Area 51
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-07-15 Xbox FPS M (Mature) Midway / Inevitable Entertainment Inc.

Aliens and conspiracy theories aren't something I really care for, so I really don't know why Area 51 caught my eye. Maybe because Doom 3 was lacking a little "something".

In this game, you step into the shoes of Ethan Cole, a Hazmat soldier who is sent with a team to the highly classified Area 51, when things go terribly wrong, to investigate the situation and prevent the spreading of a virus. This team won't last long, so eventually Ethan finds himself on his own.

Inside, you discover that people have been infected with some alien mutagen that turns humans into a kind of rabid zombies. Early in the game, Ethan becomes infected with this mutagen, but he learns how to control it instead of giving in to the mutation.

This ability becomes very useful in combat. Ethan changes forms, the screen turns red and a whole new set of attacks becomes available. You can "fire" little clouds of mutagen in your enemies' direction (since they seem to track them down), turning them helpless and fill your health meter at the same time. The mutagen clouds can also attack on command. Obviously, using this ability makes the mutation meter go down, but you can fill it back up with a few close-ranged melee attacks.

The arsenal available to human Ethan resumes itself to a total of 6 different weapons (some of them which you can dual-wield), which if you think about the length of the game, doesn't add much variety.

So as you can imagine, you are forced to balance gameplay between both human and mutated forms, especially to keep your health meter full.

A little downside to the gameplay is the scanner that Ethan is equipped with. There are tons of things that you can scan (dead bodies and objects), and with the scan results there are secrets to uncover and extras to reveal. The problem is, you can't see these extras while in game, since they're only accessible through the main menu.

Inside Area 51 you will find some "secrets" that have been rumored to be true: a little alien colony (are they performing autopsies on humans?); their respective UFO that supposedly crashed in 1947; the moon landing site all set up like a movie set. All those "government cover-ups" that keep you wanting to unveil more.

The voice acting is really good, and counts with the special appearances of David Duchovny (who else could have played Ethan as well as the skeptical Mulder?) and Marylin Manson as your friendly neighborhood alien that likes to "possess" dead bodies to chat with you. Don't worry, you will see his physical form eventually.

The game also comes equipped with a co-op option and multiplayer fun (up to 16 players), with games such a Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Hold (like Territory in Halo 2) playable in 17 different maps.

Area 51 doesn't really add anything new to the FPS genre, but it's definitely an immersing experience with great graphics, sound and plot. The cinematics and script are very well planned and make the storyline progression very fluid.

If aliens and conspiracy are something you can't live without, grab your tin-foil hat and sit tight while Area 51 invades your console.