Preview: Area 51 (PS2, XB) Hands-On Impressions

Publisher: Midway / Developer: Midway-Austin / Genre: FPS / Release Date: Q1 2005
Slated for a first quater 2005 release the not so secretive government base Area 51 returns to video games. For those that may be unfamiliar about the original title the original Area 51 game was an arcade light gun game. That doesn’t really do it justice, for me it was THE light gun game, I can’t even begin to estimate how many quarters I have spent standing in from of that game, light gun in each hand blasting away at any alien scum that dared to cross my predetermined path. Enough of my obsession with the old Area 51 game and back on the new one.

Midway and developer Inevitable Entertainment are back with the newest game to feature the Area 51 name…only this time it’s no longer a light gun game. It’s a First Person Shooter. This time you play as a member of a Haz-Mat team that has been called to the base to check out a disaster that has occured.

Hands-on impressions:
(Demo available in the extras of Mortal Kombat: Deception)

Area 51 makes the switch from Light Gun game to First Person Shooter.
Already the graphics are impressive for the PS2 version. The textures are smooth and everything looks great. Till the release of Killzone this could end up as the best looking shooter for the PS2. The lighting is great, dark enough to set the mood for the game and give you a major case of the creeps but not too dark where it would be hard to see where you are going. Enemies are appropriatly disgusting looking and comes in hordes. Despite the amount of activity between your team and the aliens I didn’t see any evidence of slowdown whatsoever. The environment plays a large role in the game, not just in how much damage you are causing it either. During the demo electrical cords hung down from the ceiling, step into once of them and not only will your lifebar go down but it will screw up the screen while you are being shocked. Enemies that wander into burning wreckage will come out of that wrecking as mobile fireballs with the intent of BBQing you.

The best part about the demo in my view was how fast paced it was. The game so far accurately portrays the fast reflex response of the light gun game I used to play in the arcade with aliens popping up at every corner and having to rely on twich reflexes to keep yourself alive. Except in 3D it’s even crazier than ever since you now have to watch your front, side, back and even above your head since the aliens will keep coming at you from everywhere with little time to relax. The controls were simple and anyone whose ever played a FPS game should be able to pick up a controller and get into the game easily enough.

A friendly game of paint ball gone horribly horribly wrong.
Promotional material for the game claims that you’ll have the chance to turn from human to alien and will have different weapons at your disposal once you have changed and a storyline that will continue to get deeper and deeper as you keep playing. In addition to the single player game there will be standard multiplayer modes available offline and online play with up to 16 people.

Originally I was against the transition from a light gun game to a FPS (I’d rather have another light gun game so my light gun isn’t just collecting dust) but the pace is perfect for recreating the feeling that the arcade game had, and combining how well the graphics already look with the interesting concept of turning into an alien throughout the course of the game as well as the addition of full 16 player support online, if Area 51 can deliver all of this then we may be looking at new FPS that could give some of the major ones a run for their money.

Aliens. They MUST be up to no good. Probably about to probe you or something.
Stay tuned to for further information on the game and keep an eye on the shelves for it this winter.