I hated almost everything about Men in Black: Alien Crisis. I hated that I had to play it. I hated that I had to write a review about it. I even hated that I had to delete a game I somewhat enjoy from my PS3 hard drive in order to make room for its install data. At certain points I wanted to die while playing. Not in the game mind you, but in real life. I hoped that by the end of it there would be a ring at the doorbell and I would find two men wearing black suits who would erase all memory of this woeful experience from my brain. But, alas, here we are. Read on to gain insight into my anguish.
Men in Black: Alien Crisis is definitely meant to cash in on the release of Men in Black 3, but it is not based on Men in Black 3. You don't even control Agent J or Agent K. The game actually goes to hilarious lengths to refer to them but not include them in the proceedings. The characters make mention of how their “two best agents went missing on this case” and at the end the two crop up in name only. I have nothing against the MIB franchise; I even enjoyed the sequel which many described as disappointing, but when you take out the two most distinct characters that make the franchise worthwhile much of the appeal is lost.
Instead you assume the role of art thief, and blatant Nathan Drake wannabe, Peter. The game starts with Peter pulling off a heist to steal a book he believes to be a rare Egyptian artifact but is in fact the catalyst to an impending intergalactic crisis. He is double crossed by a long-time associate and ends up in a surprise shootout with aliens. Sure enough the Men in Black intervene in dramatic fashion and Peter, now known as Agent P, is recruited to complete this deadly mission. The story is convoluted and awful. It has something to do with the fate of two star-crossed alien lovers from warring civilizations that attempted to elope on Earth. In the meantime Peter develops an unconvincing relationship with his inflexible blonde partner, Agent C.
Men in Black: Alien Crisis can be best described as a pseudo on-rails shooter. All of your movement forward through the levels is predetermined and out of your control. However, you do control strafing from left to right and taking cover. The game is compatible with the PlayStation Move but I played using a Dualshock 3. You can snap to cover by pressing L1 and fire your primary weapon with L2. Your only objective is to blast your way through wave after wave of mindless aliens that keep their distance while firing back at you. Aiming is done using the right analog with an imposed first person perspective even though Peter is visible whenever you do not zoom in. There isn't much you can do with a gameplay setup like this; I pressed the L2 until my trigger finger went numb from exhaustion. At certain points I felt myself playing the game on auto-pilot, mowing down foes without consciously paying attention to what was going on, which made me realize I would have had as much fun pressing the buttons of the controller without any audio or visual feedback from the game at all.
A lot of your time will be spent trying to stealthily sneak past guards by shooting cameras and quietly disposing of sentinels. To accomplish this you have a number of weapons and gadgets at your disposal. Weapons range from the Noisy Cricket, which is small but packs a powerful punch, to the machine gun-esque Tribarrel. Your gadgets can do a multitude of things, such as encase targets in giant bubbles or slow down time, and are fun to toy around with at first but make the game far too easy.
The story mode consists of eight forgettable chapters that, altogether, can be completed in 2-3 dreadful hours. In between the shooting segments, MIB Alien Crisis tries to mix things up with flying vehicle levels and a pathetically implemented dialogue mechanic. The flying car sections are on-rails as well. You control the positions of the reticule in order to fire shots and missiles at your pursuers with right analog stick. However, moving the analog stick also gently nudges the car in whichever direction you happen to be aiming, so the game expects you to aim and avoid hazards at the same time using the same input which, needless to say, is clunky at best. The dialogue sections are even worse. These segments are the only ones in the game that are not on rails and leave you free to roam in very contained environments. Your purpose here is to interact with people and objects, for example, at a party in order to coax security secrets out of an unsuspecting partygoer. There is nothing remotely enjoyable about any of this because most of the dialogue choices are redundant and inconsequential. All you have to do is press all of the button options until you find the one that leads to progression.
Besides the story mode there are Virtual Reality missions that task you with replaying segments from the story mode and completing them in a certain time to rack up a high score. The only difference between these and story missions are the weapons you have at your disposal and the types of enemies you encounter. There is a competitive multiplayer mode that has you duelling it out with a friend in split screen, but anyone who would even think of sharing this misery with friends clearly does not deserve to have any in the first place. Egregiously, these extras pad out the game’s length by making you play through it under slightly different conditions whilst trying to sell it off as genuine content.
The visuals are horrendous. Nothing on display is worthy of being seen in standard definition, let alone HD. The texture work and animation is appalling. The enemy types are recycled far too often and are based off of overly generic designs. Even the cutscenes, which transition inelegantly during gameplay, are blurry and display washed-out colors. The one bright spot is that some of the alien environments are cool to look at and seem well thought out. But what’s the point if you're guided through them like a child?
The audio is far worse. Except for Frank, the MIB dog, all of the voice acting is terrible; Peter’s in particular, as he spews the most grating one-liners I’ve heard in a videogame. I will admit that a few can be funny, but the majority make him sound like a smarmy jerk. If that weren’t enough, the voiceover work is completely out of sync with visuals, so the game is doubly offensive to both senses at the same time. The sound effects consist of a lot of pew pews, explosions, and alien grunting. The music tries to sound cinematic but is ultimately forgettable. To add insult to injury, there is a rap song over the end credits which is an absolute disgrace compared to Will Smith’s 90s era smash hit.
Men in Black: Alien Crisis is not worth anyone’s time or money. The best thing that can be said about it is that it works; there is some hint at a serious design process, and technically you do receive a game through this transaction. The game is sufficiently playable and put together that I can’t doom it with the worst possible scores allowed by our review guidelines, but only just. Men in Black: Alien Crisis should have never seen the light of day; its very existence should have been a secret closely guarded by an agency of unknown heroes for the sake of all mankind.
This review is based on a retail copy of Men in Black: Alien Crisis for the PlayStation 3.