Area 51 (1995 video game)

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Not to be confused with Area 51 (2005 video game).
Area 51
The arcade unit of Area 51
Developer(s) Mesa Logic
Publisher(s) Atari Games
Soft Bank (Japan)
Designer(s) Robert Weatherby
Composer(s) Jeanne Parson
Series Area 51
Platform(s) Arcade
Sega Saturn
Release date(s) Arcade
  • NA: 1995
  • NA: September 30, 1996
  • NA: November 20, 1996
  • EU: 1997
  • JP: February 7, 1997
  • NA: November 26, 1996
  • JP: March 20, 1997
  • EU: May 1997
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Up to 2 players simultaneously
Cabinet Standard
Arcade system CoJag
Display Raster, 320 x 240 pixels (Horizontal), 65534 colors

Area 51 is a light gun arcade game released by Atari Games in 1995.[1] It takes its name from the Area 51 military facility.

The plot of the game involves the player (Peterson) taking part in a STAAR (Strategic Tactical Advanced Alien Response) military incursion to prevent aliens, known as the Kronn, and alien-created zombies from taking over the Area 51 military facility.

The game was ported to the PlayStation, Sega Saturn and personal computers.


A screenshot showing the player engaging in a battle with multiple opponents.

This game takes the player through several sections of the facility, including a warehouse and underground tunnels. The player character is tasked, along with fellow Special Tactical Advanced Alien Response (STAAR) members Lieutenant Stephanie Grant and Sergeant Major Marcus Bradley, to penetrate Area 51 and activate the nuclear self-destruct sequence. The player must kill any attacking genetically altered soldiers and aliens without harming any allied STAAR team members. If nothing but three STAAR team members are shot, the Kronn Hunter mode is started, taking the role of a Hunter, sent by the Kronn to eliminate the rebels.

There are five types of weaponry available. While the player is only given a semi-automatic pistol in the beginning, weapon upgrades are available as targets. The pistol can be upgraded to an automatic machine gun, a pump shotgun, and finally an automatic shotgun. The shotgun weaponry allows a greater field of error for targeting an enemy. Both the machine gun and automatic shotgun allow the player to keep the trigger pressed down to unleash rounds. If the player character is hit by the enemy at any time, the weapon is downgraded back to the pistol. Grenades are hidden in crates and bonus rooms. When used, they destroy most on screen enemies at once. The player can hold a maximum of nine grenades. In addition, yellow boxes and barrels marked with "flammable" warning symbols can be shot to cause fires or explosions that can harm enemies. By shooting certain objects in the correct sequence, players can unlock shooting exercises, weapon stashes, and bonus items that are not available in the main game plot. Other backdoors allow players to warp ahead to later levels instead of following the game's otherwise linear path.

There are many types of aliens/alien zombies including ones that shoot, punch, fire rockets, and throw things like bricks, grenades, and barrels. Purple alien/alien zombies require more hits than other targets.


The game uses digitized video stored on an on-board hard disk, and gibs into which every enemy blows apart when shot, in exactly the same way. While enemies, innocents, and explosions are 2D digitized video sprites, the levels and vehicles are pre-rendered in 3D.

The game's arcade board, CoJag, is a modified Atari Jaguar with enhanced graphics and sound capabilities.[citation needed]

Sequel and related games[edit]

In 1998, Atari Games released an arcade sequel titled Area 51: Site 4 and re-released the first game as part of one machine called Area 51 vs. Maximum Force duo that also included Maximum Force.[2] In 2005, a first-person shooter which shares the name and uses the original as an inspiration was released for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC by Midway Games. It features a more sophisticated storyline and the voices of David Duchovny, Marilyn Manson, and Powers Boothe. The original arcade game makes a brief appearance here as well. In 2007, Midway released BlackSite: Area 51 to multiple platforms.


In 1996, the game was ported to the PlayStation, Saturn, and PC. It was re-released on the PlayStation in 2001 by Midway as part of their Midway Classics range.[citation needed] Tiger Electronics later released a handheld version of the game with an LCD screen and small light gun.[citation needed]

The PlayStation version supports fullscreen play, while the Saturn version has a border covering about 15% of the screen. The Saturn version supports all of the console's light guns. The PlayStation version supports the Konami Justifier, but not the Namco GunCon.

Despite the arcade version being run on a modified Atari Jaguar, it was never ported on to the system itself.


Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4.5/5 stars (ARC)[3]
2.5/5 stars (PS1)[4]
4/5 stars (SAT)[5]
CVG 1/10 (PS1)[6]
IGN 7/10 (SAT)[7]
Computer Games Magazine 2/5 stars (PC)[8]
Next Generation 3/5 stars (ARC)[9]

Next Generation's review of the arcade version stated that "Area 51 provides shooters with what they want", noting in particular the dark and varied levels, realistic and graduated scenery, intriguing story themes, and fun power-ups. Despite this, the reviewer concluded that the game "stands up better against shooters of the past like Virtua Cop 1 and Mad Dog McCree, and not the current crop."[9] The game took the number one slot in the December 1995 "Player's Choice" chart of RePlay Magazine.[10]

In a 1998 review of the Saturn version, IGN, while remarking that the game lacks sufficient playtime or extras to last long and does not measure up to Virtua Cop 2, found it to be a well-designed and fun experience in both single player and two-player mode.[7]

Steve Bauman of Computer Games Magazine gave the PC version two stars out of five and wrote, "This is a perfect example why you don't convert some arcade games to the PC." Bauman called the game "repetitive and boring" because of its lack of the arcade version's light gun.[8]

In a retrospective review of the arcade version, Brad Cook of AllGame wrote, "Not only is this game fun, it's not incredibly hard either. [...] The graphics are extremely well done, and it's very fast-paced." He also praised the storyline, attract mode, and varied backgrounds.[3] Anthony Baize of AllGame called the PlayStation version "very exciting." Baize remarked that while the graphics are not as good as the arcade version, they are still solid, and the unlimited continues gives it an advantage over the arcade version.[4] AllGame praised the Saturn version's music and sound, and recommended that players use a light gun instead of a joypad. AllGame also wrote that the graphics were, "Not as crisp as the PS and PC versions but good for the Saturn."[5] In 2001, Stephen Fulljames of Computer and Video Games reviewed the PlayStation version and wrote that it "plays as if it's on rails - the pre-rendered environments offering a totally predictable environment. We challenge anyone not to be bored within a week."[6]


  1. ^ Matt Cabral, "Area 51: A History of Violence," PlayStation: The Official Magazine 004 (March 2008): 82-83.
  2. ^ Area 51/Maximum Force Duo Videogame by Atari Games (1998) - The International Arcade Museum and the KLOV
  3. ^ a b Cook, Brad. "Area 51 (arcade) Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Baize, Anthony. "Area 51 (PlayStation) Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Area 51 (Saturn) Review". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Fulljames, Stephen (August 15, 2001). "Area 51 Review (PlayStation)". Computer and Video Games. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. 
  7. ^ a b "Area 51 Review". IGN. January 2, 1998. Retrieved August 1, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Bauman, Steve (1996). "Area 51 (PC) Review". Computer Games Magazine. pp. 1–2. Archived from the original on December 20, 1996. 
  9. ^ a b "Area 51". Next Generation. Imagine Media (12): 201. December 1995. 
  10. ^ Webb, Marcus (March 1996). "Time Warner Interactive is for Sale". Next Generation. No. 15. Imagine Media. p. 23. 

External links[edit]