The videogame adaptation of Alien Resurrection really missed the boat. The movie came out in 1997 but it wasn't until the new millennium that the tie-in came out on the original PlayStation. Was the additional 3 years in development well worth the wait? Hell yes it was!
Argonaut Software's first-person-shooter had a lot going against it. The movie it was based on was coming up to three years old and quickly being forgotten. Critics and fans alike agreed it was by far the worst in the series and the PlayStation 2 was to be released imminently, hogging all the industry hype. On top of all this, the admittedly superior (though not by much) Alien vs Predator on the PC came out the year before. With all this going on it's no surprise the game wasn't exactly a hit. A shame considering it's pretty damn good.
Unlike Alien Trilogy or Alien vs Predator, Resurrection has more of a focus on a thoughtful philosophy to its level design. Playing as Ripley, it begins with you waking up to a space station in a crisis completely defenceless. Dead crew members are strewn around the place and the electrics are going haywire. It will be ten minutes or so until you find a weapon and it will be that time again before you encounter an enemy. There are moments before this where you'll catch a xenomorph scuttle by in the corner of your eye which, in all honesty, freaked me out more than any of the actual fights. It's not boring though. This whole introduction is perfectly designed, with a pace that allows you to get to grips with the rather unique control method. Or at least it was unique for the time.
By 2000, the mouse and keyboard set up had become the norm for first-person-shooters on the PC. There wasn't any real standard for their console counterparts so Argonaut chose to do something different. Alien Resurrection was the first game to use both analogue sticks of a DualShock controller for movement with the shoulder buttons being used more than the face buttons. This new way of playing was the biggest notch against it for many reviewers at the time but it's since become standard. I had absolutely no issues getting into the controls, even back when I first played it upon release. I doubt any seasoned gamer will either. The game does have a setup for the PlayStation mouse. This means that a more traditional PC layout could be configured when emulating but unfortunately, the emulator I use doesn't have support for this peripheral. A controller is still the preferred method of control.
The slow pace of the game puts an emphasis on level navigation, exploration and minor puzzle solving. For example, along with the traditional door keys, you will be required to bypass electrical outlets or cut off gas valves so you can safely cross certain sections. You can use your gun for other uses other than to attack. You shoot out sparking generators or destroy boxes and furniture, though sturdier crates will require heavier firepower. Doing so can give you items or open up some hidden areas to explore which are needed to increase your much-needed arsenal.
Enemies are incredibly tough. It's perhaps my only gripe with the game. Your slow movement and limited ammo for any weapon that does any kind of decent damage suggest that going in guns blazing isn't the best tactic. Enemies are often placed with their backs to you or sleeping on ceilings ('cos xenomorphs are part bat apparently), but any attempts to sneak by is fruitless. Crawling, turning off your flashlight or even planning where you step will always make them notice you at a certain point. When they attack en masse, you can be quickly overwhelmed and drain your bullets until you've nothing but a weak pistol. This is the only weapon with infinite ammo but each round is only 12 shots and it can take quite a number of them to down a fully grown xenomorph, let alone a hoard.
Your best bet is to take them out from a distance. The problem with this method is that you can't see very far. The graphics are drowned in such darkness that it can be impossible to see at times. You do have a flashlight which has a rechargeable battery but that's more useful during exploration than in a firefight. As you get further into the game, an increased arsenal will curb some of the pain, but it's still not easy. I wouldn't go so far as to say there's an unfair level of difficulty but those with a weak disposition and a delayed reaction time should definitely cheat. Or just practice.
The darkness isn't all bad. I'm sure it's partly there to hide the limitations of the console while still keeping the stunning visuals but it also increases the sense of dread even during quiet moments. Not only this, but the level design makes good use of it establishing it as part of the game's identity. Secrets are hidden in the darkness only to be revealed with a flashlight while the way forward is often signalled with a strategic glow. Granted, it could turn out to be a wall of flames blocking the path but at least you know you're on the right track. I would've liked the game to have used it more in its mechanics, but I have to remember this is the PS1 we're talking about.
To this day I am befuddled by the largely negative reviews Alien Resurrection received (I'm talking about the game, not the movie - I fully understand those). Reading some of them again, most of the ire is down to the controls which is now a non-issue. Could it be that it was the first game of its type to use the dual analogues like this, or was it exacerbated by being based on a less than stellar 3-year-old movie? One can never know. All I know is that Argonaut created a great console shooter that, in my opinion, was well worth the wait.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses Retroarch with the Beetle_PSX core to emulate the game on PCs. XBox 360 controllers supported. UK Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 250 Mb. Install Size: 323 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Alien Resurrection (the game) is © Fox Interactive
Alien Resurrection (the movie) is © 20th Century Fox
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me