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Sep 11, 2012

Men in Black: Alien Crisis Review

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1 Awful
Retails for: $39.99
We Recommend: $4.99
  • Developer: Fun Labs
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Genre: Shooter
  • Released: May 22, 2012
  • Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
  • Reviewed: Xbox 360

Remember the good old days, paying $6 to see the summer blockbuster then getting excited to play the video game adaptation; sitting in the car on the way home hoping that it would explain what happened in that movie?  Remember when you couldn’t wait to run inside and rip open the package, smelling that new game smell and getting psyched to enjoy the fun you’re about to have? Then after a few hours of sitting on your couch, you finish the game in all it’s pre-movie story, fully immersed in the world getting a great gaming? Yeah me either. Lucky us, Men In Black: Alien Crisis brings back all those “glorious” days when a movie tie-in game was plain useless.

Let’s start with the story. You play as the sarcastic Agent J-like demeanored, historian and archaeologist Dr. Peter Delacour.  Peter has turned to a life of crime stealing ancient artifacts for the clients he contracts out to. One client in specific, Emlio Chauncy, has contracted you to steal an ancient Egyptian book for him. This is where the game begins, you have stolen the book and are running into a parking garage to escape. It’s here where you get to see the stunning 1990’s graphics used to make this piece of work. After giving the book to Chauncy you find out he is working with, wait for it, ALIENS; oh and something about this book being not what it seems.  As you play through the game it’s revealed that Chauncy is an alien himself and wants the book to take over the world; go figure right? An ancient artifact that has world wide mass destruction power, how original.

After Peter escapes the garage he is picked up by the hard nosed, by the book, Agent C. She is your partner throughout the story trying to walk the same line as the partnership between Agent J and K from the movies. The twist is you start to fall in love with Agent C, and hilarity ensues. Well, attempts at hilarity as the jokes are things even dry English comedians would find obtuse and unimaginative. The banter, when there is any, is so short and unintelligible, that it just becomes annoying. But wait, stop the presses, we have Frank the pug! He’s become an MiB agent and will make the jokes this story so desperately needs…right…please? Sadly, no, his comedic prowess is limited to the big screen and just terrible writing here.

So, continuing onward, you go through a few stages sneaking, flying, and shooting, with very little detective work and question & answering; it reminded me faintly of  L.A. Noire but don’t get your hopes up. By doing the detective work, you find out that there is an even bigger power that wants the book and now they have it.  At some point Chauncy was taken out and the book was stolen, I have the slightest of clue when that incident happened as I think I had blacked out from all the awesome being displayed on my TV, but it is around this point in the plot where the movie ties in. You are told that two of the MiB’s best agents went missing but had been recovered. Unfortunately for them, but conveniently for the story, they are trapped in solid stone; it’s up to you to go save the world! A few more “levels” and you come to the boss and shoot around there for seems like, well, minutes. That’s it, you have saved the world, got the girl, and somehow turned the two best agents back to humans. That’s it, that’s the story and I only left a out a few minutes of the game!

The game’s story is tired and obvious. It takes nothing to see what’s going to happen at the end even just within the first few minutes of the opening scene. There are no plot twists and no kinks in the story; but most disturbingly there is no character development, not a single character has any build up. I feel for anyone forced to play this game as Alien Crisis forces the player to mindlessly walk around and shoot, yet I chose to play this game under my own free will.  You never get a sense of drama or that the world may actually come to an end, everything pans out just like a Disney fairy tale with the White Knight saving the Princess and living happily ever after.

What makes this game even more disappointing is the graphics. Heed my warning, this game is not current gen, hell, this game isn’t even something out of the mid-90’s! I saw better face modeling and textures in early Playstation titles; the character models are glorified stick figures for crying out loud. No budget was dropped into the graphics department and those involved in the decision making process of this game should be ashamed to have released this steaming pile.  The scenery is flat with no shading to even show depth and the animations are clunky, at best, with the mouth and facial movements not even being close to the voice acting. I’ve seen subtitled Eastern movies sync lips better when they weren’t even trying. To top it all off, the one thing you need to get right in MiB, the aliens, are rehashed and poorly executed character models straight from the movies. The normal grunts look like Mikey and the end boss is nothing more than the cockroach Edgar, both staring in the first movie. What can be even worse than the sub-sub-sub-par current gen graphics? Oh, how about the game mechanics?

They reached for the stars but got nothing but four big honking piles of alien…glop. First up is the run and gun style which should really be gun everyone down while the game decides where you want to go. In essence, this is an on-rails shooter where you can only move to preset points until all enemies are dead. You may move about from cover to cover but even that is limited to having to pop out just to get back behind the same poorly drawn car, but don’t expect the game to put you back into cover after switching because that would be more work than the game wants to exude. Doesn’t sound like it should be an issue since you can just press a button to get back into cover, except that the character looks basically the same out of cover as he does in cover.

You have no bloody idea Peter is doing until you try to peek out to shoot, only to find yourself in the middle of two cover points saying, “Hey shoot me! I don’t need my face!” As with most shooters, the left stick moves and the right stick aims, except the right stick moves the cursor around “most” of the screen. If you see some health pop up on the side, well good luck getting to it cause you have to get out of cover and move your jank-ass character back and forth to attempt to cross over an invisible “no cursor” wall. Speaking of health, that is another major issue. You get health by drops when killing aliens, however due to the fact you can’t move forward unless the computer does it for you, you have to take the cursor and move it over any health or power-up to collect it. Again, many times this involves you getting out of cover and jerking around the movement and aim controls to unsuccessfully refill some health, you just lose so much of it when attempting to get it.

The second game type is driving, flying really. After you’re done shooting people on foot, you seem to always need to get in Agent C’s car and play limited movement car shooting game. In a horrible design decision, with the same joystick, you move the cursor to aim and move the vehicle about 3 feet in that same direction. These missions are straight forward, shoot the enemies until you reach the end, but if you awareness meter gets to high you fail. This said awareness meter tells you how noticeable you are to New Yokers. This is done by knocking down signs and lamp posts that the game drives you right into. So it is inevitable your awareness meter will get some filling, but never enough to actually need the neutralizing zones that drop that level back down.

The Third game type is stealth; who knew the Men in Black where as skilled as Sam Fisher and Solid Snake? They aren’t, well at least Agent P isn’t (no not the Platypus from the much better Phineas and Ferb cartoon show). This mode requires you to take cover behind walls and objects to shoot out cameras. You’re also equipped with a gun that captures people in bubbles. Now you all may be wondering “Eric, what the hell is this bubbling about?” Well I’ll tell you. It is just as I said, you have an attachment for your gun that creates bubbles to put the guards or civilians in. The guards pop and disappear while the civilians float there, in your way; childish even for children. It only takes one hit to take out a camera and you have plenty of time to shoot it, even if it sees you. The cone of light the camera emits is green when it sees nothing, yellow when it thinks it sees something, and red when it knows it’s seen you. Problem is the yellow lasts so long that I don’t think the programmers ever put in the red. Getting caught by the cameras is like being outrun by a rock, it just can’t happen.

The final game type is the faux L.A. Noire type I mentioned earlier. This is where you get to walk around in the designated 5×5 ft crime scene to search for clues. By pressing the triangle button, items that glow equals a clue. You use these clues to earn more talking points to converse with predetermined people in the crime scene. Unlike L.A. Noire, you have to find all the clues, all four of them, to proceed. This was an attempt to make the third person feel fresh and original, but did nothing but turn section moldy and archaic. It was a huge waste of time and felt like nothing more than filler to make this very short game last a few minutes longer.

Speaking of length, if this game were a person, he would be toting the adage “It ain’t the size of the ship, it’s the motion of the ocean!” Noble, but as comedian Jeff Foxworthy quipped,”That may be true, but it takes a long time to get to England in a row boat.” MiB: Alien Crisis is by far the shortest game I have ever played and the one that dragged on the longest. I had more fun with the Burger King’s Sneak King game than I did this; that game was only 5 bucks on a disc! In total this game took me a total of 2 hours to beat thanks to it’s lackluster story, horrible mechanics, and lack of fun. It felt as if I was imprisoned in my bed, forced to play this to the end. It just dragged on and on without the slightest glimmer of hope. Nothing in this game was able to relieve me from my torture.

If there was some horrible accident and you happened to enjoy this game, they do include a V.R mode for extra replay value. In this V.R mode you do the same as you would do in the run and gun story mode missions, but you’re timed.  You get points for killing people quickly and killing with a bonus attachments on your gun. This isn’t worth it, and definitely not something people would want to come back and play. Hilariously on the PlayStation 3 version of this game, your score goes to an apparently no longer existing online leader board; so don’t worry about people seeing your poor choice in entertainment for the evening.

This game is something I would expect as a first class project from kids in a high school game design class; they thought of strong game mechanics and ideas, but didn’t know enough to execute them. After turning this into the teacher, he would look over it and hand it back saying, “Good start, but you need to go back and study the book again. There are major mistakes in this build.” Unfortunately these are the lazy gaming students who just decide to accept the grade he gives instead of working on it some more. So in the end the teacher marks an huge “D” on it and tells them, I’ll grade on a curve, a very long curve.