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Video Game / Area 51 (FPS)

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The conspiracy is no longer a theory.
Area 51 is a First-Person Shooter video game on Entropy, an in-house game engine built by Inevitable Entertainment (Midway Studios Austin at the time), and was released on Playstation 2 and Xbox on April 25th, 2005, with the PC version following 6 weeks later on June 8th. Based loosely on the 1995 arcade rail shooter of the same name, the game takes place inside the famous Area 51 research facility in Groom Lake, Nevada, where the release of an alien virus has transformed the majority of the scientists and security staff into insane raging mutants. The player takes the role of Ethan Cole (David Duchovny), a member of a four-man biohazard cleanup team sent into the facility to contain the situation. As the game progresses Ethan is eventually separated from his team and ends up uncovering a massive conspiracy between the world-controlling Illuminati and the alien Grays who crash landed in the New Mexican desert fifty years ago.

A Non-Linear Sequel, named Blacksite: Area 51, was released in 2007. This time, PC and Xbox 360 versions launched simultaneously, while the Playstation 3 version was delayed for a month. Built on the Unreal Engine 3 (aka the Gears of War engine), Blacksite featured similar themes and gameplay elements to the original game, but took place in a different continuity. This time the player is Aaron Pierce, the Silent Protagonist leader of a 4-man team of Delta Force operators who encounter alien phenomenon during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Three years later, Pierce and his team are called in to suppress an armed insurrection in the area around Rachel, Nevada, only to discover the town and surrounding environs are crawling with alien lifeforms as well as a small, well-organized army of hostile cyborg soldiers known as the Reborn. Blacksite is infamous for being an unfinished game that was rushed out into publication before being properly finished. Which contributed to the game's mediocre reception, which combined with Midway crashing and burning a year later, makes further entries into the series rather unlikely for the near future.

The PC version of the 2005 game is available as a freeware download thanks to a partnership Midway made with the US Air Force, and, thanks to a patch that came later, it is now DRM-free.

Area 51:

  • Ancient Astronauts: Some of the datalogs indicate that Atlantis other civilisations were in contact with an advanced civilisation before they met a mysterious end. What's more is these visitors happen to come from the same place as the Grays leading to a possible connection. Then on top of that it turns out in Russia there was an alien craft placed beneath the surface over a thousand years ago before being fired upon and the datalog hypothesizes there may have in fact been multiple alien species that have visited Earth.
  • Anti-Escape Mechanism: The Theta and Super Theta bosses have an attack in which they jump into the air and land on your head, killing you instantly. There's no telling before they use it and it is extremely difficult to avoid, but they only do it if you get too far away from them instead of staying at close-to-medium range.
  • Area 51: As the title suggests, this is the main setting of the game, and it is massive.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Dr. Winston Cray acknowledges that he is dying as he records his video logs, and that the logs' main purpose is to leave a record of the various experiments that he was involved with during the course of his career in Area 51.
  • Asteroids Monster: Giant bouncing parasite bubbles, one of the game's more common Goddamn Bats, act in this manner.
  • Big Bad: Mr. White, the leader of the Illuminati.
  • Big Good: Major Bridges, Dr. Cray, and Edgar all form an ensemble of this. Bridges plays this straight as he's the commander of the QRF deployed into Area 51. Dr. Cray appears to step forward after Cole is infected, but after his death at the hands of the Illuminati, it turns out to be Edgar. The term "good" is rather magnanimous with the latter two, since both of them are clearly just pissed at the Illuminati and the Grays. Initially, Edgar views humans with contempt and insists his time is precious. As the story progresses his tone only slightly changes and although he doesn't think highly of humans, he comes to think that Ethan's death would be a waste of his time and a tragedy for mankind. He even cures Ethan of the disease as promised.
  • Bioweapon Beast: The Theta and Super Theta have been purposely designed to be relentless killing machines armed with meson weapons and capable of infecting others with the virus. Once the Grays have stockpiled enough of the Super Thetas they plan to deploy them, starting with Earth.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cole is cured of his alien disease and succeeds in destroying the alien ship beneath Area 51, subverting the Grays' and Illuminati's plans, saving the world. Thankfully he is teleported out to safety in the Nevada desert before it detonates. Sadly in the process Cole lost his team, Bravo Team, Delta Team, and destroying the alien ship also destroys Area 51, likely killing everyone on the base including Major Bridges in the process, with Cole as the Sole Survivor of the entire game. And then there's the matter of whatever was on the transport truck that escapes the base at the end being unaccounted for, passing by Cole on the road.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In one level, there is a cutscene where a group of Mr. White's clones are talking and you interrupt them. They look at the camera, even as it floats up into the air.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: The game throws pretty much every popular government conspiracy element of the past century at you, especially if you collect and read all the optional info items.
  • Cores-and-Turrets Boss: The final boss is actually the alien ship's reactor.
  • Developer's Foresight: Mutant security guards will drop their weapon if the magazine runs empty.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: You know that gigantic bio-weapon responsible for spreading the virus and killing your teammates? You manage to kill it a good 3/4th through the game, only to find out that the Grays have created "super" versions of the creature.
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: You finally confront the Theta in the deep underground caves of Area 51.
  • Disc-One Nuke: The BBG alien energy weapon you acquire about halfway through the game quickly replaces your assault rifle as the go-to weapon for most situations. It has infinite ammo, deals great damage, and also does increased damage against most of the game's bosses and special enemies.
  • Elite Mooks: The Illuminati RedOps, who had red armor (of course) and acted as squad leaders over the regular Illuminati DarkOps soldiers. They were equipped with cloaking devices and did significantly increased damage with the assault rifle (and only the assault rifle, for some reason).
  • Everything Sensor: How you got new items and files. Using it on your teammates would provoke different reactions from them; team joker Crispy would usually have something snarky to say. You can also use it on enemies, and it will give you various information about their physiology.
  • Expy: The Spec4 seem to be a fictional stand-in for the real-life "cammo dudes".
  • Flaying Alive: In one of his videos, Mr. White recounts a compelling reason for why one should never, ever physically touch one of the Grays.
    Mr. White: The staff is scared to death of them, owing in part to an incident where a linguistic coordinator accidentally bumped into one during an early negotiation. The man's face was quickly and neatly torn from his skull!
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Like many other older PC games, especially those developed for consoles, certain elements of game logic are tied to frame rate. At high frame rates (over 100 or so, which even a modestly powered modern system will likely exceed by a large margin) jumping doesn't work. While most mandatory platform jumps have a scripted assist that bypasses this, there are a couple areas (such as the electric beams in the second level) which are unbeatable due to the inability to jump. Capping the frame rate by various means during these moments is thus necessary to play the game on modern systems.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: Your squad mates are functionally immortal until scripted to die in the game's plot.
  • Genre Shift: The game starts off as military survival-horror against hordes of mutants, but later becomes action with bits of mystery and thriller when you start fighting intelligent alien soldiers.
  • Genius Bruiser: Ethan Cole the playable character has a background in biomedicine and is a member of the Hazmat team which are effectively soldiers in airtight body armor. He also is very well-read on philosophy if the last narration is any indication. The fact he is the sole survivor of his team and can transform at will into a deadly mutant only solidifies his bruiser status.
  • The Greys: The alien villains in the first game, trading technology with the Illuminati for human test subjects.
  • Guns Akimbo: Featured, and done somewhat realistically: While you can pick up and use a second shotgun or assault rifle, you can't reload either of them until the magazines are empty, at which point you simply throw one of them away and continue using the other since reloading them both would be slow and clunky, if not downright impossible.
  • Idiot Ball: Delta Team, who decides to take on the Theta with their rifles (and one pistol), despite having two rapid-firing artillery turrets right behind them. They also decide to walk closer to it, and take nearly a minute before actually opening fire.
  • The Illuminati: Taking the role of your human (or non-mutated human, as the case may be) antagonists.
  • It Amused Me: One of Dr. Cray's video logs reveals that the Bible Code and Crop Circles were cooked up by bored scientists desperate for amusement.
  • Life Drain: In the form of flying parasites launched from your hands when in mutant mode.
  • Mission Control: Major Bridges, Edgar, and Dr. Cray each take up this role at various points throughout the game.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Both Dr Cray and Edgar try to stop the pact but only because of their own indignation. For Dr. Cray, it's because the Illuminati plan to co-opt his work without properly crediting him (although he is completely unaware that they arranged the assassination of his son). With Edgar it's because they constantly experimented on him and stuck him in a big container surrounded by the corpses of other failed experiments.
  • Mook Maker: The Grays don't fight you directly, but rather constantly summon Illuminati soldiers to kill you as they stand inside a powerful energy shield.
  • Moon-Landing Hoax: At one point, you pass through a soundstage holding a lunar landscape, an Apollo capsule, and some recording equipment and props, all of which has been preserved since the 60s so that it can be reused for staging the future Mars landing. And yes, you can, and do, Trash the Set. In a subversion, though, Dr. Cray's third diary entry reveals that we actually have been to the Moon, but the Apollo footage was faked to hide what we really found there. The datalogs indicate the Grays have an outpost there.
    Dr. Cray: The moon landings nearly four decades ago were part of a misdirection by our government to confuse the public regarding alien encounters. We've certainly been to the moon, but the mysteries and horrors found there would never make for a quaint historical quotation.
  • My Brain Is Big: A key physical trait seen within all of the hyper-intelligent Grays is an enlarged cranium.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Prior to release, Area 51 was perceived as a survival-horror game, judging by the horror elements used in the trailers. In the final game, only the first 1/4 of the story is survival-horror. The rest of the game is action, with some thriller mixed in.
  • People Jars: Though it's debatable if they're still human or not, when Dr. Cray releases the first mutant in Area 51, it is stored in a container reminiscent of this trope.
    • Later in the game, multiple Super Thetas are seen in giant jars being transported throughout the alien ship.
  • Puny Humans: The Grays complain their human subjects keep dying too soon. Then there's Edgar who openly shows a disdain for humanity. Clearly Edgar doesn't give a damn about humanity but his motives for opposing the pact may just be simple Revenge for being imprisoned and continually experimented on.
  • Second Hour Superpower: About 1/4th of the way through the game you gain the ability to transform into a mutant on command. As a mutant you have powerful melee attacks, shoot parasites that drain enemy health, shoot contagion that turns enemies against each other and kills the affected enemy after some time, can see cloaked enemies, and time also slows down slightly (although not nearly as much as in games like Max Payne or First Encounter Assault Recon).
  • Self-Duplication: Mr. White, the Illuminati higher-up who serves as the Big Bad, has made a few dozen clones of himself to help him administer the facility, resulting in a whole bunch of Mr. Whites running around the base. It's never really clear if you ever interact with the "real" Mr. White at any point in the game.
  • Sequel Hook: At the very end of the game, a single lone truck can be seen leaving Area 51 with some sort of capsule in the cargo section. Close inspection indicates it's a Theta containment pod.
  • Silent Protagonist: Ethan Cole does have a lot to say in the between-level intermissions, but is completely silent during the game itself, including when interacting with other characters.
    • Averted after killing Mutant Crispy, when Major Bridges contacts Cole. Also when he scans himself.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: The shotgun actually has a relatively tight spread, but only fires four pellets per shot, and all four have to hit to one-shot an enemy. As a result, it's likely to take 2-3 shots to kill an enemy at anything other than close range.
  • Shout-Out: On the studio site where they filmed a fake moon landing, there's a lot of radio chatter in the background. One of the things you may overhear is "What's your vector, Victor?"
    • Sharks with laser beams have been created by the Illuminati, according to one of the secrets.
    • Arcade machines of the 1998 rail shooter are seen in a few early areas.
  • Sole Survivor: Ethan Cole is the only survivor in the end.
  • Spanner in the Works: Dr. Cray, feeling that his work was not properly credited (and possibly also not liking the idea of destroying the world), releases a Theta into Area 51 to cause chaos and draw the military's attention, interfering with the Illuminati and Grays' plan to launch the UFO, which would have resulted in Earth outliving its usefulness.
  • Tron Lines: As far as ancient conspiracies go, the Illuminati has some sweet-looking glowing green armor.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The game starts off with you fighting alongside a team of friendly soldiers against hordes of ravenous mutants. Then, you end up all alone, gaining the ability to turn into a mutant yourself and start fighting intelligent human-alien hybrid soldiers.
  • The Chessmaster: Befitting an advanced alien lifeform Edgar manages to set up the plot to counter both the Illuminati and the Grays. He manipulates both the genius scientist Dr. Cray and the Genius Bruiser Ethan Cole into resisting the pact and gives Ethan hints to lead him on the desired path that suits his ends.
  • Villain Pedigree: Basic mutants completely disappear from the game 1/3rd of the way through, as soon as you become mutated yourself and all your teammates are dead, and you start fighting Illuminati soldiers instead. The fully mutated leapers also stop showing up 2/3rds of the way through after you kill Theta, with the remainder of the game spent fighting the Illuminati and Grays.
  • The Virus: The aforementioned biohazard that Ethan Cole was sent in to investigate, and the one responsible for the mutant outbreak.
  • Visible Invisibility: The Elite Mooks amongst the Illuminati soldiers are equipped with cloaking devices, but the Predator-style distortion effect they generate is so glaringly obvious that it barely makes a difference.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: About 3/4ths of the way through the game you pretty much just abruptly stop hearing from your C.O., Major Bridges, without informing him of any of the crazy stuff you've discovered. Particularly notable as he was your only remaining ally at that point. Given that you end up vaporizing the entire Groom Lake region at the end of the game, it's almost certain he and all the other support personnel on the surface got blown up.
    • Even moreso with Mr. White, the game's Big Bad who's fate remains unknown.


  • Artifact Title: Yes, Area 51 is in the game and there are aliens, but really the story is about illegal government genetic experiments on POWs, MIA soldiers, and kidnapped homeless people. It doesn't necessarily continue the events of the previous game.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Possibly. Pierce kills Somers, but by the time he does Somers has succeeded in blasting a hole in the containment dome and spreading the spores into the atmosphere. The game ends on a downer note as Pierce and Weis fly away to see how far the spores have spread.
  • Bag of Spilling: An egregious example since no matter what weapons you were carrying, moving to a new chapter would often default you back to the assault rifle and pistol. This occurred even if the transition from one chapter to the next was literally simply walking from one end of a street to another.
  • Blatant Lies: When your squad first encounters mutated human hybrids, Dr. Noa Weis dismisses it as "a congenital form of encephalitis". When you get attacked by a 40-foot alien worm, she explains it as a local "mutational effect". It's pretty clear she's not fooling anybody.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Instead of simply doing more raw damage, the game kept track of how many times an enemy had been shot in the head, and would insta-kill them after enough shots (2 shots for Iraqi soldiers, 3 shots for Reborn troopers). Headshots otherwise didn't do any extra damage compared to body shots.
  • Break the Cutie: During the prologue chapter, Logan Somers comes across as the most rational and socially responsible member of the squad (granted, this is largely in comparison to Grayson, who's almost up there with Rico in terms of Ax-Crazy). By the end of the game after being tortured and experimented on by his own government, he's pretty much turned into an insane Omnicidal Maniac.
  • Giant Mook: The Reborn Scouts serve this role; they've got average speed, but are well-armored and have twin energy blasters mounted on their shoulders. They're also about 9 feet tall, thanks to their huge robotic legs.
  • Gunship Rescue: Pierce's squad gets pinned down by a spore tower in Rachel, Nevada, necessitating a gun run from two A-10 Warthogs.
  • Karma Houdini: Dr. Weis' conduct at Area 51 cutting up and experimenting on government-kidnapped victims was barely a step down from Dr. Mengele, and ultimately she never faces any repercussions for her actions because her victims ended up becoming genocidal maniacs after being tortured and left to die.
  • Limited Loadout: Unlike the first game's Hyperspace Arsenal, Blacksite has a Halo-style 2 weapon limit.
  • Made of Iron: Your character can take an enormous amount of assault rifle fire before being critically injured, especially when compared to other similar games in the genre such as Call of Duty or Halo. You're more vulnerable on the highest difficulty, but can still survive a couple dozen bullets without needing to regenerate health, compared to only a handful of bullets for most other FPS games. Melee attacks and explosives will still end you fairly quickly, though.
  • Moral Myopia: Somers is understandably upset that the government experimented on him. In the end, his revenge plan is to essentially do the same thing to other people by infecting the town of Rachel and eventually the entire United States. And no, he’s never called out on this.
    • Related to the above is Weis calling Somers a monster for his above plan to infect Nevada when she did the exact same thing minus a Freudian Excuse.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Somers hands several out to Pierce and Weis. A particularly memorable one is during the final boss fight.
    Somers: Dammit, Pierce, why you are fighting to protect a system that doesn't give a shit about you!
  • Red Shirt Army: All over the place. Pierce's squad is sent into Rachel, Nevada to find what's left of the 4th Infantry Division, but by the time they arrive, there's a whole two soldiers left out of the entire division. Then in the assault on Area 51, the squad comes across numerous other regular infantry squads who get curb stomped by either aliens or Reborn troopers.
  • Reviving Enemy: The bug-ridden can revive once when killed.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: In Rachel, Ambrose believes that Somers is crazy because he refuses to believe Somers' claim that the U.S. government is torturing and experimenting on its own citizens. Ambrose is being willfully ignorant and Somers is telling the truth about the government's criminal acts; however, Ambrose turns out to be right about Somers being crazy, as he turns out to be the Reborn Leader.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Subverted. Shooting a bug-ridden in the head will cause it to attack other bug-ridden.
  • Silent Protagonist: Though Ethan Cole would speak in cutscenes in the previous game, this trope is played completely straight with Aaron Pierce.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Grayson is Killed Off for Real after falling a mere 8 or 9 meters after a Drudge grabs him off a rappel line.
  • The Virus: Xeno-spores, a biohazard that turns Iraqi and later Rachel civilians into mutants very similar to the ones from the first game.

Alternative Title(s): Blacksite Area 51