Review by miffo

"Yet another online game to waste my time on..."

In the innovation-starved society we live in today, filled with reality TV shows and rehashed remakes, I strive to find less hackneyed games to add to my collection. This, unfortunately, doesn't answer my prayers. Instead, Wow Entertainment takes the already established genre of tank combat to new heights by adding online play, voice chat, and Dreamcast-style graphics.

Alien Front Online, from here on out referred to as AFO, was first shown at E3 back in 2000 as an online tank game with the aid of a microphone. Voice chat in a console had never been heard of at that time, and a few months later people got to toy around with the Dreamcast microphone, as Seaman was released. Dreamcall followed later, but even today the voice chat in AFO is a first in console gaming and a step up in the online realm.

The premise is simple: Aliens called Triclops have come down to Earth with the goal of destroying all of humanity. But the Army won't let that happen! It's up to you to decide which side you take, and go from there. Both the Alien and Army sides give you three different vehicles to choose from, ranging in size, speed, and strength. Battle it out in one of several different areas, and choose the fate of the world.

Your tank is controlled with the joystick, while using the L and R triggers to strafe. A fires and B fires your secondary weapon, which you can pick up from dead players. Both humans and aliens have a wide range of special weapons to find, and they all look very cool. Then you can switch between two different views with X, and talk trash online with Y.

Offline is split into two main modes, Arcade and Tactics. In Arcade you blast your way through levels to defeat your target number of enemies in a limited amount of time, similar to OutTrigger. If you run out of time, you lose and only have three continues before it's game over. Tactics mode is completely different, and takes you through a series of missions, then rewards you with cinematics. Early missions are basically just training tutorials, but they get challenging right away and will keep you playing for hours! Beat them all, and consider yourself a true master.

Of course, there is a reason why the word ''Online'' is included in the title. Like Phantasy Star Online, AFO is made to be played online. When you first log on, it shows you all available games that you can either join, or you can simply make your own. There are three modes of gameplay modes to choose from online: Death Match, Flag, and Fortress. Death Match is the standard mode, where the team to get the most kills at the end of the round wins. Flag involves holding a flag for the most amount of time, and Fortress has you destroying all four gates to reach the goal. In any case, the game can support up for four players on both sides, which is eight total players.

With so much going on at once, the servers seem to be hanging by a thread. Does it hold up? I'm a frayed knot.

The problem isn't visible starting out, especially with fewer players. It's when you reach levels of total Armageddon that the world is saved only because you've been disconnected from it. That's not to say lag is a problem 100% of the time-in fact, lag is noticeable less than a third of the time, and rarely does it get bad enough so that playing is impossible. It affects the voice chat more than anything.

Speaking of which, the voice chat feature definitely adds to the game. Simply plug in the microphone that comes with the game, and press Y while playing online to talk. Press it once to talk to your team, and twice to talk to everyone. After saying something, you'll hear yourself a few seconds later, and as it passes through the phone line your voice does get somewhat distorted, but it works well nonetheless. Trash talking and giving orders is a must, and it's great not having to type anything.

Other than occasional lag and scratchy voices, the online play runs smoothly. My only complaint is that fact that there is no chat in the lobbies, so you have to know where to meet your friends ahead of time. An option to make private games wouldn't hurt either.

Does it look as good as it plays? That, it does. Pretty textures combined with awesome lighting effects make for some great graphics, that truly push the Dreamcast to its limits. Not only that, but it's presented well too. The interface is a mix between that of Quake 3 and Goldeneye, and the result is a layout that looks cool and is easy to navigate. As far as sound goes, it's decent. I like the music for the most part, and the sound effects are excellent. The voices can get hard to hear over everything else, but that can be adjusted in the options, so it's all good.

- Bottom Line -
It's simple, but addictive, which is the key to making a great game. Sure, it's lacking some for the online part, and I was hoping for split-screen multiplayer offline...but with the microphone boxed in, and a $30 price tag, Alien Front Online gives you no reason to avoid it. Buy it, and enjoy one of the last Dreamcast games.

Final Scores:
Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Reply Value: 9
- Overall: 8

War is Hell

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/15/01, Updated 08/15/01

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