The original Doom is not only one of the greatest first-person shooters of all time, but it's also a great game to pull out for Halloween. While a lot of games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill tried to elicit scares by limiting movement and ammo, Doom did it with awesome visuals, great lighting, and impeccable sound design. Those elements also worked for Alien Vs. Predator on the Jaguar, and they worked yet again for Alien Trilogy. When I reviewed Itchy and Scratchy in Miniature Golf Madness, I fired a couple of cheap shots at how Acclaim ruined great licenses with crappy games like LJN did. However, unlike LJN, there were times where Acclaim got it spot-on, and Alien Trilogy by far was the best example of what Acclaim could do when they actually tried.
Despite the title, Alien Trilogy is NOT a playable recreation of the first three Alien films. The story takes you as Ripley through a new story inspired by elements from the trilogy. The plot is told through mission briefings between stages, but, like with Doom, the plot becomes largely inconsequential. The only thing you need to know from the briefings is the objective of the stage. Other than that, you can safely ignore the story.
The gameplay is on par with first-person shooters of the mid-90s. Ammo is plentiful; there is no real reason to avoid enemies. In fact, trying to avoid the Xenomorphs is probably the worst thing you can try to do as they are much smarter than the cannon fodder in Doom, able to dodge plenty of shots from the pulse rifle, and they can damage you very heavily with each hit. The only way they could be more lethal would be if their corpses bled acid. Even the facehuggers can rip you up if left alone. While ammo is in large supply, medipacks aren't, and that's where the real terror comes from. This game gets sadistically hard as a result.
Of course, some of the difficulty is due to issues with the game's mechanics. Those who were weaned on using two thumbsticks for first-person shooters would have to adjust to the stiffer controls of the Saturn controller. Strafing with the shoulder buttons works to an extent but still feels sluggish compared to modern shooters. Also the game can only be saved at the end of a stage (by password or memory cartridge). If you get to a Queen and get killed, be prepared to start the whole level all over again.
As for the audio/visual experience, Alien Trilogy got everything right. The visuals are crisp, even on the lowly Saturn, and the limited sight distance just adds to the game's atmosphere. The sound design is perfect. The minimal music enhances the mood, and the sound effects from the pulse rifle and motion tracker to the blood-curdling shrieks from the Xenomorphs are just perfect. This game actually provides a better Alien atmosphere than Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Alien Trilogy is essential playing for anyone who likes the Alien franchise, first-person shooters, scary games, hard games, or just games in general. It may have been largely forgotten over the past twenty years, but it still kicks copious amounts of ass. For the franchise, this one sits comfortably between Alien Vs. Predator on the Jaguar and Alien: Isolation. Check it out!