All right, you really like the Alien movies (except you didn't dig the last one nearly as much as the first two). You love first-person shooters like Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. You walk into your local software store and spot Alien Trilogy, Acclaim's new first-person shooter based on the movies you love. It's like a dream come true, right? Right - if the dream were a nightmare.
Actually, that's a little bit harsh. Alien Trilogy isn't a horrible game; in fact, if it had been released two years ago I'd probably be inclined to give it a fair rating. But hey, it's 1997 - and after seeing what can be done with first-person shooters on the PC, Alien Trilogy looks like a real trip back in time.
There's no doubt that this game has problems, nearly all of which can be traced back to two things: It's a video game port, and the video game that's being ported is already a year old. I don't mean to imply that all video game ports are sub-par, but when little or no effort is made to take advantage of the PC's capabilities - such as saving during levels, changing options during gameplay, and more - then you're off to a bad start. And while a year may not seem like that long of a time, anyone who knows anything about gaming technology will assure you that it is.
One thing AT does have going for it is a great setting. I don't think I've met an action-game fan who wasn't into Aliens, and that's where Alien Trilogy begins: You play as Ripley entering the colony complex on LV426, armed only with a 9mm pistol. Following the tried-and-true formula for first-person shooters, you explore each level in search of weapons and power-ups, and of course blasting everything that moves.
But a great setting alone does not a great game make, and in nearly every feature Alien Trilogy falls far short of the standards set by classy products like Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. Hey, the annoyances crop up even before you begin play. When you install the game, AT offers you the choice of 256-color (8-bit) or 16-bit (64K-color) display. But the 16-bit version provides a color palette with only 40 or so more colors than the 8-bit version; why bother someone with this decision when there's no discernible difference?
Once you launch the game, be ready for a wait - a long wait. The credit sequences for Fox Interactive, Acclaim, and Probe Entertainment are interminable - nearly a minute and a half on a P-133 with 32MB RAM - and there's no way to bypass them. That's right, you gotta watch 'em every time. Excusable? Not in my book. When you do get into the game, you'll find all the usual ingredients of a shooter, but executed so nonchalantly that it seems the designers just whipped this thing out by rote: kill an enemy, find a weapon, open a door, exit the level. Yee-haw.
Of the seven weapons here, only the flamethrower is unique - and with several of them (shotgun, pistol, seismic charges), you have to press the fire button for every single shot. Given the number of aliens you're facing and how many shots it takes to waste each one, gamer's cramp is always looming on the horizon. Three of the six alien enemies - the Young Dog Alien, Warrior, and Adult Dog Alien - are so similar in appearance that they all might as well be the same critter, and except for the Alien Handler the "Company Enemies" are run-of-the-mill employees who were unlucky to become host to the alien - in short, they're just people. You'd probably offer them a sandwich if they weren't shooting at you.