Ads are gone. We're using Patreon to raise funds so we can grow. Please pledge support today!
Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All
Area 51 (Arcade) artwork

Area 51 (Arcade) review


"It feels like Atari and Midway both invested most of their developing power into the graphics. At the time they were state of the art. Seeing realistic faces in a videogame that wasn't an interactive movie was a game nerd's wet dream. Seeing it put into effect was neat at the time, and it easily distracted people from the fact that Area 51 offered little more than repetitive action. However, such graphics didn't age well. Splicing the real world with semi-rendered environments looks cheesy nowadays. Thanks to that, the flaws are all too apparent. "



Area 51 was easy to love when it first hit arcades. The mounted weaponry was the first thing to catch your eye, followed by the motion captured graphics and awkward grunting of dying monsters. It made you feel like weren't just playing a game, but watching a horrible Sci-Fi Channel movie play out before you. It had everything that a contemporary action game should have: guns, aliens, zombies, explosions and gore. What we didn't know back then was it was all a cover to hide the true beast inside. Now that those elements don't hold the sway they once did, we can see Area 51 for what it is: a lightly fun, yet shallow and repetitive arcade shooter.

That's not to say it's a total wash. The very beginning is quite engaging. Your first view is of the forbidden site, your buddies ushering you into combat while carnage rages around you. Crates and barrels, some explosive, lay strewn about the place, and hiding behind them are the gun-toting undead elite. Notice their bright orange apparel that screams, “Shoot me!” A well-placed bullet doesn't only kill the zombies, but cause their bodies to explode in puffs of blue fire and gore. There'll be so much zombie shooting that you might forget to watch your ammo. Once you empty a clip, you have to shoot off-screen to reload. I remembered liking that as a teenager because not many games had interactive reloading back then.

Before you can make a Thriller reference, things get hairier. These aren't your garden variety zombies. I'm not sure what the backstory is, but I'm pretty sure they're really infected people and not just rotting corpses with single-word vocabularies. We're talking zombies that can operate forklifts and rocket launchers, and are strong enough to toss a limitless supply of radioactive barrels at you. These are blue collar zombies, my friends; the deadliest kind. Zapping them in the first stage isn't so difficult, but by putting on a different colored jumpsuit in later stages, they become more much tougher. Purple and pink seem to hold massive amounts of power. Your only chance at survival against the brightly-colored undead is to master precision and speed. Let too many rockets or barrels hit you, or fail to put a bullet in a zombie fast enough and you'll find the game over screen. Nabbing power ups helps greatly, as you can devastate enemy forces with increased firepower and stronger guns.

What is the actual Area 51 known for? Aliens!

Zombies eventually take a cold bench somewhere to sulk while hideous aliens come out to play. Only the toughest of the zombies get to stay while the aliens run amok. This is where you notice Area 51 limitations. There are only two types of enemies, and the only thing that separates them is purely cosmetic. Aliens do much the same thing that zombies do, except without guns. Instead of firing a machine gun, they throw magical fireballs. They hide in the same ways and in the same places, and even act the same, and can be dealt with in the same way. They even take the same amount of firepower to destroy.

The fact that there's a lot of action in this game doesn't mask how shallow it is. Many of the enemies approach you in the same situations and require the same solutions. Different enemy types and unique situations could have added some much needed variety. All you do is walk from one situation to the next, try not to shoot your friends on the screen, and blow away zombies or aliens before they can get a lick in. Before long, the experience begins to feel repetitive. You might not notice it on your first or second play through, but the more times you play the game, the more you begin to realize that everything from start to finish is familiar territory.

If you were hoping challenge would save the day, your hopes are for naught. It doesn't take long to memorize enemy positions and learn how to deal with each situation, and dealing with them is especially easy with two players. Together, you and a friend can easily decimate the alien army with only a few credits.

It feels like Atari and Midway both invested most of their developing power into the graphics. At the time they were state of the art. Seeing realistic faces in a videogame that wasn't an interactive movie was a game nerd's wet dream. Seeing it put into effect was neat at the time, and it easily distracted people from the fact that Area 51 offered little more than repetitive action. However, such graphics didn't age well. Splicing the real world with semi-rendered environments looks cheesy nowadays. Thanks to that, the flaws are all too apparent.

I still play Area 51 from time to time if I see it in an arcade. I don't invest more than one credit into it, though. At $0.50 a pop, it's hardly worth justifying more than one credit, especially when some of my favorite arcade cabinets only take a single quarter. It also doesn't help that games like Time Crisis exist; better shooters that pack more bang for your buck. Area 51 is a nice trip down memory lane. Unfortunately, its age and flaws are beginning to show.

Rating: 6/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (June 30, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

More Reviews by JoeTheDestroyer
X-Men (Arcade) artwork
X-Men (Arcade)

X-CHICKEN!!!
MirrorMoon EP (PC) artwork
MirrorMoon EP (PC)

Dear Esther in SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!
Draw a Stickman: EPIC (PC) artwork
Draw a Stickman: EPIC (PC)

It's official: we've killed the word 'epic'. Nice going, guys.

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Area 51 review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
qxz posted June 30, 2011:

True, true. Area 51 is one of those machines that I'll play if it's there and there aren't any better alternatives available.

There is one question I would like to ask based on the final paragraph of this review. If you were lucky enough to find an Area 51 cabinet charging only 25˘, would you still only play one credit?
board icon
JoeTheDestroyer posted June 30, 2011:

I might play a couple, actually. I don't think I'd play much more than that because that's less games of Strikers 1945 Plus and Centipede I could play. Then again, quality arcades are hard to find these days. It seems lately whenever I find one with Area 51, it turns out to be the best game in there.
board icon
OzGirl1985 posted February 09, 2012:

We purchased Area 51 for our children to play in our game room. Perhaps their age plays a large role in this but they really seem to enjoy it.
board icon
JoeTheDestroyer posted February 10, 2012:

OzGirl1985:
Thank you for reading! I don't contest that there could be some who genuinely enjoy the game. A 6/10 is not a negative rating, after all, just not a great one. I think for me it's just that it doesn't hold the same effect on me now as it did when I was 16, or even 21 when I originally reviewed this at GameFAQs with an 8/10 rating. It just didn't age well for me.
board icon
zippdementia posted February 12, 2012:

DAMN it STILL costs 50 cents to play Area 51?! Fuck me, I thought the game had gone to single quarter ages ago!
board icon
qxz posted February 13, 2012:

Pff. I'm still shocked that, considering it's practically everywhere, the price to play Area 51 hasn't gone down to two credits per coin.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Info | Help | Privacy Policy | Contact | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Area 51 is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Area 51, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.