Platform: PC, Playstation, Saturn
PlayStation: NA: February 29, 1996, EU: March 1996, JP: May 31, 1996
Sega Saturn: NA: August 8, 1996, JP: August 30, 1996, EU: September 4, 1996
DOS: NA: November 30, 1996, EU: 1996
Genre: First Person Shooter
Publisher: Acclaim Entertainment
Developer: Probe Entertainment
Alien Trilogy is a first-person shooter based on the first three Alien movies. It was originally released for Playstation in early 1996 and ported to the Saturn and PC later in the year.
You control Lt. Ripley in three sections, each based on one film: The colony complex on LV426 (from Aliens), the prison planet (from Alien³) and the derelict spaceship (from Alien).
Each section consists of about 10 missions. In every mission, certain goals must be accomplished to continue. These include killing a certain number of enemies, finding items or activating switches. Enemies include everything the Alien life cycle provides: facehuggers, chestbursters, warrior aliens, dog aliens (from Alien³) and Alien queens, one of which waits in the final mission of every section. In addition to the Aliens, you also have to fight employees of the Company, who have either been infected by the Aliens and are beyond saving or who actively want to obstruct your mission.
Weapons to be used include pistol, shotgun, pulse rifle, flame thrower and smart gun. Ammunition, health upgrades and other useful items are scattered throughout the levels. Hidden areas may be uncovered by using explosives like grenades and seismic charges. An auto mapping system helps in not getting lost, night goggles and shoulder lamps (running on battery power) allow you to see in the dark and the motion tracker tells you where your enemies are – but only if they are moving.
Alien Trilogy was developed by Probe Entertainment who previously developed Alien 3 across lots of platforms that was released in 1993. While developing Alien Trilogy, Probe were also working on another 20th Century Fox license – Die Hard Trilogy. Probe looked at a few arcade classics to get the basics of the game nailed down and then used the films’ plotlines to create gameplay sections. Alien Trilogy deviated a lot from the films’ canon. The main character was Ellen Ripley but it didn’t retell her origins on the Nostromo. In the game, she was already a member of the Marines. Probe wanted to tell a different story as everybody knew what happened in the films so they felt there was no mystery left.
Alien Trilogy was the first 3D and first Playstation title Probe had ever worked on at that point. It was difficult for them to get to grips with the shift from 2D to 3D games and a lot of the work had to be done from scratch. The modelling was done on Silicon Graphics machines while the textures were made in Photoshop on Mac. The coders had to create a custom tool to map textures and status attributes onto the models. Most of the lighting in the game was rendered directly into the texture map. Bas-relief versions were drawn for every wall and floor panel by hand, layered on surface details from photographs and rendered using the lighting filters in Photoshop.
The Playstation version in particular suffered from some texture warping. It didn’t do perspective correction on triangles as they passed near the clip plane. That caused a lot of visual issues and they spent a long time keeping horizontal lines out of their textures until the coders developed something that chopped up the triangles as they got closer to the camera.
20th Century Fox was very much hands-off on the project and didn’t have a lot of contact with Probe during development. None of the designs really had to be pre-approved by Fox before they could use them. This was in contrast to Die Hard Trilogy. This may have been because Fox was the co-publisher on Die Hard while in Alien Trilogy, the licensing went through the publisher Acclaim. So Fox dealt with Acclaim rather than Probe.
It took just 15 months from start to finish for Probe to make the game.
The Playstation version was released first in early 1996. Critical reception was positive but it was a great commercial success. This led to ports being developed for Sega Saturn and DOS that were released by the end of 1996. Probe knew the Alien license was going to expire after the game had been released so a sequel was never considered.
At the time of its release, Alien Trilogy received extremely positive reviews from critics. Positives were aimed at the graphics and sound effects which were very faithful to the film series. Some criticism was aimed at the confusing level design. PS Plus Magazine scored it 93% stating “Fans of the films will love the samples, the moody atmosphere, and the aliens lifted from the trilogy, while game-players will just want to get in and blasting.” Official Playstation Magazine scored it 8/10 summing up: “Smooth of movement, big of picture, and puzzly of action. Yeah, no worries. Monsters, guns, and an adventure in the offing. Oh yes, you will enjoy Alien Trilogy.”
Gamepro similarly praised the game with 93% calling it “The best movie-licensed game ever made. Awesome graphics, supercool sounds and an oversized portion of absorbing gameplay to boot! Trilogy rules!” PC Zone was a bit more critical with 79% saying it was an average shooter that doesn’t bring anything new to the table: “It’s fun, but lacks any imagination or those irritating puzzles that make Quake and Duke Nukem so outstanding. It’s good, but limited.”
In term of online press, the Playstation version scored 8/10 on IGN: “There are a few problems, most noticeably in the confusing level layout, but for the most part Alien Trilogy does an excellent job of turning a great movie series into a great game.” The Saturn port scored 7.7/10 on Gamespot: “The rendering of the 3-D worlds and creatures are excellent, although not quite as crisp as the Playstation version. And the only other downside of the Saturn version of this game is the occasional “disappearing alien,” which doesn’t occur on the PSX. “ The game was ported over to the Saturn and that also received positive reviews.