IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM
Some people seem to attract loonies, others act as a magnet tor viruses. Ellen Ripley seems to draw acid-spitting slaughter-hungry aliens. As the mam character in the Alien films, she's outlived the crew of her starship, a platoon of colonial marines, and, in the most recent movie, an entire prison colony.
The game starts in the nicest area of the penitentiary, although even then it resembles the kind of kebab shop a starving man would pass by. The aliens who are now residing in the colony have been very busy. Using their ability to secrete a noxious, tougher-than-rope resin, they've glued all the prisoners to various bits of the colony Being a good egg, and not wanting the aliens to breed anymore, Ripley takes it upon her self to free them and slaughter every xenomorph that gets in her way
If you've seen the film (which I thought wasn't too bad), you'll probably have sussed that the game's plot differs somewhat. Unlike the film, where Ripley was armed with nothing more than a dangerous haircut, here she's really kitted out for action. Her arsenal is made up of hand grenades, a flame thrower and a pulse rifle (complete with grenade launcher). Each weapon has a limited supply of ammo, which dwindles very quickly when you're faced with aliens that take several hits to Kill.
She also has a motion tracker which pin points the position of any prisoner or alien in the nearby area, although it only has a limited power supply and batteries have to be found to charge it up The problem with this, though, is that by the time it picks up an alien, it's already making a determined leap at your throat. However, because there are so many prisoners on the later levels, it becomes an essential bit of kit
THIS TIME IT'S WAR
There are 14 levels in total, all of which are set against the clock If you run out of time you get to witness the aliens bursting out of the remaining prisoners, which is almost worth deliberately running the clock down to see. Obviously any sane person would do a runner rather than take on an entire alien race single-handed. What prevents Ripley from following suit is that the last doorway doesn't open until the final prisoner is rescued.
Ripley only has a limited amount of energy, which is depleted by contact with the aliens and long falls. She can also be a bit of a danger to herself. There are several storage rooms in the colony which contain cans of fuel that explode when hit by a stray bullet or grenade.
Moving around the levels can be quite tricky, even if you avoid most of the hazards There are loads of moving platforms which provide the only link between gantries, so Ripley's formidable leaping abilities are put to the test. Security doors also pose a hazard Most can be opened by operating the controls at the side, which is handy as they can be closed behind you to lock out aliens The alternative is to select the grenade launcher and blow it away.
TOO TOUGH TO BEAT?
Apart from the hazards with slavering jaws, there are plenty of other things to be avoided. Some levels have slippery ramps, and stepping on one of those leads to a very long drop. There are also spiked pits and gigantic fans which spell instant death. Plenty of long drops have been placed under tricky jumps to liven things up further.
Naturally the prisoners are usually stuck in out of the way locations, and half the challenge of rescuing them is finding them in the first place. Often you need to retrace your steps to find a passage or doorway you might have missed, which can be a little hair-raising with the clock ticking down. The prisoners are very heavily guarded after the tenth level. Egg-sacks are placed right next to them, and they release a face-hugger as soon as you approach.
There's one level that differs from all this though. The mayhem stage is devoid ol prisoners but full to bursting point with aliens and facehuggers. The object isn't so much to find the way out as to survive This sets you up with almost no ammo for the next level, which makes things tougher still.
One of the trickier features of the early levels are the networks of ventilation shafts. You can't tell where the passages lead to and aliens have developed a nasty habit of dropping down vertical shafts at high speed. The hand grenades come in very useful as they can be dropped down tunnels to clear the way before you crawl into the unknown.
THE BITCH IS BACK
Every few levels the scene changes and Ripley finds herself locked in a room with a queen Alien Apart from being significantly larger than her offspring, she can leap huge distances and spit acid. It takes a ridiculous amount of ammo to finish her off, so you have to make each shot count. Like the normal levels this is time-limited, so you can't wait for her to jump into your sights
Face huggers start to appear on the later levels These burst out of their eggs and make a spirited attempt at grabbing Ripley's face. If they succeed they'll slowly drain her energy. Only a large amount of joystick waggling will be capable of throwing them off (if only John Hurt had known that in the first film). The worker aliens also start dropping down the ladders, so it's nearly impossible to tell where you'll come under attack from next.
To begin with the scenary is nice and recognisably human There's the hospital, the abbatoir, complete with corpses, and the cell block. As she works her way deeper into the complex, the background becomes more alien-like, with tubes and other organic bits adorning every wall Here's where the game gets really tough. You have to move very quickly as the maps are complicated and the prisoners are stashed all over the place In addition to that, acid drips from the ceiling and there are more Aliens than ever.
There are also secret rooms, which can usually be found by running into walls. These often contain ammunition and medical packs, although on the last couple of levels they play host to prisoners. To begin with it doesn't take long to learn the levels, but later on they become so big that it's impossible.
LET'S ROCK AND ROLL
The sound effects are fantastic. Noises for the pulse rifle and grenade launcher have been sampled from Aliens and they sound terrific. Music plays throughout, although it's very subtle and you don't always notice it. The graphics are excellent. The Aliens are suitably spindly and, well, alien. There's some nice vanation between the backdrops, although I think a little more could have been done with the Alien levels at the end of the game
You can't really say that this does the film justice, mainly because most people will rate the game better than the movie. It also has so little to do with the movie's plot. What it is, though, is an excellent Aliens game It's full of action and the vanety of weapons offer Ripley plenty of death-dealing opportunities.
Alien 3 is definitely very challenging. There's plenty to shoot, lots to explore and the backgrounds vary enough to hold your attention It has all the atmosphere of an Aliens film as you never know when one's going to leap out at you. This is one of the best movie-to game conversions I've seen.
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