glossing over most of the flaws, but non of that really matters when the game is about as much fun as slathering yourself in entrails and jumping into a lions den.
NEXT!!! SOON!! I’ll leap back in time to look at Alien Trilogy and we slowly step closer to me having to finally open up and talk about the horror that haunts my soul – Aliens: Colonial Marines.

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