Men in Black: Alien Crisis
Wii | Activision / Fun Labs | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote and Nunchuk; Wii Zapper; Top Shot Elite
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11th July 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Your typical alien-vanquishing quest, Men in Black: Alien Crisis takes on a third-person perspective with an on-rails frame to make up its primary focal point of shooter-centric gameplay. Featuring multiple components to its mission-based structure, the game's makeup is that of an action-focused adventure that's just as much of an investigative venture as it is about clearing environments of alien threats. But as it is the foremost element that's pushed throughout, let's spend a few moments to first talk about the setup of the game's shooting segments.
The controls, first of all, are predictable: point the Wii Remote at the screen to control a crosshair and press the B Button to fire a round from your weapon of choice. The D-Pad is used to swap between a number of different gadgets that become unlocked over time, while attachments in the form of shields, bubble guns, ice rays, and gravity grenades can be equipped and used with the C and Z Buttons, respectively. This, then, leaves the Analog Stick to control your character's movements. As these portions of the game are on-rails, you'll only be moving left and right, but a cover system is implemented to offer players a bit more control over the environments they are taken through. You'll regularly find yourself automatically going from one area of an environment to the next wall, parked car, or structure you can hide behind, as if you were afraid of any direct confrontation. At these times, indicators will tell you which directions you can peek out from to attack, including north. The A Button can be used to get away from these areas and jump out into the open (i.e., always along a horizontal plane), or to jump back to your safe zones when you see a need for it. For a while, players will initially find the transitioning of such maneuvers lack finesse, but it's something you can get used to for the most part.
As you'll be dealing with enemies in both short- and long-range terms, multipliers and bonuses are awarded as you land consecutive hits and make use of attachments to assist in your deliveries. Defeated enemies will drop Upgrade Points (among other things) that you can just pick up by passing your cursor over them as they float around in the air. These can then be used under the Upgrades Menu (opened by pressing the 2 Button) to increase a selected weapon's area of effect, damage level, and things like these.
Just in discussing the importance of accuracy in a game like this, it's worth stating that the level of precision associated with the crosshair isn't the greatest, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's completely unreliable either. Much of the system's effectiveness will actually depend on your weapon as some have a longer reach than others, but even the environment itself and the camera play a part in this. In targeting enemies, you'll often have cases where the bullets will come up short and hit walls, partitions, or other parts of the scenery not directly in front of the target but still in fairly close proximity. It does get annoying at times, but that's probably why they allow you to zoom in close for a greater rate of success. How do you go about doing that, you ask? Well for some reason, they have you shaking the Nunchuk. Whoever thought that would be a good idea? On top of this, camera shakes that normally occur when firing in standard terms are amplified even further and cause a greater degree of irritation. Not only does it become tricky to hold a steady hand, it gets very disorienting on the eyes to see this transpire on your television screen. And when certain environments already present an issue of clarity due to poor lighting conditions, this isn't welcome at all. But then again, there's a lot to this game that isn't likeable one bit.
Problems with these main shooting segments run surface deep and are extremely apparent from the very first chapter in the game's story. Like a slap in the face over unfulfilled expectations surrounding the nature and impression of the operation, there's a stark lack of excitement to be had here and much of this can be attributed to gameplay that treats repetition as though it were a lifeline. Because your traversal of the different environments always boils down to the same duck-and-cover process again and again, it gets to a point where you develop dissatisfaction over the limitations of the system and want to break past its barriers. The individual scenes contained within each environment where you're hiding and sneaking out to defeat enemies as they enter the area are such a drag. They do a good job of doing that on their own, but it doesn't help when most of your items lack a hold function, so it becomes tiresome in more ways than one for every fiftieth press of the B Button. It's not like these missions normally go on for long periods of time either. But because there's just so little of anything to keep you immersed in what's taking place, gameplay ends up being completely mindless to the point that you tune out mentally.
Solidifying the point about engagement being non-existent, there's also very little difficulty to be found in the game. There are always enough health packs to go around, and while the introducing of frequent checkpoints minimizes frustration over having to start the drudgery over again, this makes these missions fairly easy to get through. That's provided the boredom doesn't drive you away, of course. Some of the later instances of these mission objectives will have civilians running around that will add to an exposure meter, where defeating enemies in their presence or outright hitting them with your rounds will bring on awareness of your connection to the organization. The solution to this is, not to blindfold them (darn!), but to encase them in bubbles. If you choose not to, though, you can keep going through levels without having to worry about them interfering greatly with your progress. Even though a full exposure meter will end your mission, it never ever gets to this point. They probably thought this was a clever idea to make the whole "secret agent" theme clear, but it is really just a weak aspect to the gameplay that bears no real point to it.
As I said before, what was just described is but one component to the entire game. Closely related to the above are stealth missions that basically have you shooting cameras and encasing alien guards in bubbles to get to an end point. While these aren't as mindless as the main set of objectives, they're still lacking in a number of respects and carry much of the same flaws. At first they weren't so bad, but the more I became exposed to them, the more I felt like a robot on wheels, doing what I was told with almost no skill involved, let alone interest. These missions are also revealed to be quite fidgety as far as expecting you to do things a set way, and because of the way the controls are, simple tasks like knocking out a camera light require a bit more effort than they should. On one occasion, I was up against a pillar with two guards and a camera in front of me. In trying to aim for the camera from this position, I ended up hitting the same pillar I was using for cover, and despite my shot not even winding up near any of those three triggers, my cover was blown. It's reasonable to aspect that jumping into a corner to hide from an enemy who just spotted you would produce some kind of excitement under normal circumstances. In actuality, these are just dull, hollow exercises with next-to-nothing to offer players.
To dismiss any kind of inkling that the rest of the game is going to turn out for the better, the third set of missions fare even worse than the last. Appearing in less frequency, car-driving segments have you controlling a floating cruiser with your Wii Remote's pointer in pursuit of the aliens. As with much of this game's structure, these are also on-rails, but they are much more limited than anything else before it. Never mind the sub-par controls, every single one of these segments in their different iterations have players dealing with a camera that is intent on making them dizzy and disrupting their ability to follow what's going on. These missions also make use of the exposure meter mentioned earlier, but now encourage you to avoid crashing into billboards and light posts that you are often unprepared for. Fun stuff. With everything about these missions being in such a sloppy state, I can assure you there's absolutely nothing to like here either.
After all that, nothing would make a secret agent happier than getting to work in the field and do some actual investigative work. So the developers thought to themselves, "Why don't we throw in a few portions where players can ask questions and keep the plot moving?" I have a better idea. Why don't we just zip right through it and pretend this meaningless storyline doesn't even exist, just because we can! Honestly, going to these small locations to interrogate suspects and gather information is about as energizing as pretending two action figures can talk to each other. This game truly cannot shake its lack of excitement as even in these filler segments, you're wandering around feeling empty and that you don't want to spend any more time here. You're forced to scan the environment for interaction points so as to trigger conversation topics with NPC's, but it's all just a futile undertaking. You can easily keep pressing A to skip conversations with no consequences to be had over missing details since nothing really matters in the end. With these segments also featuring very slow movement and a very rigid camera, there is absolutely no interest to be developed both in this portion of the game and the plot at large.
And now we've come to the final gameplay component: boss fights. Much like the main set of missions, these sequences often drag on considerably. Very brief cutscenes are abruptly tossed in to interfere with the flow of these encounters by showing a change in attack when these are just as uninteresting as the actual gameplay. The worst part is that unlike some of the other missions where checkpoints spared you the aggravation of forcing yourself to get through boring conditions from the top, you have to start the boss fight all over again if you lose all your health. But the only threat you'll experience here in terms of difficulty is having to escape from a short window of critical danger. Other than those cheap occurrences, the bosses follow in the same footsteps as other missions and prove to be similarly dull in the scheme of things.
In looking at Alien Crisis' lousy structure as a whole, not only is this game utterly unimpressive, but the surface grumbles reflect dated game design. As if you didn't have enough reason to pelt the persons responsible with a not-so-soft object, any kind of hesitation on your part to follow through on that will disappear as you recall the distinctly poor presentation. The look of the game truly reminded me of games from more than a decade ago, just with a slight upgrade in the visual department. The features of the character models are just embarrassing, with ugly-looking hair, the insides of mouths looking bad, and mouth animations not matching voices. Just as well, since the dialogue is flat anyway. The totally uninspired environments look like they were ripped out of a game from a legacy system, and the lighting on some of these just isn't well done either. Also realizing that the framerate reaches many awful points, there is truly nothing redeeming about the way this game is presented, both in its design and look.
With most chapters lasting no more than 15 minutes, the experience is less than three hours in length. Extra challenges are set in six of the locations you visit in the game to offer additional objectives under competitive, co-operative, or solo terms. There's also an Elite Agent difficulty that becomes available after completion of the main story. But it would be silly to think that a few extras would be any reason at all to humor a flawed game deserving of a trip to the incinerator.
Men in Black: Alien Crisis is such a slap in the face as it is without the price tag being waved around in your face. With almost nothing to appreciate and the end of each mindless mission being a sight for sore eyes and jaded minds, you'll be on the hunt for some medicated relief to sooth your insides before even completing this terrible mess. The only investigating one should do is look deeply into the internal development team to see what they were thinking when they thought this would be an acceptable form of entertainment.
07/30 - Simply Awful
Gameplay 3/10 - Mindless drudgery, poor gameplay elements, repetition makes everything such a drag, lousy structure, sloppy and dated game design
Presentation 2/10 - Outdated visuals that were suitable a decade ago, ugly character models, unappealing environments, terrible framerate
Enjoyment 0/5 - Absolutely nothing to like, completely draining to play, no interest or excitement to be developed, components do not come together well
Extra Content 2/5 - Additional challenges to participate in after completing Story Mode, multiplayer options, short with an offensive price tag
Equivalent to a score of 23% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System