The Air Force Flight Test Center (Detachment 3), more commonly referred to as Dreamland or Area 51, is set across 5,200 sq km of desert north-west of Las Vegas. For some reason, it's now become a late night Mecca for conspiracy theorists, paranoid fruitcakes and local couples wanting to copulate beneath the stars.
Whether the place is sanctuary to deadly airborne viruses or extraterrestrial immigrants is something most of sound mind have grave reservations over, but one myth that surrounds the infamous alien warehouse does have credibility: get too close to the perimeter fencing and the Camo Dudes will track you down, take you away and skilfully weave a latex-covered hand up through your fire exit until you sing for Uncle Sam.
A sequel of sorts to the light-gun arcade game that was released way back when Gillian Anderson was the Net's number one pin-up girl, Midway's game fortuitously plays up to the myths that surround Area 51 rather than containing any semblance of truth. A gritty telling of government cover-ups this is not - anal probing is not a common occurrence (although what the inhabitants get up to behind the pixel-thin walls is up for deliberation).
Instead, expect to see every cliché for which Area 51 is famed wheeled out; secret societies, alien technology, research projects gone wrong, those bug-eyed Grays - they're all here; the entire nine-season run of X-Files condensed into a 12-hour game, only with more shooty bits.
BOB THE MUTANT FROM OUTER SPACE
You play Ethan Cole, a member of a clean-up team sent into the base after it appears someone dropped a test tube containing one of Marilyn Monroe's farts. The gas escapes into the ventilation system, the janitor cops an early whiff, tentacles grow out from his nipples and before you know it the place is awash with mutant villains eager to slay anything that moves. Well, the background story is slightly more credible than that, but as it's one of the game's strengths, it would be a shame to reveal it here, even if it is slightly less predictable than an episode of Bob The Builder.
And so, after your first meeting with a mutant, the action starts and never really lets up, so commencing a fairly typical first-person action experience. You begin as part of a team (sadly with no direct control over their actions) armed with a pistol. What's more, as the number of friendly comrades slowly dwindles, your cache of weapons grows to include assault guns, a sniper rifle and even the odd alien weapon.
Gripping for the most part, it's not so much the story that shines through, but the
way in which it's presented. Skilfully produced cut-scenes punctuate the 18-level single-player campaign, and despite the grainy nature of CGI, every snippet of action leads you excitedly into the next firefight. The voice-acting too is pretty good, with your troops often unleashing a torrent of abuse at the alien creatures, not so much for it to be gratuitous, but just enough to allude to the fact that those you fight alongside are less killing machines and more desperate souls who happen to be in the wrong place.
David Duchovny (who else?) lends his voice to our hero's thoughts with his trademark tones of deadpan resignation. Not every line is perfect - you get the feeling that perhaps he's only read through the script that morning - but generally he suits the role. Even Marilyn Manson turns up, and although his is not a large part, he equips himself well, even if it's an unintentionally amusing cameo.
Even with the story propping it up though, the game does drag on in places. New weapons are dished out infrequently - you only get the sniper rifle, weapon number four, a third of the way through - and the number of enemy variations at this point can be counted on one hand. Instead, the game prefers to assault you with numbers, dozens of mutants succumbing in any one locale. After a while, the pitched fights seem to merge into one another, as you fight off wave after wave, crawl through a series of corridors, then search for a keycard which takes you into another battle against surmountable odds. If it wasn't for the cut-scenes and the odd stint in charge of a gun turret, the game might have descended into unending tedium.