Alpha Prime PDF Print E-mail
Written by Starfox   
Wednesday, 06 February 2008 18:00
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Alpha Prime
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Developer: Black Element Software
Publisher: Meridian 4 (North America) -- IDEA Games (Europe)
Demo download page
Official Site
Average Price (at review publication time) = US$20 (for the box version or downloaded via Steam)

ESRB Mature 17+ (Blood and Gore, Violence, Strong Language)
European PEGI Mature 16+ (Depiction of violence)

Hubbardium... here's a word you'll heard quite a bit in the game. More than a word (that is probably derived from Ron Hubbard, the Sci-Fi author -- among other more stupid things like being the Scientology originator) Hubbardium is a mineral, more precisely a mineral that enters in the manufacture of robots positron brains (these last ones being originally the invention of Isaac Asimov's imagination). Anyway, Hubbardium is quite a weird substance that under its ore form have quite the habit to turn people crazy although under its refined form it has other properties we'll talk about later. But as usual in my reviews, let's set up the atmosphere and storyline a bit, shall we? And since the intro cinematic of Alpha Prime is pretty long, that won't be hard. Furthermore, the story was written by O. Neff, a Czech Sci-Fi author.

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My name is Arnold... but not the Governor.

You -- at least the character you play in the game -- are Arnold Weiss a semi retired prospector who used to dig the mines in search for Hubbardium and is now haunting miners bars listening to them talking endlessly about Hubbardium and how it is the vein and the heart and the blood and the bones of some entity (a potential deity for miners) called Glomar. You don't believe in any of this Glomar nonsense but you saw countless guys going crazy because of it and Hubbardium during your career although for some reason Hubbardium never affected you -- at least not in a bad way -- without you really know what was the reason for your sanity being spared. For possibly a not completely unrelated reason, you also seem to have troubles getting drunk which is a pity because you'd have some reasons to. Hubbardium may not be a problem to you but women are... One woman, in fact. Her name's Livia. You may be approaching your 50s (a rough estimate I make seeing the appearance of the guy on the screen and since his age is not mentioned) it seems that you still have trouble putting the pieces of your heart back together because she broke it for good. Oh, it was not only that she broke up with you and left you like a piece of junk, it was because she broke up with you, left you like a piece of junk and run away hand in hand with your (former) best friend Warren Reynolds so as the saying goes that was two birds, one stone. And even though you qualify as a tough guy, this experience left you kinda crippled, bitter and cynical.

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As you just try hoplessly to get drunk for the nth time in your favorite bar, guess who makes her comeback into your life? Sweetheart Livia (reminds me of a Phil Collins' song but I'll leave it aside). Although she tries in a pretty stupid way to be nice, she doesn't come to patch things up with you but to ask for your help. See, she explains -- how nice from her -- that she's deeply in love with Warren and that she even talked him into a future marriage but they got separated since something went awfully wrong in the last Hubbardium mining facility they were working in together on Alpha Prime. There are huge concentrations of Hubbardium on Alpha Prime, with high level of radiations in some places, maybe too high. People and bots as well got completely crazy and started up a little civil war. Livia just had time to catch the last ship still intact to escape from the planet but Warren is still trapped there. She's so madly in love with him that she begs you to help her. After all you and Warren were both the best friends before... before "she", that is. Plus she knows that you cannot be affected by Hubbardium like all the others were and that you're the best miner and toughest guy with the best knowledge of weaponry around.

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Now every normal guy would ask why the heck he should risk his neck on a pretty hostile planet just to rescue another neck, one belonging to his former best friend who fled with his ex-girlfriend who -- he believed at the time -- was the love of his life. You'd have to be a saint or completely crazy or still madly in love -- the two latter options being about the same as everyone knows. No matter the reason, next thing you know you wake up from cryo sleep aboard the Artemis, a cargo ship that unfortunately just happened to hit a mine (not the kind you dig in but the kind that goes BOOM if you get too close) while it was getting into orbit around Alpha Prime. Well obviously someone doesn't want anybody snooping around here. Everyone is dead on the ship except for you and Livia. She's trapped in the Artemis control room and your situation may be qualified of a bit better because if you're trapped too it happens to be near the escape pods. You don't really have a choice so there you go on the infernal descent to Alpha Prime to rescue the neck -- or kick the ass, you're not sure about that yet -- of Warren Reynolds that is supposed to be still alive and while you're at it it might be the occasion to discover what the hell is wrong on Alpha prime.

Wow that seems a lot of info compared to what I give usually in other reviews, huh? believe me or not but you learn all of this during the intro cinematic and the very first tutorial mission of Alpha Prime, so I really don't spoil anything. The rest of the story I'll keep it to myself though. Just know that it involves a lot of doubts, enemies, friends, false friends, traitors and the like...

On the whole, Alpha Prime story is an enjoyable one, with a nice conspiracy feeling although not one of the most complicated. And as any good Sci-Fi story, it leaves the end quite open to imagination.

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But this is a game not a book, huh?

Well, yeah. As a game, Alpha Prime is quite a typical FPS coming with twists, original or not. Let's start with the not so original ones that are still a fun part of the gameplay but that may felt like borrowed from other games.

Well how comes that I can't breathe?

First, Alpha Prime is a planet with a low density atmosphere, not enough to breathe. Your suit embarks a small quantity of oxygen to allow you to breathe when you're outside of the mining facility itself but this oxygen runs out quick enough and you have to replenish your reserve if you don't want to suffocate. This is done by going to one of the numerous oxygen dispensers you can find affixed to the walls outside of the facility. Easy enough huh? But not so easy when you find yourself engaged in a fight. This oxygen trick was already used as most of you knows in Doom 3 (only it was with one time pickable oxygen canisters) with the difference that while it was quite underused in the title from ID it is a bit more omnipresent in Alpha prime where you have quite some big parts of the game where watching both your health AND oxygen levels is vital.

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