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Men in Black: The Game

Men in Black: The Game
3
Platforms: PC, PlayStation
Publisher: SouthPeak Interactive
Developer: Gigawatt Studios
Genres: Adventure / Action Adventure
Release Date: November, 1997
Game Modes: Singleplayer

4_1Men in Black was the most entertaining blockbuster of 1997. It was ninety minutes of production-line comedy, adventure, and special effects that pushed all the right buttons at all the right times, and even though it was lean on story, it was ultimately worth the seven bucks it cost me to see it. When it was announced there would be a computer game based on the film, I actually thought the bizarre aliens, secret government plots, big guns, and wise-cracks would be a natural fit for a computer game.

But after playing the game, the unvarnished truth of it is this: Men in Black: The Game is one of the worst movie tie-ins to date, and a miserable gaming experience to boot. Through a combination of bad control and gameplay that beats the player over the head at every possible moment, Men in Black is a sucker-punch to all those who enjoyed the film.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to experience the frustration and disappointment first-hand. During the opening scene, you’re in control of Will Smith’s character as he investigates a suspicious alien’s apartment. After struggling with disorienting and confusing controls through a very dark hallway, you’ll eventually gain entry in to the apartment. Moments after entering the darkened apartment, you’re confronted by aliens, and you’ll have to fumble with more clumsy controls and shoot them before you’re toast.

So far, so good. But here’s where it gets frustrating. Hidden in the room is a bomb, quickly ticking away towards detonation, and you’ll only have a few seconds to disarm it. But even though you’re supposed to be a top secret agent specializing in such matters, somebody forgot to explain how you actually manipulate items to disarm the thing. As a result, this bomb is a frustrating trial-and-error exercise requiring numerous saves and reloads to get it right.

14_1Once the bomb is disarmed, you’re supposed to figure out that you need to jump from a fire escape into a (barely visible) trash dumpster and engage in a shootout with two bad guys. Fire quickly, because if your shot misses, the enemy goes into a firing pattern which gives you no opportunity to fire back. Each time I made a slight mistake and missed, I was gunned down Bonnie and Clyde-style, forcing me to load my savegame and try again… and again, and again, before I could finally progress. It takes a good 45 seconds to reload those saved games, so there’s a lot of thumb-twiddling while gazing at the loading screen.

There’s a lot of fighting to deal with, and though you have a gun through most of the game, it may or may not do you much good. If a bad guy gets in close and starts smacking you around, the guns automatically switch off at close range, and you have to rely on the dreadful punch and kick controls instead. The only thing MiB does right is the weapon targeting system — a crosshair appears when you’re aiming directly at your enemies, so there’s less guesswork involved.

11_1If you have superhuman patience and coping skills to pound the whole way through the game, you’ll discover that MiB doesn’t actually have that much adventuring to offer — aside from a key here and a switch there, the majority of the game is combat, combat, and more combat. On the plus side, you can choose which agent you want to play (Linda Fiorentino, Tommy Lee Jones, or Will Smith), and the rendered backgrounds are gorgeous. But don’t expect any movie footage, since MiB’s cutscenes are drawn in a stylized comic-book fashion, and are cheesy beyond belief.

You should get the point by now. Men in Black is a prime example of why movie games are always getting such a bad rap. If it had stronger adventure elements or better combat, MiB might break the mold — but as it stands, the movie-tie-in alone can’t save this sub-standard product.


System Requirements: Pentium 166 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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