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Old 07-16-2002, 04:54 PM   #1
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Review: Men In Black II: Alien Escape

Review from IGN.COM
http://ps2.ign.com/articles/364/364188p1.html


Men in Black II: Alien Escape
Not-up-to-snuff summer fluff.


July 08, 2002 - In the world of Hollywood movies, everyone knows that summertime traditionally has been the season of blockbuster action films, light brain-candy, and scary teen films. The stuff of fluff. It's OK. Going to the movies and experiencing a roller coaster ride is good fun. Videogames should be good fun, too. Men in Black II: Alien Escape easily fits into this same category, light-hearted and brainless, just like the movie, but well, it's not quite the roller-coaster ride that the movie is.

What gamers find on their popcorn-buttery plate is a third-person perspective shooter offering decent control, a modest closet of upgradeable custom-issue MIB weaponry, some wonderfully detestable aliens and, summed up into one package, a very mediocre, by-the-numbers shooter. If you're bored to tears and need to play every single shooter around, it's easily a rentable enterprise, but it's nowhere near to must-have status, and it may be worth your while to simply view MIIB again instead (which is a great summer movie, by the way).

Gameplay
This is your basic, wham-bam thank you ma'am shooter, with a few graphic frills, and a pittance of upgrades to keep you scrapping for the rest of the game, if you care to do so. I drudged through this puppy with the least amount of enthusiasm and as always, hope for some special little details (or naturally original gameplay) to lift me out of my dread. But no such luck here. MIB2 is as plain and simple as they get.

So, First things first, right? Agent Jay and Kay, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the two movies, and whose voices are represented by Keith Diamond and Ed O'Ross and then Gregg Berger after him in the animated TV series, aren't anywhere to be found. In other words, the two voice actors in the game don't sound like either those in the movie or in the animated series. Second, the animated characters in the game look like bad stunt-doubles for the movie; even a casual viewer will notice the difference. So, to recap, the videogame characters don't look or sound like the characters in either the movies or the show. Suffice it is to say, in the department of genuine quality, Infogrames did not deliver. "True" MIB fans will be let down, to be sure.

The game setup includes five missions of straightaway blasting, with about four levels per mission (for a total of 20-plus levels). Players get to select between either Jay or Kay as they begin each level, and depending on their pick, the agents have slightly different strengths on which to pursue the mission's goals. Honestly, it hardly matters which one you pick, but if you'd like to beat the game with the least amount of hassle, pick Agent Jay, who appears to have a slightly more effective arsenal. The weapon list is rather short, at six, but each weapon can be upgraded a few times to bolster its effectiveness in the last part of each area. The list includes the J2 Blaster, XD9 Lazy Weasel, HBIII Globulator, Ionhammer, Plasma Torch and DRG Fusion Cannon. The locations feature the docks, a nuclear complex, Manhattan streets, and an alien spacecraft.

The premise essentially suggests your character move back and forth, pushing the plastic out of the X button, repeating that action and then mopping up again as more aliens phase in repeatedly to make you do it all over again. To be fair, most shooters are designed to make players move back and forth shooting the crap out of aliens, so MIB2 is right in line, but this one has a particular vanilla blandness taste that's so dull if doesn't even have an aftertaste. Gamers can simply press the heck out of X for multiple fire or by holding down the button they can lock on and target the enemy. L1 and R1 are for strafing, while players can roll and backflip, too, which comes in very handy against bosses. The controls are so simple you'll need all of five minutes to master them.

The generic design lets out all of the fun right from the start. The kicker is that the usually more-than-competent Melbourne House (Le Mans 24 Hours; DC and PS2) flopped on this one with a game that tries but fails to recall classic gameplay elements from the arcade shooters (Radiant Silvergun and Gradius III) of yore. Like those old-school shooters, alien fire forms patterns that Agents Jay and Kay can avoid with learned movement and quick-twitch play, but the final form of these patterns doesn't come close to re-creating the tension, originality, nor fun of those unforgettable games. It's like Melbourne House thought the idea was cool, but never really spent the time trying to truly make the gameplay work, either than or Infogrames just said, "Hey, get this game out in time for the movie, and none of this reminiscent shooter BS. Full Stop." And so, Infogrames got what it asked for, I guess, a bland, forgettable game that is a mere shadow of the series on which it's built. But hey, the happy little kids who saw the movie will buy it, right? Right?!! Right?!!??!!

Graphics
The most noticeable visual aspect in MIB2 overwhelmingly points to the lighting effects, specifically from the weapons. Every one fires plasma-like shots, each a different color and in a different pattern, and they change in scope and power as the gamer progresses. What happens in visual terms is that the entire screen fills with your, and the alien, laser shots, creating a massive light show that appears to attempt to cover up the lack of gameplay at hand. It's a nice little light show, but it gets old quick, very quick.

After the light show, I'm afraid, little is left to become excited about. Perhaps one of the cooler tertiary aspects of MIB2, however, is the biography of aliens. Like I said, it's not a big deal, but each bio features a running animation of the creature and a decent little resume of his history, personality, and objectives. It's a nice little library to toggle through for kicks. Along these same noteworthy lines, the creature design in line with the movie, and Melbourne House has done a respectable job of re-creating the creatures in video form. Most of the boss fights highlight the larger of the alien creatures, and their size and design are worth checking out if you like that sort of thing.

As for the textures, artwork, structure, and cut-scenes, well, there is very little good to say. If you're a discriminate fan, the Agent models don't look like the animated series or the movie characters. I guess if you're nearly blind, feverish and dying, or are performing wild forms of acrobatic sex during gameplay, you may not notice the crude imitation of the characters, but otherwise, you're up a creek without a paddle.

Sound
The sound is another disappointment. While the game offers the ability to change the level of sound effects and the dialog, the voice and sound effects appear to have been recorded at different volume levels. So, if they are even on the slider scales, one can barely hear the voices, while the music is far louder. You'll have to adjust these to get an even audio experience.

The voices, as I said before, aren't the same as in either the movie of the animated series, and so the overall effect is a disappointment because the scriptwriting is marginal at best (these one-liners have little zip), and the voices sound off. There is something to be said for the stiff animations, too, which might have helped to accentuate the jokes a little better. (I know the Jay and Kay are deadpan guys, but they do move around a little bit, even if it's just an eyebrow or a simple facial expression).

Perhaps the most completely wacko aspect of the sound is the entirely piss-poor soundtrack. OH MY GOD. What is up with the sound? It's so bad it's worth progressing a few levels just to hear what genre it will trash next! Wow! Disco, dance, techno, everything gets hammered with a frickin' lead pipe in this ear-beating game. It's like some someone completely without talent (like me)-- with no experience in programming or orchestrating music -- was hired to do the soundtrack and he just blew chunks all over it.

Closing Comments
So, in the final analysis, Men in Black II is a super bland, utterly forgettable shooter that doesn't do the movie or the animated series any justice. It's filled with redundant gameplay techniques that don't compete with the greats of the genre, and only the boss fights are worth your time if you're a serious player (perhaps the last two levels might -- might -- give you a challenge). Boring, mindless, and pathetic stuff, really. Melbourne House is capable of so much more. I guess the game's only saving grace is that it's selling for cheap, at $29.95, about $20 less than most games. My serious recommendation is to just go see the movie, and then see it a second time. Rent this thing at your own danger. BUT ONLY if you're ridiculously, sadly, pathetically, horribly, miserably, uncontrollably, desperately desperate. And that's a frickin' really big if.

Presentation - 6.0
Long load times and simplistic menus show this game's true colors -- it's a mass market send-off. Boring.

Graphics - 5.5
A fancy light show and shiny, gleaming guns don't make up for slit-your-throat-dull gameplay. Cool alien models, though.

Sound - 3.0
Even 3DO couldn't do this bad. This hack-erific collection of tunes is so bad it's good fun just to hear it and laugh! Wow that's stinky!

Gameplay - 4.0
Melbourne House probably got the publisher shove on this one, but the final fact is this is a consumer title in the most belittling sense of the word -- dumb, boring and bland as a wheat cracker.

Lasting Appeal - 5.5
None to recommend. You'll get more replay value from reading this review twice than MIB2.

OVERALL SCORE (not an average) 4.0
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Old 07-18-2002, 07:43 PM   #2
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