The PS2 continues to impress me with its graphical prowess. After a few years of developing, companies have learned all the nuances to make their games look great, and Area-51 sparkles because of it. Despite borrowing much of the style from Halo (HAZMAT suits are complete rip-offs), this title brings the secret government base to life with flair and energy. The level design is really unique and intricate, and also incorporates realistic features that work well in this high-tech facility. While not as interactive as some games out there, the scripted events add touches of life to the largely static environments.
The CG sequences show the extreme professionalism associated with a big company like Midway, and they help to further immerse you into the game. Weapon and lighting effects are top notch too, showing off great particle detail and explosive effects. The scanner on Cole’s arm is particularly neat as it casts a blue analyzing field around whatever object you want, revealing lots of data – sometimes informative, sometimes useless, but more on that later.
The industry-standard rag-doll physics also show up here as you lay waste to hordes of mutant alien creatures. The character designs are fairly varied, but I kept thinking how much Midway copied Halo with their HAZMAT suit designs. Last I checked, the current HAZMAT outfit looks like a cross between a clunky space suit and a doctor’s smock – not the MasterChief’s body armor.
Sound wise, a lot of solid sci-fi effects – from the roaring explosions to the rattling of assault rifles and the strange cries of mutated workers – all help punctuate the audio and keep you tense. The score does a good job of keeping pace with the events onscreen, while not overwhelming the gamer. The strongest part of the audio has to be the voices, though. Duchovny, Powers Boothe, and even Marilyn Manson lend their talents. Duchovny voices Ethan Cole expertly, and it’s really fitting for a soldier trained in biology/science to have an intellectual like Duchovny play him. Powers Booth voices your generic hard-ass military commander and does a commendable, if uninspiring job. And lastly, the oddball of the group, Manson transforms the role of alien into something truly otherworldly.