A Quick Look At Alien Front Online

This week I received in the post a fully boxed and complete copy of Alien Front Online, for which I paid the princely sum of £3. I have played this game extensively in the past as I own a burnt copy of it, but there's nothing like having the complete official set in your collection...and for such a minuscule sum who could turn it down? I'll tell you who: a screaming buffoon. A buffoon I am not though, and this is evident in the way that I now own Alien Front Online. Am I making any sense at all? No? Excellent.
Following on from our recent A Quick Look At Virtua Cop 2, I intend this series to be - as the name suggests - a sort of whistle-stop investigation of titles lots of people may already be familiar with, but that others may never have experienced. Indeed, many people will be very familiar with Alien Front Online, and I'd hazard a guess that the vast majority of those folk would be Dreamcast owners hailing from the good ol' US of A. This is because Alien Front Online didn't receive a PAL or NTSC-J release, and even if it had been launched in the UK I very much suspect that the 'Online' part of the title would have been dropped just like it was from PAL versions of Outtrigger, Daytona and Unreal Tournament. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Just what is Alien Front Online? Let's have a little look...

Developed by WOW Entertainment (of Sports Jam and Sega GT fame), Alien Front Online is an arena shooter similar to the aforementioned Outtrigger, but one that also shares gameplay similarities with stuff like Virtual On, Heavy Metal Geomatrix and Spawn. You are given control of either the defending forces of Earth or the invading forces of the titular aliens (also known as the Triclops), who are hell bent on taking over the surface of our precious blue and green homeworld. You do this by assuming control of either a traditional tank (of which several varieties are available), or an extra terrestrial equivalent (hovercraft and walkers) and then setting out into your chosen arena to destroy all trace of your adversary. I've really only played as the defending human forces (what can I say - I'm patriotic) and the missions in the single player mode are split into two flavours; a campaign with branching story paths and an arcade mode where roaming around the various arenas and blasting all the enemies before the timer runs out is the order of the day.
The real appeal of Alien Front Online back when it launched however, was the 'Online' bit. This game featured 4 versus 4 online battles and allowed for real-time voice chat via the bundled microphone set which, in the same way as the Seaman mic did, plugged into port 2 of the player's controller. 4 versus 4 with real time voice chat probably doesn't sound like much today, but this was virtually unheard of in console games back in 2001. The fact that the US Dreamcast came with a 56K modem as standard may have had something to do with the lack of a port to PAL territories, especially as us 'blue swirlers' had to get by with 33K equivalents. That said, Quake 3 Arena ran well enough by all accounts, so maybe the relatively late 2001 release of the game also played a part in the US-exclusive status of Alien Front.
As a standalone offline experience, Alien Front Online is still worth playing though. The visuals are great and the arenas are literally cock full of huge explosions, battling troops (they're sprites, but they still look great) and crumbing buildings. The game reminds me a lot of the N64's Body Harvest for some reason, and it's probably down to the slightly camp 1960's styling of the marauding alien invaders. Tanks and alien craft control well and the stages are littered with pick-ups and health packs and the action gets very frantic as you progress. As stated in the intro to this blurb, I only paid £3 for this fully boxed and complete copy, and if you can find it for an equally impressive price you should definitely snap it up.

As with many multiplayer games for the Dreamcast, there have been rumblings that Alien Front Online may be coming back online in the near future so there is that to look forward to if you own a broadband adapter standard Dreamcast modem - apparently it's incompatible with the BBA. If you know more about this project, be sure to let us know in the comments.
An intriguing footnote is that the Alien Front Online manual has an advert for the cancelled Propellor Arena on the rear cover (above), and an interesting story recently surfaced on Reddit regarding that particular plane-based title. Thoughts? Share them with us below!

Further Reading
Alien Front Online at Sega Retro
Alien Front Online at Wikipedia


pcwzrd13 said...

Great article Tom! Alien Front Online is so much fun! Can't wait to play it online. BTW, no broadband adapter support for this game. It's dial-up only. It's impressive that they got voice chat to work over dial-up. Although Planet Ring did that as well and that game has true real-time voice chat where this one just sends short pre-recorded voice clips. Still awesome nonetheless.

Tom Charnock said...

Ah right - thanks for the info man! My knowledge of the online aspect of a lot of these US-only titles is sketchy at best as I never got to sample them first hand. But that's what this is all about - learning and sharing info :)

Father Krishna. said...

An intriguing look at a game which I think I own but have never played . Thanks for the heads up!