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Alias (PlayStation 2) artwork

Alias (PlayStation 2) review

"First things first - if you're not already a fan of the show Alias, this game isn't for you. It's designed to appeal to die-hard fans, to be another piece of Alias merchandise in their rapidly-growing collection. First the DVDs of season one and two. Then the official magazine. Now the video game, coming to a console near you! "

First things first - if you're not already a fan of the show Alias, this game isn't for you. It's designed to appeal to die-hard fans, to be another piece of Alias merchandise in their rapidly-growing collection. First the DVDs of season one and two. Then the official magazine. Now the video game, coming to a console near you!

The storyline is something Alias fans will be familiar with - Sydney and the CIA, the good guys, versus Sloane, Sark, and the return of Anna Espinosa, the bad guys. It is designed to fill gaps in the TV storyline, another reason why it won't make sense if you're not a TV show fan. It slots in nicely between episodes 19 and 20 of season two, so it will make perfect sense if you remember the story then - a scientist, Dr. Caplan, has been kidnapped by Sloane to construct the ultimate Rambaldi device. That, and Jacobs, an undercover FBI agent, has gone missing at the hands of Anna Espinosa. Jacobs' last known location was a casino in Monte Carlo owned by Sark, so that is our first stop in a race around the world, to discover and sabotage the plans of the evil henchmen, and to save a few of the good guys along the way.

At times, the plot can be fairly thin, no doubt about it. But if you like the show, you'll put up with the minor flaw because it's really not that bad.

Graphics and sound are above average, but nothing terribly spectacular. Acclaim tried hard to make the characters look like their real-life counterparts - some succeeded, some failed. You'll have no problem telling who each of the good guys are, in the brief times you see them in FMV, but they could have been better. For example, why isn’t Michael Vaughn half as sexy in the game as he is on my TV? See, we got a little gypped there.

In-game graphics are decent, with few glitches. Most of the environments are indoor, and look good, but at times they can be a little generic. The inside of a mental asylum looks almost identical to the inside of an embassy, which can be a little disturbing. For the characters, it’s basically Sydney against the bad guys, not a lot to choose from. And more designs for bad guys are desperately needed here. We have guards with guns everywhere, all identical down to the buckles on their shoes; cocktail waitresses in the casino, doctors and nurses in the mental asylum, khaki-clad guards in the ruins, and not much else. So say, three enemy designs for each mission. Not enough. It looks really bad when you’re in a pack fight (okay, you’re not supposed to get into pack fights in a stealth game, but it happens) and you’re fighting six of the same person.

All of the character’s real voices have been used for the game, which really scores points for coolness and authenticity. Nothing like sneaking down a dark corridor and hearing Dixon bark a comment to you – my favourite is “there might be a stealthier way to approach this”. Or breaking your way into a control room to set Marshall rambling about the devices inside, and what you should do next. Marshall would have to be my favourite voiced character in the game, because he is true to life (well, true to show) – totally socially inept, prone to rambling about random things at the worst times. Most of the other characters are done well, with the exception of Vaughn – I know his character is usually level-headed and all, but Vaughn’s voice never moves an inch from a flat monotone, which kinda sucks L Did they make Vaughn bad on purpose or something, cuz they knew I was gonna play?

Your Alias gaming experience follows the usual stealth format of missions and objectives, which sometimes feels like you’re being led around on a leash. Okay, you broke into the control room, now go to the library on top level of the building. Sure, you get to find out how to do it yourself, but it still feels a little contrived at times.

True to the show, Sydney is armed with a stunning array of gadgets and gizmos to make her stealth life easier, from a CCTV signal jammer, to a lock pick, to a remote modem for those all-important hacking jobs. She’s even armed with night vision and thermal vision, to make for some serious colourful eye candy on screen. (Try switching into thermal vision when you’re surrounded by spot fires. Cool.) But again, it feels like you’re led through in their use, as you’re told whenever you can use a piece of op-tech by the presence of the logo.

There is no challenge in using the devices, simply select them and you use them. Excepting the lock pick, in which you must unlock each pin in the lock one at a time, by rotating the analog stick. It’s not that tricky, but it still gives a bit of authenticity and wizardry.

So Sydney sets out on missions, armed with all her kit and caboodle, sometimes with a good friend such as Dixon in tow. She starts off in a suitable disguise for her location, and there are basically two courses of action you can take – the full stealth idea, which is a lot trickier than it looks, and requires a lot of time and patience for little reward; or you can simply barge through and complete your objectives making as much noise and commotion as is physically possible. This has a lot less downsides than one might expect in a stealth game. Due to the AI of all the enemies in this game, who will forget they were chasing you as soon as a door closes behind you; who, even though they can plainly see you waiting in an ambush for them, will barge around a corner anyways; will shoot their own allies in an attempt to shoot you; it’s actually rather easy to just run straight through, which exposes some glaring oversights from the developers.

Yes, you can pick up a lot of objects you see lying around, and use them as weapons, which is pretty cool. Yes, your opponents will also pick up these same objects if they get to them first. But you run faster than any enemy in this game, even when pushing a wheelchair. So they see you, sound the alarm, and by the time any of their cronies arrive on the scene, you’re about three rooms away and they forget they ever saw you. What’s the point of going stealth when its not necessary? For the experience? It makes the game a lot trickier, and at some stages you’ll just tell yourself “screw it” and run through them to save yourself a lot of time and effort.

If you choose not to run, and you should get yourself into a confrontation, you’ll have to fight. And here you’ll hit possibly the worst part of the game. Controls. In a non-fight situation, you won’t notice them because you’re under no pressure. But in battles, that’s where things get sticky. You have an attack button, a special attack button, a block button, and a dodge button. And they don’t work well together. They’re sluggish. You can knock a bad guy to the floor with a special attack, then hammer both attack buttons and you still won’t connect until they get back up and start hitting you. It gets frustrating in pack situations, which are sometimes unavoidable. One-on-one, its manageable, but it makes certain parts of certain missions very difficult because you can’t avoid a 5-on-1 fight.

I know it sounds like I’m picking the shit outta the game, but the truth is, I really like it. I’ve picked out minor flaws that don’t really detract from the overall feel of the game. It’s a good adaptation from the screen to the console, but perhaps only for people who know they’ll love it simply for the name and face on the box.

karpah's avatar
Community review by karpah (May 12, 2004)

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