Retro Review: Alien Trilogy (Playstation)

AlienTrilogy2
Time once again to delve into the vaults for a Friday retro review. This week: Is a game based on the Aliens Trilogy a glorious day in the Corps, or is it just GAME OVER, MAN?
The Playstation is 18 years old, and therefore comfortably a classic. 18 years old on November 15th in Australia, if you want to be specific.
Hang on… yep, that’s my dusty brain processing that fact, and screaming in sheer terror at me.
Now… I’m back. 18 years. That’s quite a while. Do the classic Playstation games still hold up? To test that out, I grabbed a game at random from the shelf — and it happened to be Alien Trilogy.
Let’s be completely honest here; Alien/s has had some woeful spin-offs, be they films, comic books, but especially games. Alien 3 for either SNES or Megadrive is good (for its time), and I guess the never-converted Capcom arcade machine was OK, but other than that?

Alien Trilogy: On the plus side

Alien Trilogy at least grabs a whole lot of source material for its first person shooter antics, and although it had been a while since I’d dusted off my PSOne copy — probably well before it was the PSOne and was simply the “Playstation” — my initial reactions were mostly positive.

Except, perhaps, for my reaction to this logo.
Except, perhaps, for my reaction to this logo.

Everything is dark.
Everything is creepy.
You’re alone, not terribly well armed… and then the beeping starts.

In fact, the first level shows what Alien Trilogy can do well; it’s a study in tense game design with a smattering of action thrown in after the fact. The limited draw distance works as a positive factor early on, because it allows the game to create its sense of gloom and doom quite well. You’ve got to conserve ammunition, and carefully creep around each corner to avoid even the simplest of enemies.
Do you dare press the big red door opening button? The jolly, candy-like button? Oh, no, wait, wrong series...
Do you dare press the big red door opening button? The jolly, candy-like button? Oh, no, wait, wrong series…

So, it starts well.

Alien Trilogy: On the minus side

It’s just that over any kind of longer play session, it just doesn’t hold up well.
Alien Trilogy owes an awful lot to Doom and its successors, and if levels were all built like the first one, accentuating the slight horror and offering up just a few Aliens to avoid, all would be well. But it can’t actually stop there, and instead tries to cram in more action-based levels, and these haven’t aged well at all.

I want to be scared of these Aliens, but the game doesn't make that easy... or them believable.
I want to be scared of these Aliens, but the game doesn’t make that easy… or them believable.

It’s not so much the “find the widget to open the lock to proceed to the next bit” of the design that bothers me as much as it is the jarring disconnect between its polygon levels (innovative enough at the time, just) and the pixel based Aliens with limited frames of animation.
At the time they were acceptable, but now, in hindsight, they actively hinder the core gameplay. Once you get past the “scare” aspect of the gameplay, the shooting just isn’t that compelling, because you’re shooting jerky-looking stop frames rather than actual enemies.
Grabby The Facehugger was so cold and lonely. All he wanted was a hug...
Grabby The Facehugger was so cold and lonely. All he wanted was a hug…

Alien Trilogy: Pricing

A quick trawl of eBay suggests that Alien Trilogy — which sold well enough back in the day to warrant “Platinum” status — should cost you somewhere between $5-$10.

Alien Trilogy: Fat Duck Verdict

I have fond nostalgic memories of Alien Trilogy from decades ago, but firing it up now was, to put it frankly, a little depressing.

This is the point where I'm obliged to put in the "Game Over, Man" quote in, right?
This is the point where I’m obliged to put in the “Game Over, Man” quote in, right?

It’s not aged gracefully — and for what it’s worth, I’m in the camp that thinks that Goldeneye on the N64 has aged gracefully — and while it’s far from the worst Alien game, it’s also not exactly a classic either.
I wondered while playing it if I was just souring on classic FPS, so I booted up Doom to check.
Nope. Doom is still an absolute classic, and a blast to play.
Grinding through a few levels of Doom combat just reinforced to me that while Alien Trilogy was OK in its day, it’s now not much more than a moment in time. A moment in time that has basically passed, although it does remind me that we’re still waiting for some new, actually good Aliens games. Somebody should do something about that.

2 thought on “Retro Review: Alien Trilogy (Playstation)”

  1. Seth

    “Alien 3 for either SNES or Megadrive is good (for its time), and I guess the never-converted Capcom arcade machine was OK, but other than that?”
    You’re forgetting Aliens by Electic Dreams from the 8-bit era. Still one of the most terrifying games of all time.

    Reply
    1. Alex Kidman Post author

      An excellent point. I hang my head in shame.
      I totally should have remembered it, too; it’s one of the few games that I’ve ever played on a Commodore 16.

      Reply

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