Originally published on GameInformer.com April 23, 2015, at 2:00 PM.
Selected for Blog Herding -- The Best Blogs of the Community, 4/30/15.
Selected for Game Informer Newsletter, 5/2/15.
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Update 6/4/18: Select screenshots from this pictorial appear at bottom.
The release of Alien: Isolation late last year fueled nostalgia for the sci-fi/horror franchise, and encouraged me to revisit a related game that is over 19 years old -- Alien Trilogy. The presentation suffers on a high-definition TV and the gameplay is stiff by modern standards, but the atmosphere and suspense still capture the elements that have contributed to the series' success.
As the title suggests, Alien Trilogy borrows from the first three films, including plot and character elements, enemy types, weapons/tools and setting. While not a point by point recreation, the story begins with Ellen Ripley and a Marine expedition traveling to LV426. The ensuing action in this first person shooter unfolds with the player in control of Ripley as she fights through xenomorphs.
An opening cinematic is also reminiscent of the film Aliens, with a Marine transport taking its passengers to the surface only to face near extermination during an early alien assault. The CG amused with its dated graphics but also recalled a fondness for early PlayStation era titles and iconic scenes from the James Cameron film.
Gameplay begins with a standard pistol, but one's inventory will grow to include such memorable weapons as the pulse rifle and flamethrower.
The heads-up display shows basic information familiar to fans of the FPS genre, such as an ammo counter, health meter and radar, the latter in the form of the motion tracker used to monitor alien movement in Aliens. Facehuggers (in the foreground) are a common enemy found early in the game.
Returning to the games of past generations can be a jarring experience. While we might remember such titles fondly, the antiquated controls remind us how far gameplay has progressed. And nothing demonstrates that better than trying to survive an onslaught of scurrying face huggers with the PlayStation's directional keypad and shoulder buttons.
Thankfully there are pickups located throughout the levels of this corridor shooter, and finding ones such as this shotgun prove necessary against tougher foes. The shotgun also happens to be a useful tool for removing barriers such as explosive barrels. One criticism, certainly not unique to this game, is that corridors are indistinguishable; so getting lost is pretty routine.
On the plus side: facehuggers! Their AI is a decent challenge, as they often attack in numbers, avoid gunfire and retreat far (down corridors and around corners). And if they get past your defenses -- a distinct possibility when returning to this control scheme two decades later -- they smother you. Eww.
But one of the best characteristics is the sound they emit -- a kind of high pitched shriek that is unremarkable but assumes greater significance as part of the score. That's right, the alien squeal accompanies other sounds like thunder in the familiar synthesizer score to establish atmosphere and, more importantly, keep you looking over your shoulder.
Besides the ominous HUD chewing facehugger, your character's demise might be represented by a third-person cinematic of your character succumbing to a xenomorph in a screen awash with blood-red flames or some such conflagration. Like the score, it's a glorious reminder of that era's FPS games.
Xenomorphs represent a similar challenge as facehuggers, though they are necessarily more powerful. The standard pistol is pretty ineffective, though the shotgun can make mincemeat of them (albeit greenish-yellow mincemeat owing to their acid blood, which regrettably does not alter the environment when spilled, even in copious amounts).
The only problem with the shotgun, as can be expected, is the dearth of ammo pickups. Like the health pack, these are relatively rare, so keeping the pistol equipped is usually a good tactic.
Besides the standard xenomorph, dog aliens (from Alien 3) make an appearance, though I don't remember them using walls or ceilings as in the movie. And in my limited playtime I didn't encounter any queen aliens, though they do represent the bosses in this title.
Still it was fun to be reminded of games from this era. The graphics and cinematics, the synthesizer score, the corridor shooter gameplay -- it wasn't so long ago that this was the cutting edge. At least it wasn't so long ago for this old school gamer!
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