Alpha Prime

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I didn't expect much from Alpha Prime. All the warning signs were there: the small, foreign developer (Prague's Black Element Software), the discount price ($20 on Steam), and the fact that every review quote on their site reads like, "Graphically, at least, Alpha Prime doesn't disappoint . . . rest of game [is good]." After about five hours, I began to pity this unlovable FPS. It isn't a bad game, or more precisely, it isn't merely a bad game. It's an unbelievable fiasco of a game, a brazen travesty that continually displays its own hindquarters like the world's ugliest mammal attempting to mate. Alpha Prime is the Half-Life of suck.

Half-Life in particular comes to mind many times in the course of this game, while crawling through vents, stacking crates to solve physics puzzles, using oddly familiar health stations, and even (points for chutzpah) a tram ride. Mathematically speaking, it's no surprise that a game named Alpha Prime should be derivative. The surprise is that each element has been modified just enough to be irritating. The tram ride is twenty feet long, breaks down every five feet, and by completing an objective the wrong way, I tricked the game into pulling me and my tram through a closed door. The health stations work fine but there are identical-looking oxygen dispensers in low-oxygen environments which require constant backtracking. (When your tiny oxygen meter runs out, it's instant death, without warning.) Finally, if you're going to include crate stacking and jumping puzzles, make sure collision detection works perfectly. The crates kept clipping into each other, and when I jumped next to a wall or heavy object, it magically pushed me backwards through the air. I found a basketball lying around in one level and tossed it around a bit. It rebounded off the wall and killed me.

Every enemy in Alpha Prime can be lethal, not just the sporting goods. Robots and humans alike are crack shots, down to the unarmored, wimpy civilians with pop guns. Without aiming, they can hit a moving target every time. You, on the other hand, need to hold down the right mouse button for anything like accuracy. Enemies do occasionally miss when they blind fire, which they do in a particularly cute way. I'm no tactician, but shouldn't they be facing me, their opponent, while they retreat? Instead, they turn their backs, run away, and unload a pistol over their shoulder. Sometimes they run into a wall and keep running like they're on a treadmill. Given the game's clipping issues, they might make it through nonetheless.

To add insult to injury, each dead enemy only drops a couple of bullets to pick up. I think that just before death he swallows all his remaining ammo, just to be a dick.

The only way to survive is to exploit the game's bugs and the AI's blind spots. I once entered a room with two baddies and two crates, one in the middle of the room and one farther back. Leaning around the doorway, I dropped the first guy with about three headshots, then retreated through the automatically closing door. After, say, five minutes, I realized the other guy wasn't coming in after me. "Good AI," I thought. "He's caught on to my elaborate doorway/shotgun strategy. Or he can't open doors."

When I ran back in, he had already returned to his patrol, marching out to the same pre-determined points over and over like a late night talk show host. Under heavy fire, he ran to the nearest crate, paused, then turned his back and ran to take cover behind the farther crate. (He had time to do this because they all have ridiculously high hit points.) After dispatching him, I went over to the crate and told it about what had happened. "I want you to know that he chose you over that other crate. He was tempted but stayed faithful. Now I'm going to cower behind you while those other guys shoot at me. Boy, this is awkward. So, hey, do you like music?"

Alpha Prime hews closely to FPS conventions but always manages to throw in some new, annoying twist. For example, item boxes have lids, so just walk up to them and when the cursor changes into the "pick up" icon, press F to take the lid, walk away, press F to discard it, then get the items, which can involve standing over the box and squatting until they get sucked up into the inventory in some unspeakable manner. Pressing Tab (and then good old F again) opens up a Metroid Prime style scan mode which allows the player to control electronic devices, exciting items like stationary security cameras and buttons.

I haven't even mentioned the story up to this point, which is because the game is only half-translated from Czech and borderline incomprehensible. Cutscenes feature such lines as, "That you'll get fired is the least of your problems right now," "I'm up the spout!" and "They still haven't managed to rob the nest." Also, the incompetent voice actors give the most mumbling, stilted line readings ever heard outside of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It appears that the main character is a space mercenary named Arnie, who shoots at a bunch of robots and soldiers on a mining colony that produces hubbardium. Yes, hubbardium, the substance produced by cramming a Scientologist into an alembic. It drives miners crazy and gives Arnie bullet time. However, it's a distraction. What the soldiers really want is some mythical thing called Glomar. Wasn't he Punky Brewster's magical friend? There really is a plot buried under all that confusion, but it's standard sci-fi stuff full of clichés and easily guessed surprises.

Alpha Prime is an odd duck. On the one hand, it's playable. On the other hand, I only kept playing through sheer bloody-mindedness. I couldn't believe how many classic FPS tropes they could steal and somehow fumble. It quickly degraded from mediocre to excruciatingly bad, but also perversely fascinating. Here's this game in a nutshell: every once in a while, I'd get fed up and quit, and it would always crash upon exiting. Every time, I would think, "Take that, game. I hope that hurt."

Final score: 9/10

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Comments

You think so are so clever with your scores. Though to be fair to you, I can't be sure Certis did not add it after the fact.

I think its hilarious that a baseball killed you.

As a fan of Bad Day in LA, I am abhored by this review which awards the same score of 9.0 to this, this... Alpha Prime. This should be no more than an 8.7 while BDLA should have at least received a 9.3.

Obviously you are pandering to Valve. Or is this is something personal against BDLA fans? The day the zombie hordes arrive to purge the world of the living, don't expect me to show up at your doorstep with an armored bus of salvation.

---

On a more serious note, this game seems a good reminder that even a turd can have good looking graphics in still screenshots.

"I'm up the spout!"

Heeey, it's that game. I downloaded the demo on a whim from Steam knowing nothing about it, figuring it might turn out to be a decent straight-forward FPS diversion for a few hours.

I found a basketball lying around in one level and tossed it around a bit. It rebounded off the wall and killed me.

Same thing happened to me! I was thinking there was some SS2/Deus Ex inspiration in that basketball hoop, so I kept trying to get it in for hope of a reward (that's what she said!) but instead I was greeted with a crushing death.

I didn't get too far into the demo. Finished the first level, tried the second, just got kind of frustrated with how unpolished the general feel of it was. I just wasn't having fun.

New ad on Steam:

"Alpha Prime! Awarded 9/10 by Gamers With Jobs!"

New ad on Steam:

"Alpha Prime! Awarded 9/10 by Gamers With Jobs!"

Mathematically speaking, it's no surprise that a game named Alpha Prime should be derivative

Oh, very good, took me a while to get that one.

Quintin_Stone wrote:

New ad on Steam:

"Alpha Prime! Awarded 9/10 by Gamers With Jobs!"

Gamers With Jobs Says "Alpha Prime is ... Half-Life. I ... kept playing through sheer bloody ... fascinating ... game"

PyromanFO wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:

New ad on Steam:

"Alpha Prime! Awarded 9/10 by Gamers With Jobs!"

Gamers With Jobs Says "Alpha Prime is ... Half-Life. I ... kept playing through sheer bloody ... fascinating ... game"

I didn't realize this was an Eidos game....

Great review. The 9/10 was the perfect imaginary icing on the imaginary cake.

I didn't read the review but I saw the 9/10 score so I'm buying it right now thanks for the recommendation!

Mex wrote:

I didn't read the review but I saw the 9/10 score so I'm buying it right now thanks for the recommendation!

Mex wrote:

I didn't read the review but I saw the 9/10 score so I'm buying it right now thanks for the recommendation!

Me too, it must be teh awesome.

The basketball line and the final score killed me. The chutzpah line, too. Good job.

Nyles, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful crapfest like this game and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy's right; Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest.

kaostheory wrote:

The 9/10 was the perfect imaginary icing on the lie.

Now I get it!

Kier wrote:

You think so are so clever with your scores. Though to be fair to you, I can't be sure Certis did not add it after the fact.

No kidding, that is almost exactly what he did. My vote was for 6/10, but Certis exerted editorial pressure. My integrity was so very, very compromised.

eric_c wrote:

Same thing happened to me! I was thinking there was some SS2/Deus Ex inspiration in that basketball hoop, so I kept trying to get it in for hope of a reward (that's what she said!) but instead I was greeted with a crushing death.

That's what I thought, too, that it was an homage to Looking Glass in the midst of all the blatant ripping off of Valve and even iD. Did you know there's a basketball in Thief, too? I've decided all this stuff can't be just a coincidence, and that they think we don't remember these games.

It's a pity that this game sucks, as it is based on work by the unpronounceable author who wrote "White Cane of Caliber 7.62", which remains one of my favorite science fiction novels. The only language it was translated to was Russian...

Oh and thanks for the sig, Nyles

Aw, you're welcome.

You have to admit, teabagging a crate to get stuff out of it makes a little more sense than just walking over it. Do the enemies take more damage from the staph infections?

If someone wants to send me this as a gift with the new Steam Gifts feature, please do.