|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||MEN IN BLACK|
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Distributor:||Gremlin Interactive||1 Player|
|Game Type:||Adventure||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||January 1999||Standard Joypad|
Setting the Scene
Men In Black - The game of the movie? Hmmm. I can count on one hand the number of quality movie tie-ins there have been and still have two fingers left to stick up at the companies who churned out the Playstation versions of Independence Day, Batman Forever and The Crow - City of Angels. Let's see if Gremlin have got it right. It was during the 1950's that the US government set up a small agency whose sole purpose was to contact alien life force from another world. The agents became know as "Men In Black" referring to their dress code - cool black suits and Ray Bans. Very few knew of the agencies existence, even less people took it seriously. Contact with an alien race was made in 1962 by seven MiB agents but at the time they were operating outside the governments jurisdiction. The agency had to quickly raise funds to stay afloat so they established patents on weird alien innovations such as Velcro and liposuction. These days the Men In Black act as intergalactic patrolmen protecting the Earth from alien scum.
Men In Black is a mission based adventure game which involves searching for clues, solving puzzles and of course blasting alien enemies. There are over 200 locations spread over three vast levels and a rather tricky opening initiation course.
Let's get one thing straight immediately. Men In Black ain't quite Resident Evil 2 in the graphical department (despite what you may already have read elsewhere) but it does take past Adventure games, such as Fade to Black, to a new height. To begin with the FMV intros and quality silicon graphics cut scenes which we have become accustomed to, are non existent. Similar to the movie the developers have instead opted for a series of comic book still-shots to link the story with the in-game action. Furthermore many gamers will not make it past the opening level because it is dogged by some of the most atrocious camera angles I have ever witnessed. The difference in visuals between the New York initiation level and Mission One in the Arctic is staggering leaving me wondering why it was ever left in the final edit. It really does give you the impression that some apprentice developer was let loose on the game for a few weeks before the real graphical animators turned up to show him how it should be done properly. Trying to judge several jumps from rooftop to rooftop when the camera is set about 60 feet high almost took my patience to the end of my tether, not to mention several damaged control pads thrown in anger. Aching with stress and tension I decided on a good nights sleep before reloading for my first real mission which thrusts you into the heart of a weather station set in the snowy arctic regions. The backdrops are incredibly smooth with no sign of glitching or pop-up. Suddenly the characters become larger than life allowing you to easily manoeuvre them around the atmospheric sets, spotting clues and evidence to allow the mystery to gradually unfold. Each of the three playable agents in black look remarkably like their movie counterparts by using a process where profiles of their faces have been photographed and then wrapped around a pre-rendered wire-frame head. This is an excellent touch which almost offers the feeling that you are taking part in an interactive movie and can be quite spooky at times. The camera angles are intelligently placed in a style reminiscent of the Capcom classics which is probably where the similarity between the two games may be drawn. Rather than swoop around following the character the camera remains at a static three quarter angled position offering a helpful view which captures the entire playing area presently under investigation.
Sounds and Effects
Most of the background sound effects are accurate adding further atmosphere to the surroundings. On entering the abandoned mining areas the constant drip, drip, dripping of water is always present while all other sounds from hollow footsteps to the deafening recoil of gunshots have a slight echoing effect tagged on for good measure. In the Arctic and Amazon levels every movement results in a sound relative to the surface you are crossing over, be it the crunching of freshly fallen snow, the frozen boardwalks creaking and groaning or a deadly silence broken only by the noise of scattered twigs snapping underfoot in the heat of the jungle. Men in Black prefers to offer real life sounds in the background rather than a constant booming soundtrack. Occasionally you are given a blast from the movies theme music but more often you are treated to the eerie sound of the frozen wind howling through the rafters or in warmer climates the constant racket of crickets. The characters occasionally throw in a few one-liners which sadly lack the humorous touch that was present in the movie.
The gameplay follows the tried and trusted Strategy/Adventure formula which involves wandering around the scenery picking up useful objects, various health and weapon power ups, while blasting a selection of alien and humanoid enemies. Before the fun begins the player must select one of the three main protagonists from the Men In Black movie to carry out each of the three missions. Agent J is James Edwards an ex New York cop. Agent L is Laurel Weaver the former coroner who became the organizations first female member. Finally there is the highly experienced but mysterious Agent K. Not only does each have their own individual appearance but they all have different strengths and fighting styles. Ignoring the fact that you have hopefully stumbled through the opening initiation level you must then guide your character to the briefing room in the MiB HQ where you will receive your mission orders. From this point you are advised to visit the armory where you may select one item from the full range of the seven high powered weapons that were first seen in the movie. To help with your choice there is a training facility available in the form of a shooting gallery in which you can try a little target practice before hitting the streets. This option is advisable because your character has a different reaction with each weapon. Some are so large that they will radically reduce the speed that your character can move around the level while others produce a kick that can propel a person several feet backwards. Take care. No sooner have you been 'dropped off' at the opening destination when you are thrust into your first battle. Combat takes two forms. The first is hand to hand where a combination of the attack button and directional pad allows your MiB to kick, punch, block or sidestep the enemy. Unfortunately the controls are slow and clumsy and this action is about as useful as using the knife in Resident Evil. Two health bars appear on screen with each blow seeing a reduction in life. I heartily recommend that you take one of the two other courses of action. The first being to draw one of your weapons and pump the enemy full of lead. The second is to pack up and run away but you could miss out on a vital piece of information that your foe may be carrying. Seeming as ammo is in short supply I found the best policy was to shoot a couple of rounds into their bodies before finishing them off with a good old fashioned kicking. The control system is a little slow to respond but is fairly well set out. Face buttons may be configured to jump, run, attack and pick up/use item. Shoulder buttons cycle through collected objects and weapons while the select button opens the inventory screen. There is no option for the analog controller but the new Ascii Resident Evil pad works a treat. Most of you will have played this type of adventure game before but for those who have not the formula is relatively straightforward. Approach ticket machine - require money. Kill doctor - take his credit card. Request information - only for a travel ticket. Back to ticket machine - use credit card. Exchange ticket for info - proceed. Successfully complete the Arctic mission and you may advance onto the Amazon and finally Frailes Island.
Value for Money
Difficult one this. If I suggest you rent first then most of you would not take the time to pass the first level. Persevere and there is a good game within although with only three missions lastability does come into question.
suggest that Gremlin quickly get a cheat code out to allow the opening
level to be skipped otherwise I fear many gamers may give up long before
reaching the real game.
Once past this annoying section MiB opens up into a playable adventure and manages to hold your attention until the next frustration arrives. This is in the Temple of Amazon where you must guide your character over a series of jumps across a number of moving platforms. Once again poor control and an unhelpful viewing angle ruins the flow of the game leaving your character falling from the cliff edge over and over again.
Overall Men In Black is worth checking out, although don't expect it to be in the same class as Resident Evil 2... but then what is?