In Alias you take the persona of agent Sydney Bristow from the CIA. She is a crack spy and is always sent in for tough missions requiring a high degree of skill. The storyline behind the game revolves around a device which can be used to brainwash people and the parts required to build it. While the game itself does have an ongoing storyline, it is possible to view each individual mission within itself, much like a TV series. One bonus for the storyline is the writers of the television show were consulted so for fans of the series, they may notice the game not straying to far away from what they would typically see in a TV episode.
Alias is a third person stealth game, and while there are a number of them already on the market has a few things which make it stand out, in both good and bad ways. Basically the game revolves around kicking the daylights out of enemies between mission goals such as hacking a computer, destroying a security system or rescuing a friendly agent. It can become repetitive especially when you clear one area of enemies, only to be forced through that area again later in the mission and come across a fresh set of foes.
To aid her in her tasks Sydney has a variety of gadgets to use. These gadgets can only be used for certain tasks and this is where one problem with the game creeps in. Not the fact that they can only be used for some tasks, but more the interface. You can only use the gadgets when a certain graphic appears on the screen. The problem is that the area Sydney is required to stand in, is very small. So you can be standing right next to a computer which requires a hack and not able to do so because you're standing in the incorrect area. This also happens when trying to open doors.
When the gadgets do work they offer a great deal of variety and are quite interesting to use. Taking a leaf out of Splinter Cell's book, the game contains a mini game for lock picking and also a mini game for hacking. Rather then slapping a modem in and going for it, you have to guess a three letter combination. Thankfully this is restricted to A,B,C and D so it doesn't take too long to guess the combination. Other gadgets include a fingerprint replicator and the ability for Sydney to change clothes from casual to stealth. It is possible to get around in Sydney's non-stealth clothing for a whole mission but sometimes after cut scenes the game will impose the change. Sometimes the scenarios for gadgets are used ad nauseam and they stop becoming enjoyable and interesting to use.
A common problem with third person action games tends to be the camera and unfortunately the same can be said for Alias. Fighting enemies whilst not being able to see them is not only frustrating, but near on impossible. The camera can also cause problems with the combat section of the game. You can be right next to a person, but start kicking and punching towards air, giving them the chance to belt Sydney with weapons or shoot her. The game doesn't have a button to lock onto enemies so it tries to guess which enemy you are trying to target. This can become a problem when dealing with two enemies close together, especially when one has a gun and one doesn't. Thankfully, you can hit two enemies at once which somewhat debunks this problem, but it will still induce frustration from the player.
Alias isn't a very hard game, although initial impressions will make the game feel tough. Once you adjust to the control system and combat mechanics, you will start to breeze through the game. With that in mind, it takes about half an hour or longer to actually begin to enjoy the game but once you do it offers a decent stealth challenge. You will encounter local authorities such as museum guards as well as hired commandos from Anna's army. They don't offer a great deal of resistance, except for when carrying a gun. During the course of the game you will also encounter boss fights featuring some of the main characters in the storyline.
Sydney can steal weapons from enemies, and without a weapon the game is much more difficult. She can attack in two ways, a basic attack and a special attack. The latter delves out more damage, but is much harder to complete and leaves Sydney vulnerable for a second. The focus in Alias is very much on action, the game does not punish you for not using stealth although silent take downs will prevent other guards from becoming alerted.
As mentioned before the missions in Alias can be seen as individual TV episodes. Some missions are extremely long and will take more then an hour to complete, whilst others will be finished in ten or twenty minutes. There is a great variety on offer and Sydney will visit places such as a casino, ruined enemy base and mental asylum just to name three. The actual structures in missions are quite large and it is easy to become lost. A guide can be found if you get hopelessly stuck. For example in the casino mission, you don't just see the gambling floor but the board room, freezers, kitchen and basement to name just a few places action takes place.
The visuals of the game are quite impressive with highly detailed structures and great character models for both Sydney and the enemies she encounters. The animations of Sydney smoothly integrate with each other and not once during our play time did the frame rate drop in a noticeable fashion. For the sound effects, Jennifer Garner has provided the voice acting giving an additional level of authenticity to the experience and overall the voice acting throughout is very impressive. One thing which is definitely impressive is the quality of the CG video played between some missions. The characters featured look life like, and the way they animate gives a very human look.
Alias is a third person action game, more than a traditional stealth game. The developers have used the license from the TV show well, and this is a game that can be put in the successful TV conversion pile. Whilst the game does have camera issues and the combat can be clunky at times, if you're looking for something to keep you going after a game like Pandora Tomorrow, then Alias offers some decent action based gameplay.
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