When it comes to games based on popular movie or TV licenses, there is an exceedingly fine line between making a game that your typical gaming audience can appreciate and making a game a casual fan of your chosen license will be able to grasp. All too often, developers will simply abandon any sort of challenge or interesting gameplay mechanics in order to make these games more accessible to the casual audience, and usually, the end result is a product so dumbed down that it borders on unplayable. For Acclaim's licensing of ABC's hit TV series Alias, the developers have made somewhat of an effort to walk the line a bit closer to the middle, drawing upon tried-and-true stealth action conventions while still making the game easily playable to those unfamiliar with the genre. In the few instances where Alias is successful in this regard, it actually works quite well. Unfortunately, there are still too many unpolished areas and simply not enough challenge to make the game appealing to anyone outside of the most devout Alias audience.
For everyone who's been absolutely dying to experience the world of Sydney Bristow, Acclaim brings you Alias for the Xbox and PS2.
Fans of the Alias show will likely recognize the game's plot as fitting in toward the end of the second season. In the game, you play exclusively as the show's oft-disguised heroine, Sydney Bristow. The plot has Sydney and her CIA cohorts hot on the trail of another Rambaldi artifact, which several of her archnemeses--including the likes of Arvin Sloane, Anna Espinosa, and Mr. Sark--are also on the hunt for. If none of these characters sound at all familiar to you, and you don't know what a Rambaldi artifact is, you might as well just stop reading right now, because Alias is most definitely not for you. The game's plot, while fairly intriguing and at times entertaining, is completely inaccessible to anyone who hasn't been watching the show from at least the beginning of the second season.
All of the show's primary protagonists make an appearance in the game, such as Jack Bristow, Sydney's father; Michael Vaughn, Sydney's frequent partner and occasional love interest; and Marshall Flinkman, the perpetually uncomfortable tech geek. For the most part, Sydney's associates only pop up in radio communication form during a mission and spout off bits of information to you as you reach certain objectives. While their information is always useful, these characters are actually chatty to a fault and pretty much take any of the guesswork out of the plot and mission structure. You can barely go five minutes in the game without getting some sort of snippet of information, leaving you with very little to figure out on your own.
Alias is, at its core, a simplistic take on the stealth action genre. As you make your way through the game's levels, you can toggle on and off a specific stealth mode that allows Sydney to creep along at a slower, more methodical pace. You can also crouch to duck behind objects, as well as press yourself up against a wall and peer around corners. When in stealth mode, you also have the option of performing stealth attacks on enemies. For instance, sneaking up behind an unwitting foe and pressing the stealth kill button performs a unique move, depending on the enemy and what kind of weapon you happen to be holding at the time. There isn't an especially wide variety of these moves, but they're cool nonetheless.
The trouble is that the game's artificial intelligence is all over the place in terms of how well you can actually sneak past them. Sometimes you can be standing 20 feet away in a brightly lit room with an enemy staring straight at you, and he'll simply walk off on his merry way. Other times, you'll be crouched while in stealth mode, hiding in the black shadows of a dark room, and suddenly three enemies will be on you nearly instantly. Certain other stealth mechanics, like climbing along pipes and such, just don't seem to work at all, period. Of course, all of this would only really matter if stealth were actually necessary to complete any objectives, which, as it happens, it isn't. Alias is an immensely easier game when you just throw stealth by the wayside and run-and-gun it the whole way through. Sounding off alarms only alerts the moderate number of guards that happen to be occupying that specific room, so, while you'll be dealing with more enemies at once, it ultimately saves you time. Sure, your propensity toward dying increases when playing with this method, but only by a small margin.