Review by Hibiki

"A great deal and an even better addition to any online gamer's Dreamcast library."

Summary

Ever since the early gaming days of Atari, simplistic games have brought upon hours of enjoyment. Playing Alien Front Online brings a certain nostalgia into the fold, proving that a game does not need a schematic control system and an entrancing storyline to be enjoyed. Originally developed as an arcade game, it received lukewarm success across American game centers, but about a year ago Sega smartly decided to bring this game to the Dreamcast line-up, which strengthens out the system's plethora of online games. After numerous delays, AFO is finally here, and it's both a hit-and-miss, but for the $30 (including microphone), it's a great addition to any online gamer's collection.

Gameplay - 7.5/10

Simply put, Alien Front Online is a fervent tank battle action game. Think of a stripped down Twisted Metal, with less and smaller arenas, not nearly as many weapons, and online play that allows you to play as either the aliens or Army humans. The only thin point of the game is the replay value. Featuring only 6 stages, the fun of the game might dry out after a couple dozen of hours spent battling online. This basically is a button mashing game, which doesn't mean a game of this type can't be fun, but don't expect depth of RPG-like caliber. Keep in mind that this was originally an arcade game, and as far as other arcade game ports go, this will most likely gather dust on your shelf after a month, if not less. And if you will not spend your time playing this game online, do not even think of picking this up, the offline portion is very basic (but that's why this is called Alien Front ONLINE...)

The controls are very simplistic, with X for changing the view (of which there are two), A for firing the primary weapon, B for firing the power-up weapon, and Y activating the mic chat. The back triggers are used for strafing, which is an exceedingly efficient technique when used properly. There is also the obvious health bar, and a map to guide you around the area and help you out in annihilating the opponent scum. After booting up the disc, the game menu gives you a choice of 3 game modes, Online, Tactics and Arcade. Of course, as with any online game, practicing offline for a couple of minutes is recommended.

The game lets you control one of three vehicles on each side, for a total of six. Each of the three has it's weaknesses and strengths. For example, the smallest tank is the fastest, but has the weakest armor, but the largest is a sluggish giant with seemingly impenetrable armor. Both sides seem to be pretty well balanced, although it does seem like the aliens have a slight advantage (the alien hovercraft is intensely speedier than it's army counterpart). Also, each side has 8 different special weapons that are dropped by killed enemies. These vary in purpose, and some can be greatly useful, often wiping out a multitude of enemies.

The first mode, Arcade, is just what it sounds like, the exact version of the game that was in arcades a couple of years ago. You choose which side you want to play as, choose your tank/vehicle, and start blowing up everything in sight. You keep on playing until you use up all three continues you're provided with, given that you actually want to play through the arcade mode that long, since it does get monotonous pretty fast. Afterwards, you can check your score against competitors online (given that you connected to the server previously), but this is unfortunate, since Game Shark users have already ruined the fun.

Tactics mode is the more deeper side of the game. Here you will find 30 different challenging tasks that reward you with surprisingly good full-motion-videos after beating a set number of missions. The challenges are assorted, ranging from something simple as knocking down 40 cones that are set up in the arena, to killing 20 army tanks. The game mentions that this mode has branching story lines, but they're very bare-bones, if you can even call them that. Each side has different missions/FMVs, so if you want to do everything this game has to offer, you will need to complete all 60 training exercises. Unfortunately, these ''exercises'' require a high proficiency, so some people might be turned away from finishing all of these.

As for the real basis of the game, Wow Entertainment has managed to handle it surprisingly well. Originally designed to be compatible online with the arcade versions of AFO, this idea has since been dropped, probably due to the loss of popularity of the game in arcades since it's initial release. Once you start up and connect, you will be at the online screen. You can view your game rank, join an ongoing game, or change over from the army to the alien side. A disappointment about the online portion of the game is the lack of a chat lobby, which makes it harder to set up a game with fellow online gamers. As for actual online gameplay, you have a choice of three online-exclusive modes. The first is the common deathmatch mode, which requires you and your team to score as many kills against the opposing team within the 240 second time limit. Capture the flag colors opposing teams with red and blue, and places a flag on each side of the arena. Whichever teams held on to their flag the longest wins after the timer has ended. The last, and least popular, mode is called Fortress. This mode places one side on the defense, which has to protect the building (''fortress'') and the other on the offense, which has to destroy all 4 enemy gates to end up victorious. Between these, you can also choose how many people are allowed to play in your game, up to a combination of 4 vs 4.

Alien Front Online also marks a new innovative addition to the world of online console gaming. For the first time ever, gamers are allowed to chat with each other by using the included Dreamcast microphone, which plugs into one of the peripheral slots on the controller. This in every way makes up for the lack of a chat, and will most definitely be the feature that keeps bringing people back. By pressing the Y button, you are allowed to record a 5 second message that will be played to your teammates with a slight delay, or you can smack talk to the tank that killed you by pressing Y twice. While being far from perfect, some voices skip usually, it's a fun addition and extra to the game. And as for lag, it seems to be bearable with a 46k connection, but if your ISP has lower connection standards, then you might experience some problems. Also, for broadband hopefuls, Wow unfortunately chose not to include BB support, so you're out of luck.

Graphics - 8/10

Graphically, the game looks spectacular, with clean and crisp textures that stand out and superior level design. The army tanks look really neat, and the alien vehicles are vivid and colorful. The ardent fire effects are really astonishing, although in the heat of battle things like this hardly ever got noticed. The environments are nothing to groan about either, featuring distinctive textures and graphical details. There are a couple levels that are irksome to play, but fortunately only one or two come to mind. Also, for maximum fun effect, you are able to demolish just about everything in this game, so if you ever wanted to blow up the White House, then this is the game for you.

Sound - 7.5/10

As for sound, it's acceptable, and actually fits the mood of the game substantially. There are plenty of rock/metal and techno-inspired tunes, all accompanied by fast beats, to enjoy while blowing things up. The sound effects are efficient, and every blast and special weapon sounds like something out of a movie about aliens attacking earth, so it's all good. But most of the time you will be listening to the voices of your teammates, and this feature goes along well, considering that the Dreamcast connects using a 56k modem.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/24/01, Updated 08/24/01


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