You know a genre has come of age when this happens. When a B-grade TV series about a sexy undercover spy-girl gets a B-grade videogame tie-in and it's labelled 'relentless stealth action' - that's when you know. In days gone by it might have been a side-scrolling shooter or a Tomb Raider clone, but in 2004, Alias The Game is all about stealth.
To be fair, it is a fairly good fit for the TV series, in which hot CIA op Sydney Bristow regularly frustrates the machinations of sinister billionaires and rogue Russian agents with her talent for infiltration and disguise. And to be fairer still, the game has impressively high production values, with great voice work by the original cast, a quality storyline and some attractive motion-capture. There's even a minor attempt at innovation with a window-in-window mode that shows security feeds and enemy movements - as if to simulate the extra info being beamed to you from spy HQ.
Sadly however, that's as good as things get. The gameplay is pedestrian at best, fraught as it is with bland level design, a crap control system and a rigidly linear structure. Worse still, you're forced to revisit locations far more times than they deserve - a blatant attempt to skimp on development time.
True to the telly, the undercover 'alias' aspect of the game is largely just an excuse to dress the lovely Ms Garner up in a different slutty outfit at the beginning of each mission. After a bit of token undercover work and some rudimentary stealthing, things inevitably degenerate into a scrappy martial arts catfight, as our lissome heroine kicks six shades of shit out of a variety of enemy stooges.
The truth is, the 'stealth-action' tag given to this game is itself an alias - a shrewd attempt to hop the Splinter Cell bandwagon and ride it to market credibility. The stealth system is extremely shallow - you can hug walls, shoot cameras and perform silent kills, but ultimately you're relying on the frailty of the AI to make any of this possible. And while your inventory of spy gadgets may look good on paper, most of them can only be used in a specific context, reducing their interest value to mere button-pushing.
Under the joke-store wig, the game's true identity is revealed: it's a simple roaming beat 'em up with a few guns and the occasional facile puzzle - a third-person action game of the most mundane kind. If any proof were needed, you only have to look at the melee combat system. You've got a full complement of open-hand attacks, weapon combos and finishing moves, and while it's not complex enough to transcend button-mashing, it's far more robust than the stealth dynamic.
Even so, Alias is remarkably boring, and even diehard fans of the series are probably better off without it.
- Decent combat system
- Polished production values
- Risible stealth dynamics
- Poor level design
- Flawed control system