Full Review: These alien midgets are as much a pain in the ass as human ones.
Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are back in black as Men in Black II released into the theatres earlier this month. Even more so this time around, the sequel is set to be a big box office hit. The first gave moviegoers an amusing look at the supposed secrets government agents protecting the earth from the worst scum of the universe, aliens. The second features the saying, ?Same Planet, New Scum.? Like almost every other big movie release, the Men in Black franchise spawned merchandise like toys, cartoons, and yes, even videogames. Alongside Men in Black II, Infogrames has decided to cash in on the rights and deliver a PlayStation 2 game based on the MIB. From Infogrames' Australian developer Melbourne House, we receive a fun filled MIB shooter that contains enough action and excitement to enliven an otherwise dull weekend.
Men in Black II: Alien Escape might not follow the movie's plot, however it delivers a story that is familiar to the Men in Black likeness. It seems that largest prison hulk ever produced, carrying some of the worst alien criminals of the galaxy, has crashed into waters of the earth. Instead of divers finding the prison craft filled with alien bodies though, the entire crash site was deserted. This means that the aliens are out on the loose and it's your job as an MIB agent to bring them in, or as the game says, toast them trying. Despite not being based off the new movie, fans of the films will still be able to recognize many of the aliens and guns that have appeared on screen before. Likewise, everyone will be able to recognize the streets and other New York City locations the game covers.
At the start of the game, players can either chose Agent K or Agent J to play (what do ya say? Is that okay? How about some hay?). Anyway, the two agents resemble Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith with pretty accurate looks and voice samples to match. Unlike the animated cartoon series, the models here come close and are easy to identify with all of their official MIB gear. They come dress in black suits and cool shades, as well as equipped with big, and small, guns. Like the difference is attitude between the two agents, the gameplay in each is a somewhat varied. J can move quicker, however with K's greater experience, he has more of an advantage when it comes to weaponry.
Both characters also come with variable cut-scenes and are outfitted with their own comments throughout. Some Will Smith humor shines through when Agent J speaks, and the professionalism that that represents Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K is present as well. A very small touch to the voices samples, but something I feel is noteworthy, is the echo that the voices carry when in a confined area like a cargo crate. While the inclusion of voices matching both actors was a fine idea and overall works well for the game, it should have been used further. When dying, collecting health, or obtaining power-ups, the character will say a line. The problem here comes with both characters only having a single line per action for new each level. Despite the repetition of used lines, both characters in the game match the film's big movie stars?much more than the flat and dopey cartoon characters do.
In starting Alien Escape up, the first thing you'll notice is that the title screen is very primitive in feature simple text rather than a flashy MIB graphic. Likewise, the menus that follow are something you'd normally see on a 16-bit title. Similar this setup, the gameplay too mimics the days of old school arcade shooters. With nothing but mindless shooting is present, players can enjoy blowing away the weekend with this title. MIB II reminds me of Jet Force Gemini tried to accomplish in terms of brining arcade shooters into the new generation, however unlike that title Alien Escape is easy enough to pick up and play. There's little exploring involved here, rather the main goal of the game is to take out a group of aliens and proceed to the next open area of the level. Occasionally, you're required to find keys, unlock doors, or activate elevators, however its basic shooting qualities remain constant throughout.
Being played in the third-person perspective, gamers will be able to perform a number of different moves. Besides being able to fire guns, the characters can avoid oncoming blasts by rolling out of the way, doing back flips, strafing, or reserving direction to dispose of enemies that like to creep up from behind. Since aliens return fire from all directions, its important not to have your back turned. Facing the wrong way will be a hassle since the camera perspective isn't perfect, so the importance is stressed on watching the radar a great deal.
Both agents get three of their own unique anti-alien weapons. Agent K has the more advanced artillery over Agent J, however both characters can collect power-ups from enemies along their way. There is a range of six different power-ups per gun. Though you can easily reach maximum power during a single level, it's not as trouble-free as you may think. In addition to losing health when being hit by aliens, players will also drop the upgrades they have collected. They can always recollect the lost power-ups again, but only for a small amount of time. Like many shooters out there, players can use particle blasts and lock on to enemies for perfect accuracy. Though, I must admit this is useful in some cases, I don't usually lock on to enemies as firing blasts is much more painless, especially after receiving so many upgrades.
One of the finer aspects of MIB II's level design is the ability to destroy or alter some of the surroundings simply by firing the gun. Glass will crack and sometimes shatter, computer chairs will continuously spin, computers will explode, and other objects and furniture will break down giving the game a deeper effect. The aliens that scatter about look like scum, so they're dead on. They share all the nasty and ugly body proportions that I do, could have benefited from a couple more alien types per level. The audio end does pretty well in keeping up with the rest of the game, giving its player subtle techno beats that mix along with the alien encounter action. Most of what's heard though is sound effects. With the recurring firing of guns, the blasts effect is monotonous. However, each gun features a different sound and with each upgrade a slightly altered pulse. Other sound effects include breaking of glass and objects, as well as enemies yelping in pain when being hit. Of course, this will all take second stage to the always-blasting weaponry since that's what MIB II is all about.
Besides the intense main portion, Men In Black II also provides less involving segments such as Boss Mode, Combat Training, and extras like Classified Data and The Making of MIB II. In the game's Boss Mode, players will be able to revisit each level's battle against its boss. The bosses are much to the mold of old school shooters as they feature weak areas that should be targeted. While the Boss Mode levels are the same as in the story mode, it's still worth returning to at least once. Combat Training is the other addition where players will be able to move around a simulation room and take on holographic enemies. Like a game of Tetris, more enemies appear over time and upgrades to weapons will occur automatically. Each level features a different anti-alien weapon, giving players a chance test out the weapons and sharpen up on their skills.
The Classified Data allows players to view profiles of the game's agents and aliens to read up on all the stats and information. This should entertain Men in Black fans and help MIB newbies to catch up with everyone else. As for the Making of MIB II, while a number of artwork pieces are displayed, it doesn't give you the full satisfaction of behind the scene video footage other titles have been providing. Other than the Combat Training, there is very little for players to sink their teeth into besides the story mode.
With almost a constant amount of shooting going on, Men in Black II is quite a thrill to play from start to finish. Instead of using its license in providing a cheap gameplay experience, the developer delivers an old school gaming update at its best, even to the point where the scores at the end of the levels add up with classic bonuses and multipliers. The only major downside to picking MIB II up is the fact that is relatively short. Players will be able to complete the game in a couple hours time, so for some it may be best suited as a rental. For others though, the fun can last a lot longer than for just an entertaining weekend. Nevertheless, unless you hate this type of intense gameplay and feel its way too repetitive, fans shouldn't miss out on MIB II. In coming out alongside the movie, Men In Black II should sell with great appeal and this is one movie game where its owners won't been suckered into playing and disappointed in the end like we have seen so many times before. Now th