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PC Game Review: Alpha Prime

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Source: https://alyxxgameroom.blogspot.com/2018/09/pc-game-review-alpha-prime.html




GAME: Alpha Prime


DEVELOPER: Black Element Software

PUBLISHER: Bohemia Interactive



Alpha Prime is a game that I've had in my library for a while. I probably picked it up at some point due to its low price (it's pretty much a $1 game at the moment on Steam). So I figured it was about time I gave the game a playthrough. Here are my thoughts on this 2007 FPS from the Czech Republic.



Looks like we've got ourselves a corridor shooter. Oh boy.


The game starts off on a mining colony on the distant titular planet of Alpha Prime, where a group of miners are unearthing what seems to be Hubbardium, a powerful substance that when injected into a human being has the effect of slowing down time for the user (similar to the drug SlowMo in Judge Dredd). Rumors begin spreading of the drug coming from some kind of living deity on the planet, which the miners have dubbed Glomar, and it seems the use of Hubbardium is turning a lot of the miners insane. Soon all hell breaks loose when what is said to be the Heart of Glomar is found, which seems to be the source of Hubbardium. Your mission as Arnold (who I have a suspicion is named after a certain action star) aka Arnie is to stop the wrong people from getting their hands on the Heart of Glomar while also finding out who the bad guys is as you're caught up in a conspiracy involving your ex girlfriend Livia.


The story isn't really that well written in the game. It is told mostly through lengthy cutscenes that aren't particurarily engaging nor well acted and through conversations that are equally lengthy and boring. For most of the game I had difficulty paying attention to what was going on story-wise as the story just seemed to not really go anywhere until the latter part of the game. It involves an Italian (who is fittingly voiced by an Italian with a very lacking grasp of the English language), a black dude who couldn't be any more "bro", and a scientist, as well as Olivier, the leader of the mercenary group sent to retrieve the Heart of Glomar, who turns out to be the game's main villain. The side characters in the end only serve as reasons for you to go after Olivier, who may or may not be on the same side as your ex girlfriend. I dunno, it just seemed like the story tried way too hard to add twists that you could see coming a mile away or that didn't make much sense.



"So. You got any porn on that computer?"


The gameplay in Alpha Prime feels like very much a product of its time. There isn't much that is particurarily original about it, and a lot of it feels taken from other better games. The main gameplay feels heavily influenced by F.E.A.R. with the slowdown mechanic that was already used in games like Max Payne, the aforementioned F.E.A.R. and Doom 3 Resurrection of Evil. The slowdown mechanic becomes something you'll rely on a lot due to the game's rather unforgiving and unbalanced difficulty. Even on Easy mode enemies can fire at you with pinpoint accuracy no matter their distance and deal a lot of damage which can easily kill you within seconds of engaging the enemy unless you're taking cover. This makes the slowdown mechanic come in handy since it allows you to react faster to enemies firing at you, though it doesn't seem to boost your health in any way, meaning that you can't really rely on it too much for close quarters combat.


Unlike a lot of modern shooters, you aren't limited to only 2 weapons though, and can carry an entire arsenal, similar to other oldschool shooters, with ammo for weapons being dropped by enemies and found in lockers and other parts of the levels. You start out with an axe as a melee weapon, but quickly acquire a pistol, a shotgun, an assault rifle (which fires like a miniature Gatling gun), a sniper rifle, a rocket launcher, a flamethrower and grenades which you toss at varying distances depending on how long you hold down the trigger. Most of the weapons feel kind of underpowered and lack any sort of "oomph" to them. The shotgun is fun to use but requires you to be somewhat close to the enemy, which as mentioned already might not be the best idea given how easy you die, so most of the time I used the assault rifle or the sniper rifle and just kind of leaned out of cover to avoid taking damage. The shotgun and flamethrower probably became some of my least used weapons in the entire game due to how pointless close range combat is in the game. The rocket launcher is probably the most useful weapon since it can easily dispatch groups of enemies and take out heavily armored ones in a couple hits, although ammo for it doesn't become common until the latter parts of the game.



Leaning out from behind cover is the best tactic when engaging the enemy in Alpha Prime.


Also unlike modern shooters, there is no regenerating health, but also unlike older shooters there is no armor either. You have to rely solely on refilling your health using health stations and medkits to stay alive. Personally I feel the game could've used an armor system similar to Quake 4 to at least make it more balanced given how some of the later enemies can take multiple magazines from your assault rifle while you go down quicker than a horny teenager at a stag party.


One of the game's somewhat more unique mechanics is that you can hack certain objects using what the game calls the ReCon (short for Remote Controller). By simply aiming at what you wanna hack, the ReCon does everything for you, making it more akin to something like Watch_Dogs where all you do is pretty much aim at something while the game hacks it for you at the press of a button. This mechanic is highly contextual though and doesn't come into play for a lot of the game, only during certain parts where you may have to rearrange objects using a lifter robot, or increase pressure in pipes to blow them up close to enemies.



The game technically lets you hack some things, but not everything and it's not exactly letting you actually hack something...


Some of the faults of the game come into play with the controls and physics. The game's physics can best be described as... floaty and slippery. Stairs in particular seem to absolutely hate you in the game and will refuse you to stand still on them, making it impossible to aim at enemies while standing on stairs since you will automatically move down the stairs even when you're not moving. Jumping on things is also a huge pain, given that the collision detection seems way off for how you land on things and you end up slipping and sliding all over the place. This can be particularly painful when trying to jump on top of objects like boxes to reach higher places where you may overshoot or undershoot the jump since there is no good feedback from the game on how you will jump due to how unpredictable the physics can be.


Most surprisingly the final boss is... kind of a pushover. You shoot him with the rocket launcher until he becomes weak then turn on the generators in the area to fry him while he's recharging and then fire some more. His rocket projectiles are incredibly easy to avoid since they aren't hitscan weapons like the soldiers in the game are using. Given how utterly devastating the common enemies in the game can be, the final boss fight felt almost insultingly easy at that point.


The movement in general feels a bit weird, especially when you have to ride anything that's moving. There is a part of the game where you have to take trams, similar to the ones in Doom 3, except in these ones, while the tram is moving, you don't seem to really follow the tram's speed very well and kind of move all over the place, which makes it particularly difficult to aim at enemies attacking you while you take the tram. Similar to Doom 3 there are sections of the game where you have to preserve your oxygen. Thankfully oxygen dispensers are plentiful during these sections.



During conversations with other characters, you cannot do anything but listen to it as the game goes into third person.


I was also not a fan of how whenever a character talks to you via your com, the game, for no good reason that I can tell, takes away control from you, forcing you into this view behind the character during the entire conversation. I would prefer a more fluid way of delivering exposition, again I would prefer if the game was more like Doom 3 or Quake 4 in this regard, giving you exposition without taking control away from the player. Having to sit through conversations without being able to move is really boring. I was also not a fan of how lengthy the cutscenes were. Thankfully you can skip them but if you want the story, be prepared to sit through some really awkward and lengthy cutscenes with pretty terrible acting.


There are also sections of the game where you are required to control robots and vehicles and the controls for these are just awful. Straight up awful. Controlling the loaders feels really stiff and unnecessarily sensitive at the same time. The same goes for the vehicles you drive on the surface of the planet. A simple press of a direction will send you flying in that direction and the slippery physics makes driving a nightmare. It was an enormous chore getting through the driving sections, especially when having to drive on top of any object. Involving the horrible driving controls AND the wonky physics when moving on top of objects at this point in the game just seemed like a horrible idea...



Dat skybox tho.


Luckily there are some good things to say about Alpha Prime. Graphically the game is gorgeous and follows a similar aesthetic to games like Doom 3 and Quake 4 with a heavy emphasis on very metallic industrial corridors and brown/greyish surface surroundings. The game is fairly heavy on bloom like a lot of games from the mid-late 2000's, but the texture work is really good and the detail on the guns are also really well done. The game is no Crysis, but it definitely feels on par with other mainstream AAA shooters of its era. I was seriously loving the art style in Alpha Prime, despite it feeling at times like somewhat of a straight up ripoff of Doom 3/Quake 4 and even F.E.A.R. to an extent. But I do love those games and I guess it's true that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. If anything the game could be considered a lesser homage to classic sci-fi shooters.


I did encounter some minor graphical glitches, especially during some of the surface parts where the draw distance seemed very low, and parts of the terrain would glitch out into weird shapes. Also during the cutscenes, it has to be said the facial animation is not the greatest. It's not even on par with Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 which launched 3 years earlier, with characters often having a very dead eyed stare and robotic lipflaps. But for the most part, it's a really nice looking game, especially if you are into that 2000's sci-fi aesthetic of industrial corridors. With everything maxed out and running at 1080p, the game still runs at a smooth framerate with hardly any crashes or hickups. It definitely feels like a rock solid engine most of the time.



I feel like I've done this before...


On the audio sound of things, things could be better. As mentioned before, the weapon sounds feel a little on the unsatisfying side, and the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of the time, the actors feel like they are simply reading a script and not really acting, and while the script isn't the best in the world I feel they could have done a better job. For a lot of the game I just didn't feel invested in the characters at all, especially Arnie who is meant to be the protagonist and the one you relate to. Rule number one for any FPS game with a talking protagonist is to give the protagonist a strong personality. This is why games like Duke Nukem 3D, Sin and Shadow Warrior are so fondly remembered, because they had memorable one-liners and trash talking protagonists who didn't take everything too seriously. Sure, Arnie has his moments now and then but for the most part he's just boring and completely silent during the gameplay which makes absolutely no sense given how talkative he is whenever a cutscene or conversation happens. I just feel giving him some more personality and making him more of a badass would've helped make him a lot more likeable. Especially when the rest of the cast are equally forgetable.


That being said, the soundtrack is definitely one of the strong parts of the game. Ranging from orchestral ambient music that perfectly builds atmosphere as well as some pretty asskicking industrial rock tunes that play during some more intense moments, I was really enjoying the soundtrack for most of the game. It was definitely a strong point of the game for me.



The game gives you a ton of ammo before the final boss fight against an enemy that is easier than even the basic soldiers you fight in the game, making the final boss fight a joke.


Alpha Prime is kind of a mixed bag. It doesn't have any strong memorable story or main protagonist. It ends on a sequel-baiting cliffhanger that leaves what story there is unresolved since there has never been a sequel, and the gameplay feels both uninspired and misguided with it being too difficult to really be enjoyable since the difficulty feels incredibly cheap. It also suffers from numerous issues with the engine's physics and controls. But on the other hand it's only $1, is piss easy to get running in 1080p on any modern PC and looks really good for its time. But you could probably spend that dollar on something more worthwhile since in the end, Alpha Prime doesn't really satisfy anything for me.




STORY: 4/10



SOUND: 5/10



Game developments at http://nukedprotons.blogspot.com

Check out my music at http://technomancer.bandcamp.com

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