Every once in a while a game comes along that is expected to succumb to failure even before it is released. In the case of Midway’s Area 51, most had already labeled this title as a doomed prospect, destined for a life in the bargain bin. However, in an effort of true heroics, the development team has managed to put together a fantastic first-person shooter. The game throws down the chains of its generic light gun arcade past and in so doing takes on a whole new dimension of gameplay involving solid teamwork, mutant on mutant combat, and a spooky, at times startling atmosphere.
Much of this atmosphere is owed to the game’s impressive visuals. Regarding the PlayStation 2 version, Area 51 sports some of the impressive graphics yet seen on that platform. The entire game, from the snarling aliens, to the destroyed remains of the secret base, are presented in glorious high-resolution. Particle effects and highly detailed textures all lend to the realism of the presentation. The lighting effects are wonderful and blend seamlessly with the surroundings to create an atmosphere of insanity as the player’s character fights his way through an army base overrun by mutant soldiers and aliens – all hell-bent on killing both he and his team. And unlike what players experienced in another higher-profile FPS, this time they can actually use their gun and flashlight at the same time as it’s mounted on top of their rifle. This means that if a player turns the corner and catches something moving out of the corner of their eye, they can actually see it as they blast it to shreds.
In terms of audio, Area 51 steps up to the plate with crisp aural joy that creates a sense of fear as a player moves through the generally dark base. The background ambiance puts this game over the top, as a player will hear muffled clangs, screams, breathing, gun fire, and all other manner of sounds one would expect to hear in an alien infested war zone. Many times the player will find themselves turning and shooting at nothing based on something they hear, which really adds to the whole sensory experience of the game. However, there is one fatal flaw to the audio of the game, but fortunately, it’s not enough to ruin the experience… David Duchovny. Sure, he is famous for his role in X-Files, which one can say has a lot in common with the story in Area 51. However, his dry and oftentimes boring delivery is out of place for a character who is fighting to survive, watching his friends die, and trying desperately to escape from hell. Duchovny tells the narrative like he is sitting on a park bench sipping lemonade. There is no sense of urgency or panic in his voice, and his tone never changes regardless if he is talking about his teammate being killed, or darning socks with his grandma. (That last part may or may not actually be in the game.) Other notable voices in the game include shock rocker Marilyn Manson, who plays a grotesque telepathic in a jar of green ooze. Granted this is possibly not all that far removed from his day to day life, but in all fairness he pulls off the part of an the insane psychotic quite well.
The story, however, is something altogether different. Imagine taking every conspiracy imaginable, putting it in a blender with aliens, David Duchovny, Marilyn Manson, robots, milk, cyborgs, clichA