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Area 51 (Xbox) artwork

Area 51 (Xbox) review


"Yes, the infamous Area-51, the government’s most secure base. Conquering its myriad mysteries is just one mission you’ll be prompted to take on. You are Ethan Cole, a member of the Army’s Hazmat team. A virus is running rampant and has already vanquished the original Hazmat Team Delta. You’ll be inflicting revenge and satiating that inquisitive nature in yourself all throughout this game. Buckle up; Area-51 is a thrill ride that presents numerous obstacles and joys for any FPS enthusiast. "



Yes, the infamous Area-51, the government’s most secure base. Conquering its myriad mysteries is just one mission you’ll be prompted to take on. You are Ethan Cole, a member of the Army’s Hazmat team. A virus is running rampant and has already vanquished the original Hazmat Team Delta. You’ll be inflicting revenge and satiating that inquisitive nature in yourself all throughout this game. Buckle up; Area-51 is a thrill ride that presents numerous obstacles and joys for any FPS enthusiast.

The game starts out as basic as you could get. You get eased in, receive your first weapon, and start shooting things shortly thereafter. You get an arcade-like vibe from the very beginning, as enemies pop up like weeds. You’ll mostly be fighting mutants that have the virus, and your selection of weapons is surprisingly scant. Sure, you’ll have the basic pistol, shotgun, and sniper rifle, however, aside from one, you won’t find any special weapons that wow you. I did like how the locales are varied and cause you to use the weapons you have to their fullest. You’ll constantly be flipping frantically through your arsenal, attempting to find the right gun for the right situation. When guns just don’t cut it, you have two distinct grenades to methodically lob into any firefight. Fragmentation and JMP grenades each do the trick, blowing up multiple enemies in their path.

The difficulty level is ramped up as you get the basics mastered and forces you to think outside the box. The action always runs at a frenzied pace, regardless of the situation; you’ll always be on your toes in this one. Objectives consist of mostly switching control panels, but if you don’t know exactly where to go there is an onscreen indicator directing you.

About halfway through the game you’ll discover that you have the virus. With this detriment comes the ability to mutate just as the enemies you’re fighting do. At any time you can switch from human to mutant form. In your mutated form, all life forms are lit up in a highlighting orange, alerting you to the location of hiding or out-of-reach enemies. A massive swipe attack with your arms is the main way you’ll go about destroying things as a mutant. You must be sure you inflict a steady flow of carnage when mutated. A mutagen bar regulates how much longer you can stay in the mutated form, and every time you kill something (you must be using your incredibly strong swipe attack) that bar goes up a notch. You can also shoot bursts of the virus at enemies. This sort of acts as a long-range attack for your mutated form.

While all of this sounds incredibly fun, I found I liked playing as human better, as there’s certainly more diversity in gameplay.

A default item you have from the beginning, a nifty little scanner, allows the storing of data and documents found throughout the game. You’ll find classified documents lying about the base, and scanning them lets you read their contents out of game. Ranging from crop circles to cattle mutilations, the documents store varied information that can be quite interesting. They can also be helpful in understanding the somewhat convoluted plot. Some real life events, such as the Roswell, New Mexico crash, are outlined in these documents.

Even such events as the lunar landing on the moon are visually portrayed in game. You’ll take an elevator up to an unknown place. At the top you’ll encounter a vast rocky terrain that looks exactly like the moon. In the background you’ll notice Earth resting ever so quietly. Directly in front of you is the craft that landed and an astronaut standing next to the American flag. This looks like an epic recreation of one of America’s boldest attempts at stardom; you’re reliving the lunar landing. But, to your dismay, the astronaut falls flat on his face…literally flat on his face. The whole thing you have just witnessed is a humorous jab at the conspiracy suggesting that the lunar landing was faked. The astronaut is a cardboard cutout; if you walk behind the rocks you’ll notice they are mere props. At the same time the graphics are showing their true colors. The models are excellently done, with sharp, vivid texturing. Since you’re in the base the whole time, the environments are done as well as they possibly could. Minute little details are dispersed throughout the visual show, and as a whole is a grand display. Trust me, the first time you step inside a massive UFO and take in the sheer majestic beauty put into it, your breath will be taken away. You had heard about UFOs but being inside one…well, that’s a different story. And when wanting to get you to feel like you’re inside a secure, tightly patrolled base is your goal, then the game excelled magnificently at that.

As if all this wasn’t enough, the voiceovers found in game are, for the most part, done nicely. I especially like when you hear Marilyn Manson’s creepy voice. David Duchovny from the X-Files series lends his voice, as well as Powers Boothe. Music will crescendo at critical parts of the game and will keep you alert to when a battle is drawing near.

The sum of all this is one cohesive package. Dynamic action abound, you never find yourself bored in this game. While it won’t make you solve mind-bending puzzles or read ridiculous plot text, it will give you intense, heated action. And, as well, it will keep you enthralled and entertained right up to the final, concluding cutscene.

Aside from the robust campaign mode, there is also a surprisingly capable multiplayer mode. Featuring 18 maps, objective based games, and a decent array of weapons, it’s definitely a treat worth checking out. The maps all contain little complexities that help bring out the talent in the player.

All in all, this is a game that can’t be missed. Execution is what it does right, and that’s all you could ask for.

Rating: 9.5/10

mrmiyamoto's avatar
Community review by mrmiyamoto (June 29, 2005)

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