Retro Review – Alien Trilogy

Oct
08

Retro Review – Alien Trilogy

  • GAMEPLAY
  • GRAPHICS
  • SOUND
  • CONTROL
  • TECHNICAL
  • Original Platform: Playstation, Sega Saturn, MS-DOS
  • Developer: Probe Entertainment
  • Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
  • Release Date: February 1996

I remember long ago, when I discovered the new exotic console known as Playstation. I never owned one personally at the time, but a certain buddy of mine – who I hung out with a lot back then – would bring his system over to my place, usually on a Friday night, along with a new game he either bought or rented.

Playstation had a lot of neat and interesting games that I never would have imagined to have existed, being stuck with the more kid-friendly Nintendo 64. In a way, it completely changed my perception on what video games can be, as I found out that sometimes they can be mature, dark and even scary.

Even when I was a kid, I always liked the movie Aliens, ever since I caught my parents watching it late one night. The cool science fiction setting, the bad ass weaponry and the strong diverse characters blew my innocent fragile mind. But naturally, the most lasting impression of all was the imagery of those terrifying creatures that bred into human hosts. Awesome as I thought it was, it also scared the living hell out of me.

So on one Friday night my buddy comes over and tells me as he’s hooking up his console that he just got a game that I would probably like, called: Alien Trilogy. Being aware of how old the movies were, I didn’t really believe him that they had made a Playstation game based on it. But as I looked at the case of the game, sure enough, it had the recognizable creature on it’s front cover. Admittedly I was quite intrigued, if not also a little unsettled with the potential of such a game.

alientrilogy01

Aliens, Facehuggers, and chestbursters, oh my!

Alien Trilogy is one of many games of its era that took heavy inspiration from another science fiction shooter, which to this day is still considered a renown classic – and ironically was likely inspired by the Alien films – called Doom. In fact, it’s almost impossible to argue that it’s even a shameless clone. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing of course, such a crime has become irrelevant at this point. What matters is if it’s still fun to play, which it is… to an extent, as long as you’re the nostalgic type.

The game is very loosely based on the first three films; you control Ripley – who is strangely already bald in the opening cutscene – as you are dispatched to the planet LV-426 with a contingent of marines to re-establish contact with a silent colony outpost. Of course, the outpost has long been overrun, and the marines are decimated by the Alien menace, leaving just you and your 9mm peashooter to kill lots of things and try to make it out alive.

Shoot first, shoot some more, ask questions later:

Like Doom, Alien Trilogy is as straightforward is at it comes; you get weapons and then you shoot stuff, and unfortunately it doesn’t get much more elaborate than that. The premise basically serves as the game’s thin plot, and as mentioned before the game is only loosely based on the films, so don’t even expect recreations of iconic scenes from the film. Sorry, no epic battle in a powerloader against an Alien Queen.

Each level opens with a text briefing, explaining what objectives need to be completed to progress, failing to reach a certain completion percentage when graded at the end of the level forces you to replay it over again. It isn’t much of a concern however, as the majority of objectives usually fall along the lines of ‘Destroy this’ or ‘eliminate that’; the variety is minimal, so as long as you indiscriminately kill everything in your path you will likely progress to the next stage, assuming you don’t run out of ammo or die yourself.

Don’t get too trigger happy, as ammo is limited; sometimes rationing ammo becomes just as important as shooting, which can be argued almost as a survival horror-like element. There are a variety of weapons to pick up, like the iconic pulse rifle, the smartgun, or the ever reliable shotgun, which appropriately sound and feel powerful, at least initially. You also have the motion tracker, which is actually reliable at tracking nearby enemies, useful at foreseeing potential hotspots, as you never want to wander into a horde of enemies, especially in close-quarters.

at11

Aliens never looked scarier as blurry sprites…

There is surprisingly a fair variety of enemies to shoot at, with different types of alien strains, rampaging combat synthetics, and even corporate mercenaries. The sprites however, look absolutely dreadful, with some of them almost appearing as a blob of pixels up close. On the flip side the environments are appealing to explore in, consisting of dark industrial-like areas or bio-mechanical landscapes, with dim flickering lights or hazardous steam emitting pipes, which all strongly resemble locations from the films. The final stages in particular are cool, as you explore a location only briefly depicted in the series.

One of Ripley’s biggest disadvantage is her inability to aim up or down. Your weapon is always locked at the dead center of the screen, which was typical for shooters at the time. Generally it works fine, even auto-aiming at targets much smaller than you, but once an enemy is on a completely different elevation in the environment it becomes a real nuisance, especially if the enemy is ranged. Ranged enemies don’t suffer the same limitations as your avatar, and will unfairly snipe you from their safe ground.

The game’s music is a mix of ambient, trance, experimental and synth. It’s absolutely superb, with slow rhythmic beats, eerie ambiance and synth tracks, which effectively compliment the bleak and creepy atmosphere of the game. It’s arguably the game’s best feature, which in a way is unfortunate that such a cool soundtrack has been overlooked by many, likely for being in such a derivative game.

Alien Trilogy Main Theme:

 

Alien Trilogy may haven’t withstood the test of time – perhaps it would probably be better to stick with something more modern, or even the original Doom – but for the nostalgic, there are some redeeming features that provide mild entertainment.

I remember even back then me and my buddy mocked it for being so cheesy, although admittedly, I personally was unable to play it alone at the time. Perhaps it’s because of those memories, coupled with my fandom for anything Aliens I can personally enjoy playing Alien Trilogy.

About Wes Draper

Nicknamed ‘Wedge’, is a pseudo-connoisseur of video games who also happens to be a pseudo-writer. He loves the macabre, which usually ties in with his morbid sense of humor. In his spare time he continues to work on his on-going novel, when he is not sidetracked playing video games, reading manga, or watching anime and other various TV shows and movies. Oh, and writing articles too of course! ^_^

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