|Publisher: ABC Genre: Arcade|
|Min OS X: 10.1 CPU: G3 @ 500 MHz RAM: 128 MB Hard Disk: 100 MB|
February 24, 2003 | Eddie Park
A new game has come to the Mac courtesy of Dream Mechanics and one of the most unlikely sources: broadcasting giant ABC. Titled Alias: Underground and based on the TV show that shares the same name, this game puts fans in control of Sydney Bristow, a female agent who's job, like most spies, is to save the world single-handedly time and time again.
Not being a big fan of TV, I'd never heard of Alias until asked to write the review for the game. As near as I can tell, it features a hot female superspy who knows martial arts, an archetype that could probably be applied to 95% of LA's female population. Fans of both Sydney and the show will no doubt barrage my inbox at this point with informative and/or threatening e-mails, but as far as gleaning information simply from playing the game, this is about all I can get.
Gameplay: Tomb Raider Extra-LiteAlias is unique in the fact that it isn't a single game. Instead, it is split up into a series of level downloads, starting with a mandatory training mission download and branching off into a series of missions. In order to download, players need to register with the official Alias site first, ensuring their eternal bondage to ABC. While the process may seem a bit tedious, it should also be noted that Alias is, besides the signing over of your identity and soul, completely free of charge, a price that even the most strapped student should be able to afford.
Gameplay can be likened to Tomb Raider, minus most of the cool stuff. Played in either a selectable 3rd or 1st person perspective, Sydney can run, jump, duck, interact with objects, and climb when necessary. While adequate, the limited amount of movements translates to a limited amount of gameplay creativity, meaning that most of the game is spent running around any given level. On the levels currently available for play, I would spend the majority of time running, throwing a switch, running, checking a computer, running, waiting for a guard to pass, running, pressing a button, etc.
Whenever Sydney needs to rough up a bad guy, she can punch, kick, or shoot if there's a gun handy. Don't expect any two-fisted action here though - Sydney seems unable to do much other than throw the same exact punch or kick over and over. Gun control is a little better, with an option to zoom in when in first-person mode, regardless of the weapon being held. Reloading, however, seems to take place only automatically, which means you have to completely empty a gun in order to reload.
The overall control feel for Alias is somewhat "boxy." By this I mean that, though the game responds quickly enough to key presses, movement still feels a bit limited, making it hard to perform finer movements, which can lead to level-ending mistakes, such as the tripping of an alarm. For some annoying reason, Sydney also slows to a crawl when moving sideways. While I realize that walking sideways may not be natural for the average person, you'd think a trained agent would be capable of sideways movement at a decent pace. The control scheme is also unchangeable other than adjusting mouse speed or inversion.
The various missions currently available include raiding a Turkish Embassy, rescuing hostages at SD-6 headquarters, and doing some demolition work in a lab stationed in Taipei. Most of Sydney's work seems to center around infiltration and espionage, requiring her to don a myriad of disguises and acting covertly so as not to blow her cover. Given the delicate nature of her work, one wrong move can spell game over. Thankfully, none of the missions are exceedingly long, but the "learn by failing" bit can get a bit old after a while. Each mission, however, does project its own unique look and feel, which helps keep things from getting stale. The mission objectives are also multifaceted; while some tasks depend on accomplishing others beforehand, other tasks can be performed in any order the player wishes. In an interesting twist, one mission actually has players controlling an agent by the name of Vaughn, who's mission takes place several hours before a mission executed by Sydney.
ABC's influence can be felt in the glaringly obvious product placements (see "advertisements") by both Nokia and Ford. The Nokia advertisement is at least decently integrated, with Sydney receiving mission goals and communications through a Nokia cellphone that plants itself squarely in the lower left corner of the screen at all times. The Ford Focus advertisements are a bit more out of place, with many spy documents and/or communications somehow managing to work in the Ford Focus as the vehicle of choice. While not a bad car, I'm pretty sure that most spies have a budget that allows for something a little sportier.