For this review, I am going to need you to close your eyes and let me place you in my six-year-old Reebok trainers. Every Friday night, as in accord with an imaginary treaty, my mother would go to Global Video and rent a Playstation game for two nights. Now the issues with this appeasement process is that my mother would go on this pilgrimage alone, resulting in rental choices such as Bubsy 3D or Hugo 2. This usually meant that her efforts to free herself from motherhood were quashed, which resulted in one of the most important moments of my life: getting to see Aliens whilst imposing on my parents ‘date night’.
I was desensitised to most of the horror genre as a child, meaning instead of being filled with night terrors of exploding chests and fallopian tubes, I would pretend to be Ripley whilst blasting my sisters huge stuffed dog with a water pistol. Considering the fact that there was a clear trend with what games succeeded in pacifying my younger self, the reasoning behind mother’s next rental makes a lot of sense. I came in from the outdoors after a long day of being immature to find offerings of peace upon my bed, the first of which being Croc: Legend of the Gobbos. This itself probably would have been enough to buy my silence for the night, however creeping from underneath the rejected Nintendo lizard was the terrifying grin of something far more interesting: a copy of Alien Trilogy.
Now before we talk about my infantile experience with the game, I would like to pass comment on the effectiveness of the artwork for the box. The creators of this art opted not to use any main protagonists or icons from the game bar the most important of all, which in itself sets the tone of the game. The front of the box states one thing: it’s just you against a load of phallic nightmares. Now despite my ability to watch the films without having an accident, my young brain decided it was too afraid to actually play the game, resulting in most of the night playing Croc. Eventually however, on the day before the games had to be returned, I piped up and decided to give Alien Trilogy a try. This however did not bode well, as in the end I looked down the barrel of my gun into the unknown of the first corridor, then all my six-year-old instincts urged me to turn the game off and leave fighting the aliens to the movie cast.
My experiences with playing this game as a child taught me an important lesson: no matter how scary a film may be, a game is a totally different scenario. The atmosphere in Alien Trilogy was perfectly suited to the franchise, as it created the perfect sense of being stalked by something predetorial. Something the game managed to achieve by itself however, was the sense of threat directed not at a specific character, but at the very person holding the controller. Alien Trilogy achieves this mainly by being first person, a concept which had been previously not as common within the console market. The game also creates atmosphere by using its lack of draw distance to its advantage, as corridors appear pitch black until you edge forward, revealing a scuttering facehugger that your eyes haven’t even adjusted to yet. This mixed with a great array of ambient sounds is the reason that this title can be included in a list of games that set the horror genre standard of today.
Now as for gameplay, this game is unforgiving and uses the consequences of battling aliens to its full potential. The lore of the films is implemented nicely; with touches such as the threat of face huggers latching onto your TV-sized face; aliens spewing acid all over you when you kill too close; and the added death FMV scenes that detail exactly how the aliens will finish you off, which includes face hugging, tongue punching and tail impaling. In terms of style, this game is definitely a relative of classic id Software games such as Doom, however it can be said that movement in this game is not as fluid as previous first person examples, due to manoeuvrability being hindered by getting caught on random environmental objects. Speaking of movement, you are also significantly slower than the enemies in this game, meaning that there is a constant scramble to blast enemies with your shotgun. Ammo in this game disappears faster than Hulk Hogan’s reputation, adding to the difficulty of preventing ambush. The best tactic to adopt this game is to hoard every item you find and make sure not to miss, which is brutal but crucial advice.
As for the graphics in this game, they pretty much reflect back on the style of Doom and Wolfenstein with higher sprite and texture detail. Aspects such as the previously mentioned lack of draw distance add to the atmosphere, rather than hinder the interpretation of what’s happening on screen, similar to other titles on the Playstation such as Nightmare Creatures and the original Silent Hill. The environments within the game don’t differ greatly between levels, however the designs themselves change enough to keep things interesting. The design and plot of the game use elements of all three of the films, yet the plot tends to drift away as a trade-off for having different enemy types and scenarios, such as being attacked by ‘Space jockey’ type enemies. Lovers of the Alien franchise will love this title for its dedication to the lore and assets, but should keep in mind that the game is only loosely following the film plot, with the sense of what’s actually going on being mission briefings at the start of each level.
My overall verdict of this game is that if you are a huge Alien fan then you will appreciate this game more than someone looking for great gameplay mechanics. As previously mentioned, the game doesn’t reinvent the wheel and isn’t the greatest first person shooter by today’s standards. Despite any faults in its mechanics however this game is one of the essential titles to have within your Playstation collection and serves as a reminder of how atmosphere can make or break a game. Therefore, if you love Playstation One games, I urge you at least try this game. Even if you use cheat codes to avoid the substantial challenge of the experience, you can still enjoy the action packed terror that has been injected into this game straight from the veins of the film franchise.