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Retrospective: Alien 3

Baldy Ripley is trapped in a space-prison with some aliens. Cue flamethrowers

Getting an Aliens game right isn't all that hard. The most important parts are the sound effects: the guttural whine of the pulse rifle, the sharp beep of a motion tracker, and - most of all - the high-pitched squeal of an alien when the first sound is used on account of the second.

We might want an engaging story, plenty of scares and the chance to humiliate that oily suit Burke, but as long as our ears are well catered for, fans will generally forgive shortcomings in other areas.

The SNES stab at Alien 3 - there's a few different versions knocking around - gets the sound effects spot-on, or as spot-on as a SNES cartridge will allow. The guns, beeps and squeals sound just great, and as a special bonus Hudson from Aliens does his "Game over, man!" soundbite when you die.

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In fact, the game is pretty much based on the second movie, rather than the David Fincher-directed instalment that shares its name. There are countless aliens in place of a single, really pushy one; those aliens are more expendable than the tough-as-nails variants that haunt the first and third films; and the late, great Pete Postlethwaite is nowhere to be found. The only real similarities are its setting (not that it looks at all similar to the prison of the film), and Ripley's harsh, GI Jane-style buzzcut.

As a tie-in to Aliens, then, you could do a lot worse. Its giant stages certainly look the part, while the quality of the animation on both Ripley and the assorted Xenomorphs impresses today. The respawning enemies can be fairly annoying, but it never stops being fun to explode them in icky showers of acidic goop. There's a novel, semi-freeform structure to the game too: to finish each stage Ripley has to complete several objectives, which can be tackled in any order you desire.

Alien 3's blueprints were later consulted for last year's excellent Aliens: Infestation, the criminally overlooked DS game that fused its claustrophobic vent-stalking with a big dollop of Metroid DNA. The film may have courted fan fury by killing off Newt and Hicks (sniff), and replacing them with a cast of murderers and nonces, but the game's legacy is mostly enough to redeem it. Mostly.

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