Review: Alpha Prime and Shadowgrounds Survivor (PC)

Andy Chalk | 19 Dec 2007 21:20
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Enemies in the game can be broken up into three distinct sets of increasing difficulty. You'll begin with the miners, who are essentially target practice that occasionally shoots back; they will eventually give way to various humanoid robots, who are more durable and offensively capable; and before long, The Company's private army will show up, armed with a variety of weapons and specialized military-grade robots. Different enemies carry different types of weapons; the vast majority are packing machine guns or shotguns, but a few specialized military types will come at you with sniper rifles, rocket launchers and flamethrowers.

You'll have access to the same arsenal, although like so many FPSes, the shotgun/machine gun/rocket launcher trifecta is all you'll really need. Alpha Prime's guns don't pack a lot of gut-hammering oomph, and though they get the job done, you'll never feel like you're packing serious heat. The flamethrower, with an effective range of about 10 feet from the nozzle, is particularly noteworthy in its uselessness, although on the upside that uselessness works both ways: As long as you can stay 11 feet away from flamethrower troops, you're untouchable.

Players have access to a form of "bullet time" by way of refined Hubbardium, which can be found throughout the game as an injectable drug. There's plenty of the stuff lying around, and the more you have in your system, the longer you can maintain your accelerated movement speed. But not once did I run into a situation in which I actually needed to make use of the ability. It was fun to run up behind an unsuspecting enemy and pop him in blurry slow-mo, but the practical value of refined Hubbardium was zero, and by the midpoint of the game it was largely forgotten and unused.

FPS veterans should have little trouble with the difficulty; ammo is plentiful and enemy A.I. is not. In fact, most of the game's challenge comes from a pretty blatant case of Quake 3 syndrome: You could charitably say the A.I. has raptor-like eyesight and reflexes, or you could cut the crap and say it cheats. Although some enemies aren't great at initially taking notice of you, they stay absolutely locked in once they do. Compounding the issue is a vicious damage model, which will cut your health down to nothing after only a few hits. Alpha Prime is in no way a tactical FPS, but charging into a crowded room Quake-style is a sure way to end up at the "Load Game" screen.

The action is average at best, not bad in the strictest sense but certainly unremarkable, and while graphically the game won't burn your retinas, visual oddities in the character models, particularly when they die, can be a little jarring. Surprisingly, the voice acting isn't half-bad, although the material often swerves dangerously close to painful, and while the synth-metal soundtrack can get repetitive, it meshes well with all the mindless shooting going on.

I have to admit I came away from the game entertained, albeit for all the wrong reasons: Alpha Prime is pure Mystery Science Theater 3000 material. Plot progression, particularly in the latter stages of the game when things are, for lack of a better term, wrapping up, is a magnificently grotesque spectacle, careening arbitrarily from point to point, eventually coming to rest in a horrific mass of baffling nonsense. It's almost a shame that a truly awful story is not in itself enough of a reason to recommend a game, because it really is something to see. Unfortunately, as unimpressive as it is in every other way, it's just not worth the price of admission.
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