A review of Alien Arena

Alien Arena is a first person shooter based on an evolution of the Quake II graphic engine. It's not exactly state of the art in the sector but if you're more interested in challenging other players or bots than in the details precision it's worth a try. This can be a good choice particularly if your hardware isn't really brand new as the game runs with no problems on PCs a few years old with an integrated graphics card if the resolution isn't too high.

Anyway the graphic engine has been heavily modified during the years to give a playing experience that isn't as realistic as the new commercial engines nonetheless it can be enjoyed by players who use it today. At high resolutions the game is actually quite heavy for the hardware. In Alien Arena 2011 (version 7.50) the Open Dynamics Physics Engine has been implemented to have greater realism in some of the characters movements.

The base idea in Alien Arena is to take the best from games such as Quake and Unreal Tournament creating mostly science fiction with a retro style maps. Some maps have different styles: for example the map "Martian Invasion" is set in a city facing an invasion and if the enemies weren't robots and aliens you'd think you're playing Return to Castle Wolfenstein while the map "Tomb Of Horus" is set in an egyptian tomb.

'Martian Invasion' Map

'Martian Invasion' Map

'Tomb Of Horus' Map

The various game modes are totally familiar to whoever played some Quake version or games games derived from them as they're the classic variants of single player, deathmatch and capture the flag modes. You can play those modes with bots or through a network with other human players.

An interesting variante of Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch modes is the All Out Assault mode, which includes the presence of some spaceships in some places within the map. They can be used by the players just like any weapon with the advantage that they can fly around the map. The spaceships can have different kinds of weapons that replace the ones players use normally. Some spaceships have rayguns, others are basically bombers.

Raygun shot from a spaceship

A spaceship seen from outside

Another peculiar variant is the DeathBall mode with a ball - though it actually looks more like a gyroscope - in the map that the player must gather and "shoot" into a kind of goal to earn ten points with one shot. The classic "frag" is still worth one point.

The 'ball' in DeathBall mode

The 'goal' in DeathBall mode

Considering the prevailing science fiction settings in the game it's curious to find the Cattle Prod mode, a variant of Team Deathmatch where players must lead cows towards a portal.

Cows in Cattle Prod mode

On the Alien Arena web site there's the the link to the forum of the main community for the game where you can find other people to play with on the Internet and if you want you can join one of the clans to play network games in the various modes based on team matches.

Linux users might find Alien Arena in their distribution's repositories, for other distributions or if yours don't include the latest version and for other operating systems it's possible to download the game following the instructions you can find on the project site. Currently the Mac OS X version isn't maintained but on the site there's the link to the unofficial version though it's generally behind the latest one.

On both the project site web pages and forum it's also possible to find the link to guides to the installation and use of the game, more maps, components and other resources.

On your own on with someone else Alien Arena is a terrific source of fun that first person shooters fans can't miss, particularly the ones who loved and still love games such as the Quake series and Unreal Tournament.