Review by Psycho Penguin
"It's like season 3: good, but not up to Alias standards"
A few days ago, I reviewed Final Fantasy X-2, a game I had high expectations for, but ended up sorely disappointing me. Fortunately, there are games out there that manage to not only live up to expectations, but completely blow me away when I least expect it. While these games are not as common as they used to be (I can name dozens of NES games I expected nothing out of and ended up enjoying tremendously), it is still a treat to buy a game not knowing exactly what to expect, yet coming away impressed with the overall product.
Alias is one of those games. Based off one of my all time favorite TV shows of the same name, Alias is a spy tactics game, not unlike a Metal Gear Solid, although hand to hand combat is more frequent in this title. I wouldn't go into this game thinking it's a clone of MGS, however, as it has many differences and definitely feels like its own unique game, and less of the typical spy game clone that we're seeing more of nowadays as the popularity of the genre increases.
The storyline follows the show's earlier seasons for the most part, as classic villains such as Anna Espinosa, your main character's rival, and Sark, an evil young man who has plans that are truly terrifying. You star as Agent Sidney Bristow, a woman who thought she was working for the CIA, but it turns out she was working for a terrorist group, so now she is a double spy trying to destroy the people she works for. While the story is not as twisty as the television show, and won't leave you gasping for air, it's a solid experience that is played out in manageable, not excessively long, cut scenes.
The wide variety of locales that you get to visit throughout the game range from a casino to a museum, and the places are designed quite nicely. Everything looks sharp, and the variety of designs is definitely something I appreciated. The character designs are wonderful, as everyone looks like they would in the television show (right down to actual portraits of the actors that you get during dialogue scenes), and the enemies are original and don't look exactly the same for the entire game. One thing I would have liked to see more of is unique locations, as you mostly do your dirty work in expansive, yet intrusive, structures.
Besides the main theme to the television show, which you will hear a few times throughout the game, the music is totally unmemorable and really won't leave a lasting impression one way or another. It's just there. That's the best way to sum it up, as it's not annoying enough to get on your nerves, but you won't want to rush out and download the songs or whatever. The voice acting is high quality though, as they got the actual actors to voice the characters, lending a great deal of credibility to the product, and also making the voices a joy to hear.
Alias's strong point is definitely its high quality gameplay, as I've never enjoyed a spy tactics game more than this one. You always have a mission to complete, and while the game is very linear for the most part, you will get to explore many different locales, completing objectives like Sidney would in the television show. You get to do everything from breaking into a safe by using a special decoder, to spiking someone's drink, to sharp shooting enemies from quite a distance. There is something for everyone, and if you don't like the current objective, chances are you might like the next one.
Sidney gets a ton of items and weapons to help her along the way, including the usual guns and ammunition. She gets to use many unique items, however, such as a computer disk that hacks into enemy's databases to see what they are planning next. You also get to dress up in various disguises, so the game can live up to its name. Knowing when to use a disguise and what disguise to wear takes some thought at times, and it adds an unique quality to the game that I definitely appreciated.
Unfortunately, the combat is quite clunky and prevents the game from reaching its status as "classic". The reason for the terrible combat is the controls, which are loose and don't react as well as you would normally like. Most of the kills are done by simply sneaking behind someone and pushing a button, but engaging in actual combat is an unnerving experience, especially when you try to kick them and completely miss them, while they get in free shots on you. It happens a lot, and that's just one example.
This makes Alias quite a challenging game at times, but the game is littered with save points and people telling you what to do next, so it's not like you will ever get lost or be stuck in a certain area. There's not really too many bosses, either, and only a few will prevent you with any significant challenge. The game is really linear, so knowing what to do next will never be an issue, especially with people telling you what to do in almost every room. Those who like challenge and exploration will be disappointed in this title.
Replaying Alias almost becomes a chore, because after you complete the game, you pretty much have accomplished everything. There's no big secrets to uncover, and the storyline never changes. You'll already have experienced the thrill of changing disguises and completing all the objectives, and the terrible combat is not going to bring you back into the fray. This is a game that you will probably beat once and never want to play again.
Therefore, I have to take a deep breath and swallow my pride, and say that while Alias is an incredibly fun game to play through, even for non fans of the genre like myself, it loses a lot of its luster after completing it, and therefore it's only worth a rental at best, or maybe purchased if you can find it for a good enough price. It's an awesome game, with tons of unique innovations to the genre, especially when it comes to disguises, but the hand holding and unresponsive combat prevents this from becoming a classic. I recommend this for almost anyone, especially fans of the TV show. If you love the TV show as much as I do, this is a must buy.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 11/10/05
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