Blackguards 2 Preview


I previewed Daedalic Entertainment's Strategy RPG, Blackguards 2 over at Tech-gaming.com. You can also see more of my professional work by following this link.

Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault


I reviewed Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault for Pc over at Tech-gaming.com. You can find more of my professional reviews and previews there as well. 

Resident Evil

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Resident Evil was by no means the first survival horror game, but it's generally attributed as the title that popularized the genre. Originally intended as a remake of Capcom's "Sweet Home" for the Nintendo Famicom, it soon grew a life of itself and became its owns series.

I often see a lingering doubt as to whether or not Resident Evil was largely inspired by Infogrames' Alone in the Dark. Both feature similar gameplay styles, controls, combat and camera angles, however, the Japanese market is usually less than accepting of western PC games, leaving many to wonder if this was a case of parallel thinking. 

What many may not know however is that the original Alone in the Dark was a surprise hit in the land of the rising sun, so much so that Resident Evil was not Japan's first attempt to emulate Alone in the Dark's gameplay. That honor falls to Riverhillsoft's Doctor Hauzer, a fully 3D survival horror game launched only in Japan for the 3DO, though oddly enough, it contained no enemies or combat to speak of.

Fast forward to 1996 and Resident Evil, a then Playstation exclusive becomes one of the system's first killer apps. The game became a hit with critics and gamers alike and sold over 5 million units. So with all this said, has it stood the test of time? Well, it mostly depends on what you're looking for, but in my opinion, it most certainly has.

Resident Evil gives you the option to play as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield of the elite
task force STARS. The team was sent on a rescue mission but things quickly go astray and the few surviving members find refuge in a nearby mansion only to realize it's crawling with zombies and other monstrosities. 

Players must now uncover the mansion's secrets while avoiding its dangers. To do this you will have to find keys, solve mostly basic puzzles, manage a relatively low supply of ammo and healing items as well as learn when one should avoid confrontations.

Despite ammo being a valuable commodity, I found the game overall easier when playing as Jill Valentine. Her larger inventory allowed me to carry more items at once therefore saving me a few trips, she can also lockpick desk drawers for extra items whereas Chris requires you to find the key. Moreover, Jill also has access to a Bazooka which makes short work of almost every enemy in the game including the last boss. I got the feeling Chris was more resistant to damage but that's not nearly enough to offset the advantages you get when playing as Jill.

Many players have always scoffed this series due to what is aptly called "tank controls". To put it simply, your character control so sluggishly it feels as if you're controlling a tank rather than a person. While this is something of an issue it does mean gamers can't just blindly rush at enemies, rather they have to plan ahead juggling the awkward control scheme and the ammo supply.

If a character's inventory becomes full you'll have to find a chest. There you can store every item you find throughout the game. All chests are shared, meaning what you place in one will appear in the other, while this design decision can shake one's suspension of disbelief at first, it does save players from having to backtrack. Saving is also limited to finding typewriters and ink ribbons to use them on. I managed to find 16-18 ribbons through each playthrough which is more than enough to finish the game and still have a few spares.

Graphically, Resident Evil looks good for an early Playstation title, all the backgrounds are pre-rendered giving them a nice, detailed look. Characters, enemies and usable items are all rendered in real-time but have a very low-polygon count. This is especially noticeable for usable objects which will often stick out like a sore thumb against the clean photo-backgrounds.

These pre-rendered backgrounds can also create perspective and camera issues, often making it hard to aim or completely blocking your view of incoming enemies. In some cases a zombie can be standing right on top of the player but you can't even see him coming, I found this especially infuriating during boss fights. I also noticed our two main characters suffer from an assortment of clipping issues, especially on their shoulders.

The story is initially told via a black and white live action cutscene featuring some of the cheesiest acting you will ever see. Meanwhile the remaining plot progression being conveyed through equally hilarious in-game cutscenes.

In fact, this is perhaps Resident Evil's greatest strength and greatest weakness. It tries so hard to be a scary game but its dialogue is so poorly written that when coupled with the terrible acting magic happens! I would gleefully listen to every character interaction and laugh at the truly awkward deliveries of an even more awkward dialogue. While this may appeal to some it does have the side effect of ruining the tension or any sense of impending danger. This is compounded further by the soundtrack which does a wonderful job at establishing an eerie feeling of unease.

I was pleasantly surprised by Resident Evil. The tank controls and goofy dialogues aren't for everyone, but it does offer a genuinely fun and even tense experience. Blowing a zombie's head is satisfying as is discovering a new key or unlocking a puzzle. The plot won't win any awards but that only makes it the ideal b-movie experience turned videogame.

Playstation vs. SaturnHaving played both the Playstation and Saturn versions back-to-back I can safely say most graphical differences are insignificant and purely academic in nature. I found that the Saturn version features sharper backgrounds and better character models for Chris and Jill. While they still had the odd clipping issue these were much rarer and far less noticeable on the Saturn than its Playstation cousin. 

Moreover, the models themselves had better geometry and proportions. On the flipside, water, smoke and any other transparency effect looked terrible on Sega's 32-bit system. The lack of hardware accelerated transparency effects strikes once again and as a result water and smoke are all dithered. The main character's shadow seems to have a few issues on the Saturn version, namely it "clears" any blood stains being rendered in-engine. I also noticed the Saturn ran at an overall lower resolution, the same goes for FMVs. The loading animations looked more pixelated on the Saturn and generally took longer than they did on the Playstation. Finally, exploding a zombie's head was much more satisfying on the Saturn as the developers added a new graphical effect making the overall combat a bit more gory. I can't say that one version trounces the other graphically, but I did prefer the Saturn port for its sharper backgrounds and better character model which make for most of the experience. 

The Saturn does have an exclusive "Battle Mode" in which you must clear zombie infested rooms as fast as possible. It's a neat little feature but one that I become bored with after only a few minutes. None of these differences are enough for me to score one version over the other. In the end, it all comes down to personal taste.

Pros:
- Good mix of exploration and puzzle solving 
- Blowing a zombie's head off never gets old
- Hilariously cheesy dialogue...

Cons:
- ...However, cheesy dialogue may not appeal to everyone
- Tank controls can be a major turn off
- Combat is prone to camera and perspective issues

Final Grade: B+


I am not a fan of this cover, it's so cluttered I can barely tell what's going on. Chris' face looks off with one eye twice as big as the other. I'm assuming those dark figures are shadows, but it's hard to tell. This cover is just a mess, at least I like the clean look of the CD.

The manual has plenty of information on all our characters, including the ones you find dead in the mansion. While that extra bit of information is tad unnecessary I do appreciate the team for going beyond the call of duty and including it. The game's cheesyness extends to the manual too, I chuckled when Wesker's bio names him the team's "cool guy" due to his hair style and shades. (see picture)

Not a great packaging, the cover certainly is confusing, but hey, any manual that can get you to smile gets my thumbs up

Packaging Grade: B-

Resident Evil

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom

Resident Evil is by no means the first survival horror game, but it's generally regarded as the title that popularized this genre. Originally intended as a remake of Capcom's "Sweet Home" for the Nintendo Famicom, it soon grew a life of itself and became its owns series.

I often see a lingering doubt as to whether or not Resident Evil was largely inspired by Infogrames' Alone in the Dark. Both feature similar gameplay styles, controls, combat and camera angles, however, the Japanese market is usually less than accepting of western PC games, leaving many to wonder if this was a case of parallel thinking.

What many may not know however is that the original Alone in the Dark was a surprise hit in the land of the rising sun, so much so that Resident Evil was not Japan's first attempt to emulate Alone in the Dark's gameplay. That honor falls to Riverhillsoft's Doctor Hauzer, a fully 3D survival horror game launched only in Japan for the 3DO, though oddly enough, it contained no enemies or combat to speak of.

Launched a year after the Playstation version, the Saturn port received a few graphical tweaks and an exclusive battle mode. Despite this, the two versions play very much alike. So with all this said, has it stood the test of time? Well, it mostly depends on what you're looking for, but in my opinion, it most certainly has.

Resident Evil gives you the option to play as either Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield of the elite
task force STARS. The team was sent on a rescue mission but things quickly go astray and the few surviving members find refuge in a nearby mansion only to realize it's crawling with zombies and other monstrosities. 

Players must now uncover the mansion's secrets while avoiding its dangers. To do this you will have to find keys, solve mostly basic puzzles, manage a relatively low supply of ammo and healing items as well as learn when one should avoid confrontations. Despite ammo being a valuable commodity, I found the game overall easier when playing as Jill Valentine. Her larger inventory allowed me to carry more items at once therefore saving me a few trips, she can also lockpick desk drawers for extra items whereas Chris requires you to find the key. Moreover, Jill also has access to a Bazooka which makes short work of almost every enemy in the game including the last boss. I got the feeling Chris was more resistant to damage but that's not nearly enough to offset the advantages you get when playing as Jill.

Many players have always scoffed this series due to what is aptly called "tank controls". To put it simply, your character control so sluggishly it feels as if you're controlling a tank rather than a person. While this is something of an issue it does gamers can't just blindly rush at enemies, rather they have to plan ahead juggling the awkward control scheme and the ammo supply.

If a character's inventory becomes full you'll have to find a chest. There you can store every item you find throughout the game. All chests are shared, meaning what you place in one will appear in the other, while this design decision can shake one's suspension of disbelief at first, it does save players from having to backtrack. Saving is also limited to finding typewriters and ink ribbons to use them on. I managed to find 16-18 ribbons through each playthrough which is more than enough to finish the game and still have a few spares.

Graphically, Resident Evil looks good for a 3D Saturn title, all the backgrounds are pre-rendered giving them a nice, detailed look. Enemies and usable items are all rendered in real-time and while our two main characters look pretty good, everything else has a very low-polygon count. This is especially noticeable for usable objects which will often stick out like a sore thumb against the clean photo-backgrounds. These pre-rendered backgrounds can also create perspective and camera issues, often making it hard to aim or completely blocking your view of incoming enemies. In some cases a zombie can be standing right on top of the player but you can't even see him coming, I found this especially infuriating during boss fights.

The story is initially told via a black and white live action cutscene featuring some of the cheesiest acting you will ever see. Meanwhile the remaining plot progression being conveyed through equally hilarious in-game cutscenes.

In fact, this is perhaps Resident Evil's greatest strength and greatest weakness. It tries so hard to be a scary game but its dialogue is so poorly written that when coupled with the terrible acting magic happens! I would gleefully listen to every character interaction and laugh at the truly awkward deliveries of an even more awkward dialogue. While this may appeal to some it does have the side effect of ruining the tension or any sense of impending danger. This is compounded further by the soundtrack which does a wonderful job at establishing an eerie feeling of unease.

I was pleasantly surprised by Resident Evil. The tank controls and goofy dialogues aren't for everyone, but it does offer a genuinely fun and even tense experience. Blowing a zombie's head is satisfying as is discovering a new key or unlocking a puzzle. The plot won't win any awards but that only makes it the ideal b-movie experience turned videogame.

Saturn vs. PlaystationHaving played both the Playstation and Saturn versions back-to-back I can safely say most graphical differences are insignificant and purely academic in nature. I found that the Saturn version features sharper backgrounds and better character models for Chris and Jill. While they still had the odd clipping issue these were much rarer and far less noticeable on the Saturn than its Playstation cousin. 

Moreover, the models themselves had better geometry and proportions. On the flipside, water, smoke and any other transparency effect looked terrible on Sega's 32-bit system. The lack of hardware accelerated transparency effects strikes once again and as a result water and smoke are all dithered. The main character's shadow seems to have a few issues on the Saturn version, namely it "clears" any blood stains being rendered in-engine. I also noticed the Saturn ran at an overall lower resolution, the same goes for FMVs. The loading animations looked more pixelated on the Saturn and generally took longer than they did on the Playstation. Finally, exploding a zombie's head was much more satisfying on the Saturn as the developers added a new graphical effect making the overall combat a bit more gory. I can't say that one version trounces the other graphically, but I did prefer the Saturn port for its sharper backgrounds and better character model which make for most of the experience. 

The Saturn does have an exclusive "Battle Mode" in which you must clear zombie infested rooms as fast as possible. It's a neat little feature but one that I become bored with after only a few minutes. None of these differences are enough for me to score one version over the other. In the end, it all comes down to personal taste.

Pros:
- Good mix of exploration and puzzle solving 
- Blowing a zombie's head off never gets old
- Hilariously cheesy dialogue...

Cons:
- ...However, cheesy dialogue may not appeal to everyone
- Tank controls can be a major turn off
- Combat is prone to camera and perspective issues

Final Grade: B+


I am not a fan of this cover, while not as cluttered as its Playstation counterpart I still have trouble telling what's going on. Chris' face looks off with one eye twice as big as the other. I'm assuming those dark figures are shadows, but it's hard to tell. This cover is just a mess and I am not a fan of its cheap looking orange CD. Why couldn't they keep the clean look of the Playstation disc?

I'm assuming the Sega/Sony rivalry meant
keeping the contents of the manual a secret from each other because this version was definitely handled by a different team. For starters it actually has screenshots (even if they're all black & white) but it has none of the background information you'd find on Playstation manual.

The closest you get to a backstory is a page describing the events of the intro video. I'm not sure what the point of it is considering I can just check the intro video at any time.

Overall the cover is a little better than its Playstation cousin and it does come in a sturdy late gen Saturn box, but the manual is a disappointment.

Packaging Grade: C+

Phantasy Star II

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Played on: Mega Drive Ultimate Collection

Over time, the Phantasy Star series has come to hold a special place in my heart. This is why the original Phantasy Star was one of my first blog reviews. Though looking back on it now, perhaps I should have waited a couple years before tackling these games.

Before the 'online' moniker was added, Phantasy Star II was perhaps the most famous title in this franchise. While the JRPG genre had already learned how to walk it still had some difficulty standing on its own, particularly outside Japan. For reference, Final Fantasy II for the NES was launched just four months before Phantasy Star II hit the shelves. Oddly enough, Sega's RPG is more often than not compared to the fourth entry in Square's Final Fantasy saga despite it hitting store shelves two years prior to Cecil's journey. Moreover it's easy to forget this 16-bit RPG was launched in the west before any of the Final Fantasy games ever did.

If one were to pinpoint the reason as to why Phantasy Star II was so highly praised I would have to say timing played a major part. Bridging the gap between 8 and 16 bit, it gave us a glimpse of what's to come. These days however, Phantasy Star II feels rudimentary and unforgiving with a few bright spots in between which could have shined brighter were the developers not limited by technological and time constraints. For one thing it was touted as the first game to have been released on a 6-Mbit cartridge (750KB). As time went on, cartridge costs went down and as a result most 16-bit RPGs were shipped on 12, 16, 24 and even 32-Mbit cartridges. With that in mind, it's easy to see just how limited this showcase title really was when compared to later releases.

Phantasy Star II takes place a thousand years after its predecessor. Every planet in the Algo system is now ruled by Mother Brain, a super computer capable of managing every terraforming facility and whatever else is required to keep a stable population. 

It's here we're introduced to our main characters, whom I'd like to describe in greater detail, but the sad fact is, we barely get any information on them save for their profession. Thus, we've reached the first major problem with Phantasy Star II, there's very little story to it. While at certain points we'll see the occasional cutscene or character dialogue, these are few and far between, moreover, many of the character interactions boil down to either exposition or the bare basics of what a plot should convey. Yet, Phantasy Star II had more story than most other JRPGs of its time. The original Final fantasy for example had virtually no plot save for a timeloop storyline thrown in a the last minute.

Combat is handled in a turn-based fashion and it's here we can see the major graphical jump we get from its 8-bit predecessor. For starters we get a behind the shoulder view of all our party members, all of which feature an impressive level of detail for the time. Even more impressive are the animations, it doesn't matter if the monster are idle, attacking or if we're the ones on the offensive. Animation is nicely handled, surpassing even most JRPGs launched towards the twilight years of the 16-bit generation. The only real complaint I have on here is the lack of a background. It doesn't matter if your party is fighting on a meadow or a tech lab, the only backdrop you'll ever see is a tron-like grid.

Players who are familiar with turn-based JRPG combat will likely instantly grasp the basics of Phantasy Star's combat. It even features a useful auto-combat strategy, it may employ questionable strategic combat decisions, but it does provide a reprieve from the heavy grinding. The spells provided in the game all feature non-descriptive names such as "Foi", "Wat" or "Gires". This forces the player to experiment with them so as to learn their use

Another aspect where Phantasy Star II stood out from JRPGs of its time was the ability to switch out party members. When in a town, you can catch a teleporter to the main character's home. There, the team is introduced to new warriors who wish to rally behind our cause and may switch out between them. Each character has certain set of skills, strength and weakness. The latter two are never explicate told to you, rather it is up to the player to discover which party combination fits best for each dungeon.

Speaking of the dungeons, it is here we reach Phantasy Star II's biggest problem (though some would argue is its biggest draw as well). The dungeons are absolutely labyrinthian in nature and feature an extremely high encounter rate. To put into into perspective, the early stages of the game are about as difficult as the end dungeon for most Final Fantasy games. In the first game, the 3D-like catacombs served as both a challenge and one of its best features. It forced players to map out their progress in graph paper thereby creating a more engaging experience. This however does not happen in the sequel. One of the main issues being the sheer size of these locations, some of which have upwards of 20 floors with dozens of paths leading to dead ends. The other setback is the change in perspective to a top-down 2D game. This makes it extremely difficult if not impossible to map out your progress, further exacerbated by the already mentioned high encounter rate.


Sega of America noticed the extreme difficulty of their dungeons and as a result shipped every copy of the game with a walkthrough which featured maps for every stage. However so such documentation exists for any subsequent release on other systems. As a result, new players will likely become frustrated early on as it forces them to memorize massive locations while constantly being interrupted for combat. I've seen some gamers proclaim Phantasy Star II is a more fun and engaging experience without any outside help and while I can see the validity in that claim I would argue it only applies to very strict subset of its userbase.

Phantasy Star II is an absolutely massive experience. Even if we clear every dungeon at at reasonable time there is simply so much to explore that it will likely keep gamers busy for quite some time. Unfortunately the experience becomes repetitive rather quickly as almost every town in the game looks the same as the last. The same criticism is valid towards the dungeons as well as there's very little visual or even musical variation between them.

It's difficult to give Phantasy Star II  a rating. It holds historical significance and broke a lot of new ground for the genre, but at the same time it feels very rough and archaic in the worst way possible. When reviewing a game like this one must always take into consideration the limitations and mindset of its time but also analyze whether it's still a fun experience for a modern gamer. In the end I feel playing and finishing this game requires a certain mindset that is not advisable for every gamer.

Those that trudge on through will see how quickly the genre involved in just a few years but also how a game as harsh and unforgiving like this can provide an immersive experience. I still look back on the Phantasy Star II's characters with fondness even if I barely got to know them. Together we faced difficulties, hardships and frustrations, but we pulled through and for that, I'll always remember them.

Trivia: Did you know Phantasy Star II launched a mere three months after Final Fantasy II for the famicom? Oddly enough it's most often compared to Final Fantasy IV for the SNES

Trivia 2: And did you know it was launched in the west before the first Final Fantasy title did?

Pros:
- Strong historical value in gaming
- A unique sci-fi experience in a genre that up to this point delved mostly in fantasy
- Combat animations above and beyond almost every other RPG of its time
- Provides a long, extremely difficult journey that is as frustrating as it is immersive and endearing

Cons:
- Extremely difficult and frustrating
- High encounter rate and labyrinthian mazes will scare most players away
- Very little plot or story is told in the game
- Generally feels very archaic

Final Grade: B-



Alien Resurrection

Developer: Argonaut Games
Publisher: Fox Interactive

Having played and thoroughly enjoyed Alien Trilogy I was looking forward to its pseudo-sequel. The first game was an early Playstation title, while this one launched closer to the system's twilight years. Unfortunately, as the old adage goes, better graphics do not make a better game and Alien Resurrection is a good example of this.

Launched a whopping 3 years after the movie was in theaters, this game adaptation was slated for the Playstation, PC and Dreamcast. However, due to poor sales on Sony's console the latter versions were canceled and we are left with a technically impressive title on a system that was slowly stepping out of the market.

Alien Resurrection's plot is loosely based on that of the movie. You play as either a cloned Lt. Ellen Ripley or an assortment of characters from the fourth movie as they attempt to save everyone aboard the USM Auriga, kill the xenomorphs and eventually escape the complex. Depending on each mission, players automatically switch between characters, though there is virtually no difference gameplay-wise between them.

Forfeiting Alien Trilogy's Doom-like pacing, Resurrection attempts a slower and more realistic approach to first person shooters. Your character walks very slowly and is easily outmaneuvered by Xenomorphs, so a careful approach to every room is recommended. This, when coupled with the bleak surroundings and distant sound effects one would expect from a game of this franchise creates an immersive experience, something which is very uncommon for First Person Shooters on the original Playstation.

Alas the game seemed to have bitten off more than it could chew. Alien Resurrection may have good ideas and even better intentions, but fails at executing them properly. Its main issue begins with the series' main attraction, the Xenomorph. To put it bluntly, they are dumb, easy to kill and the least threatening enemy in the game. Granted these same criticisms could also be applied to Alien Trilogy, but that title was going for a Doom-like experience which implies fast pacing and a constant supply of cannon fodder.

Here, you expect Xenomorphs to do more than to just blindly rush you only to see them getting mowed down in mere seconds by overpowered weapons. It doesn't help their deaths are accompanied by screams that resemble that of a chicken. If at any point in the game I found Xenomorphs threatening it all soon turned to laughter for that reason alone. The few times they attempted anything different were in scripted scenes, these always play the same and it simply becomes a matter of figuring out how best to approach each situation. I was also disappointed to learn players can walk over an enemy's pool of acid blood and suffer no penalties, something which even Alien Trilogy knew better.

Oddly enough it was the humans and face huggers that I dreaded throughout my experience. The first because they had guns and the latter due to their small size, which made aiming a chore. Although there's a good variety of weapons I often found myself scavenging about for ammunition, which added quite a bit of tention to my playthrough.

Graphically I was very impressed with Alien Resurrection. The models are above average for what you'd expect on the system and the environments are some of the best I've ever seen on Sony's 32-bit console. If the resolution were any bigger it could easily pass for an early Playstation 2 title. Exploring each room in a slow methodical way is engaging and immersive but I often struggled with the controls especially when climbing ladders. The room layout can be somewhat obtuse as well, often leading you down paths that seem forced and contrived, not helped by the fact Ripley can't jump, climb or even fall through most gaps without hurting herself. 

I am sad to say Alien Resurrection was something of a disappointment to me. The game gives you a message in the beginning stating it's "best played in the dark" though immersive it may be, scary it is not.  In fact I actually found its predecessor to be the scarier title. Alien Resurrection seemed to have lofty expectations which sadly are not met. Despite this it has a more mature take on the genre for the system it's on. At times it almost seems like it took a page off of System Shock 2, albeit with less polish, exploration, no RPG elements and a less interesting story. Still, for a game that apparently was stuck in development hell, the mere fact it exists and tries (but ultimately fails) to push the envelope is better than what we see with most movie to game adaptions.

Trivia: Did you know the studio behind Alien Resurrection is also the same studio behind Star Fox for the Super Nintendo? They even designed the Super FX chip.

Pros:
- Graphically impressive environments
- Provides an immersive experience

Cons:
- I now associate Xenomorphs with chickens
- Xenomorphs are the most non-threatening enemy in the game
- Controls are a bit hard to handle in places
- Room and level design feels forced and contrived.

Final Grade: C+


(excuse the sticker folks, they're a pain to remove)

I absolutely love this cover! This is the kind of image you want associated to an Alien product. 

The manual isn't too bad either, giving some back story and information on all characters and enemies. Text is often accompanied by in game screenshots, though I noticed some items seemed to be in a higher resolution than the final product. I assume this is a left-over from the PC/Dreamcast ports.

Not a bad packaging for a Playstation title, though I wouldn't mind some extras like a catalog or two.





Packaging Grade: B-


Alien Trilogy

Developer: Probe Entertainment
Publisher: Acclaim

Launched early in the Playstation's life cycle , most would probably dismiss Alien Trilogy as an attempt to cash in on both Doom's and Alien's popularity. Luckily none of that prevents it from being a damn fun game!

Don't let its name fool you though, despite having the moniker  'Trilogy' it does not attempt to follow either story or events in any of the three movies. You still play Ellen Ripley, a Lieutenant in the marines sent to planet LV426 to clear a colony that's been decimated by xenomorphs.

While parallels to the second movie can certainly be drawn, Alien Trilogy is its own story which involves clearing a prison similar to the third movie and an alien spacecraft similar to the one found in the original Alien. 

It's pretty clear this aims to appeal to fans of 'Aliens' first and foremost, between that and the critical acclaim Alien Vs. Predator received just two years earlier on the Atari Jaguar it's easy to imagine the thought process behind this game.

Upon starting the game, you're prompted to a short CGI video detailing what little story there is before being thrown right into the action. As with any Doom clone you have to navigate maze-like levels while gunning down hordes of enemies. The atmosphere is dark and moody, fitting the alien franchise like a glove. Xenomorphs and face huggers litter every level and will easily swarm you if not kept in check. This is made especially worse by the extremely stiff controls and the lack of Dual Analog compatibility.

The developers went out of their way to create as much enemy variety as they could within the established canon, going as far as to even include the dog-like xenomorphs from the third movie.  They all look menacing and terrifying given the hardware limitations, I especially like the facehuggers who can surprise you by jumping onto the screen, covering it almost completely. The effect looks pretty pixelated but I'd be lying if I said I didn't jump out of my seat when it happened.

Unfortunately there are only so many variations one can draw from the source material, as a result several human enemies have also been added. These are not nearly as interesting or menacing as the xenomorphs and only serve to cheapen the game, making it look more like a generic doom clone rather than the original title it aims to be.

Your weapon variety is also not as great as it could've been, handing you a mere handful to choose from. I honestly found there was little difference between them, save for damage output, and by the end of the game I barely ever used the pistol or shotgun as they simply required too many shots to dispose of a single foe. It also doesn't help that health and ammo is pretty scarce, so you'll have to keep an eye out for secret stockpiles. Thankfully, the gunplay never gets old, shooting your first xenomorph is as rewarding as your last kill. They even leave a pool of acid in their wake which should be avoided.

Graphically the game looks amazing for a Doom clone. While the levels are somewhat claustrophobic due to all the corridor mazes, they all look as they did in the movies. I especially loved the space ship which featured plenty of H.R. Giger inspired visuals. The music ranges from atmospheric to techno and it fitted the scenery really nicely with the dark brooding corridors adding to the tension and feeling of hopelessness.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Alien Trilogy. I expected it to be a run-of-the-mill Doom clone. Instead I found a love letter to the franchise's second movie. The stiff controls and human enemies may be a turn off for some, but if you love 'Aliens' and old school first-person shooters then this is the game for you!

Pros:
- Faithful to 'Aliens' gameplaywise
- Dark and moody atmosphere add to the tension
- Fun gunplay, killing xenomorphs never gets old

Cons:
- Human enemies cheapen the whole experience
- Limited weapon selection
- Stiff controls

Final Grade: B

That is one sexy cover! It lets you know it's an alien game and that it won't pull any punches. Unfortunately, both the title and tagline make it a bit misleading by promising the "complete alien trilogy". Yeah sure, the game itself is complete, but it's really got nothing to do with the movies.

Inside you'll find a below-average manual and an Acclaim Catalog.
The manual provides no background information plot-wise, at least it goes fairly deep on how to play the game, complementing the information with screenshots. It's just a shame the screens are so dark and blurry you'll be hard-pressed to make out anything in them.

Finally there's the catalog which is somewhat hit-or-miss. Half of its titles are sports or wrestling games which didn't make for interesting reading material. Oddly enough, the WWF Wrestlemania page features a promotional picture of three of the wrestlers that is way too stretched out. I'll admit I don't know what kind of image editing programs were used back then, but that does not look at all. Other games in the catalog include Alien Trilogy, D, X-Men Children of the Atom, Rise of the Robots 2(ergh) and Bad Mojo.

Overall the packaging isn't bad but it could have been so much more. At least the catalog is worth a browse or two.

Packaging Grade: C+