Version tested: PlayStation 3
Men in Black: Alien Crisis is a very bad game. It's bad even by the depraved standards of film tie-ins. It's memorably - aggressively - cheap and primitive, and if you go out and buy it, you probably shouldn't be allowed to manage your own money anymore.
Suits and sunglasses aside, it barely feels like Men in Black. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones wisely decided to stay in their trailers for this one, so you're cast instead as some lumpen, wise-cracking nobody named Agent P. Agent P looks like he should be leaning against the bar in a place called Woody's or Duke's, hitting on women and snorting up beef jerky whenever a sad song comes on the radio.
He starts the game as a thief - you can tell, because his character model wears a woollen beanie hat, which was pretty good shorthand for thiefdom back in, oh, let's say 1911 - but he's soon drawn into the agency, handed a small collection of dazzlingly unsatisfying weaponry to tit about with, and sent off to sort out a plot so masterfully inane I forgot most of the details even as I was watching the cut-scenes.
I didn't manage to forget the waxy, dead-eyed faces and improbably jagged haircuts of the leads, though, and I didn't manage to forget the way that the voice track distorts even at low levels, while the derring-do muzak filters in at inappropriate moments. I also didn't manage to forget the line, "Hey, you're a stubbornly impressive man, Mr Delacore." I don't think I'll ever forget that line. It's so stubbornly impressive.
Onto the action! Most of the time, Alien Crisis is a bewilderingly substandard on-rails shooter, seeing you tackling a limited congregation of enemies either on foot or in a flying car. Environments range from parking garages to Central Park, somewhere out West, and a handful of different alien craft interiors. They are all drab, lifeless and poorly designed - and since the game takes control of most of your movements, your only real freedom is choosing which piece of cover to stick to as the campaign threads you back and forth through each small battlefield until you've fought your way across the same space from a variety of different angles.
Is the shooting itself any good? No, the shooting itself is not any good. With the exception of that tiny Cricket thing from the movies, the guns all blend into miserable, thrill-less plasma, with only their rates of fire marking them out in any meaningful way. Enemy intelligence is non-existent; a suite of attachments that allow you to conjure a shield, say, or slow time, or freeze baddies in place do very little to vary the trudge of each battle; and, for a couple of extremely annoying moments, the only context the contextual cover system seems to recognise is that of baggy-pants slapstick comedy.
Occasionally there are pedestrians who you have to seal in bubbles, lest they become aware of the alien menace on earth and make you fail the level. Occasionally there are stealth sections, where you snipe out security cameras and discover that a lot of your shots actually pass right through your enemies when you really need them not to. What a lark! Meanwhile, there's a miserable upgrade system for your arsenal and the game's eager to draw you into score-chasing, too, asking you to string combos together. What's the point, though? Appearing on the leaderboard of a game like Alien Crisis is about as satisfying a prospect as awarding yourself a black belt in a martial art you've just made up.
Bosses? Awful wars of attrition, and the last one even comes with recharging health. There are also bizarre adventure game sequences, where you scan rooms for interesting objects, chat to people to find out more about the plot and solve rudimentary puzzles. Does Alien Crisis get points for such inventive genre-splicing? Let me answer that question with another question: would I get points if I served you a jug of citron pressť with a live hand grenade rattling around inside it?
Finally, there's Move support and challenge modes that come with a local co-op offering. None of these elements are that bad, frankly, but by this point, we don't need more of Men in Black: Alien Crisis - we need much less of it.
Men in Black: Alien Crisis is spectacularly miserable licensed fare - a tie-in game that recalls the bad old days when a movie title was leased out to some mom-and-pop developer in the middle of Siberia and put together with the help of a broken woollen loom and old chopsticks. The thing about most bad games is that they're easy to love because, deep down, they really want to be good games. This project has no such ambitions. It has no ambitions at all, really, except milestone payments and hitting rent on the studio building (both of which are relatively laudable aims these days, I guess). In conclusion, avoid this game as if it was made out of plutonium.
2 / 10