Gaming Today Reviews Alpha Prime

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I’m going to start off with probably the most important thing about Alpha Prime: it costs $20. I mention this, because the whole time I played it, I kept asking myself if it was really worth that amount. It took some thought, but I finally arrived at a conclusion: no, not really. Fifteen bucks? Maybe. Ten bucks? Certainly. But $20 is kind of stretching it, even for this budget title that feels several years old.

alphaprime2-1.jpgThere’s nothing particularly innovative about Alpha Prime at all. The game feels like someone took the gameplay mechanics of Half-Life 2 and applied them to the Doom 3 universe. If you’ve played either game, a lot of Alpha Prime is going to seem very familiar. You’re in an abandoned space setting where every moving thing is out to get you, but you also have to stack boxes and build platforms to move ahead sometimes. If you get hurt, you recharge with little health stations on the walls, and certain areas involve using a flashlight to even see where you’re going and what you’re shooting. See what I mean?

The story has you playing Arnold Weiss, a prospector working for the creatively named “Corporation” who travels with his ex-girlfriend to save her new boyfriend from Alpha Prime when the whole planet is locked down for some mysterious reason. You learn all this from one of the most pointless opening cut scenes in video game history, made all the more unbearable by the game’s horrible voice acting and writing. Once you arrive on Alpha Prime, you find the miners working there have been driven insane by the effects of the stuff they’ve been mining, “hubbardium.” To top it off, all the worker robots have also gone haywire and picked up machine guns; plus a special ops team has been sent to clean up the whole mess and get rid of any witnesses. Yes, that’s right: even the plot is a weird hybrid of Half-Life and Doom.

You’ll have the same standard arsenal of weaponry — pistol, shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher — that’s been in almost every FPS since Wolfenstein 3D, with plenty of ammo lying all over the place. And you’ll be using these weapons to mow down everything with any hint of intelligence, though I use the term loosely. The AI in this game is just plain stupid. Most enemies will just shoot at you on sight and then run to opposite side of the room the minute you land a shot on them. Other times you can plug them in the back several times without them even noticing. In the middle of combat, you can also inject yourself with a dose of hubbardium — which somehow doesn’t turn you into a mindless gun-toting mutant — giving you a “bullet time” ability for as long as your supply lasts. Besides being a derivative gameplay concept these days, being able to slow down time doesn’t really give you much of an edge. You’ll be able to aim faster, but you won’t be able to dodge bullets or even watch a particularly thrilling death, as all enemies just kind of crumple to the ground upon their demise. The gunplay, which is the meat of the game, just feels like a chore. There’s nothing very satisfying about shooting through rooms full of cardboard cutouts with the same weapons over and over.

alphaprime1-1.jpgAlpha Prime does stand out though with the graphics. The visuals are fairly slick, if a little dated. There’s nothing particularly awe-inspiring, and occasionally you’ll get some graphical glitches; but a lot of things look pretty nice. However, the levels are quite bland and uninteresting to battle through, since it’s your standard space station/mining facility fare. Someone apparently tried to spice them up a little by throwing in some blood stains or bodies to make it apparent that something horrible happened there, but even these do little to distract you after an hour or so. That and the physics are just plain ridiculous. Almost everything that can move, from a table to a tin can, seems to weigh exactly that same and sometimes moves in strange ways. Bump a table, for example, and you’ll likely see it go sliding across the room as if it’s legs were sticks of butter.

Presentation (5)
Derivative story, derivative setting, derivative gameplay: Alpha Prime practically screams “budget title” within the first ten minutes of play.

Graphics (7)
The graphics look fairly polished, though a little behind the times. The level design though, with recycled textures and architecture, gets old fairly quickly.

Sound (5)
The voice acting is flat out horrendous. Sound design is limited to gunshots, explosions, and music that drowns all of that out.

alphaprime4-1.jpgGameplay (5)
This is a first-person shooter in its barest form. No special weapons at your disposal and no useful abilities make even shooting through waves of enemies boring.

Replay Value (1)
With no multiplayer, a linear story, and unsatisfying gameplay, there’s no reason you’ll ever want to play this game a second time.

Overall (5)
Alpha Prime is painfully average, with nearly every aspect of it having been done better in other games that came out years ago. I can only recommend this if you’ve played every other FPS out there and still want more. And then I’d still urge you to just play Half-Life 2 again.

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