Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: Terminal Reality
Release Date: November 15, 2005
There’s a funny thing about covers; you usually shouldn’t judge books (or games) by them. That being said, I must admit I did not have high expectations from Æon Flux. The old excuses come rolling out: movie games almost always suck (a trend that seems to be reversing itself; i.e. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay); it’s based upon a terrible film which does almost no justice to the source material; hell, even the game’s box turned me off. Peel aside the many layers of aversion, however, and you’ll find a semi-competent action romp that just could be worth your time.
For those of you either not around back then, or who just didn’t care at the time, Æon Flux was originally a cartoon, an important part of MTV’s Liquid Television lineup (a block of bizarre animation) in the early 1990s. Aside from giving the world its first taste of Beavis and Butthead, Liquid Television introduced us to Æon, a female assassin in a bleak, post-apocalyptic world.
The show frequently revolved around the nature of sex and other odd philosophical tangents, but mostly showcased ugly ways for people to betray one another and die horribly. For some reason, it took over ten years for a live-action film to congeal, and the finished product was almost universally panned (by fans and critics alike) as uninspired crap that dumbed down the unadulterated weirdness of the cartoon.
Needless to say, I was understandably nervous as I booted up the game based upon this travesty.
The game opens with a short cinema. The cartoon Æon enters a military complex, dispatching several enemy soldiers along the way. After some fancy acrobatics, she leaps down a shaft – only to be replaced by Charlize Theron’s Æon upon landing, the entire cutscene shifting to CG. It’s almost disturbing how detailed the game version of Æon is; anyone could look at a still shot and name the real-life actress who plays her. Clearly, a lot of work was put into the graphics, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Surprise number two: I must commend the developers for resisting the temptation to have the game follow the events of the movie. Instead, the plot unfolds over several hundred years, leading into the movie and fitting quite snugly into the established timeline of the series. Æon dies often, and her clones are plentiful, so she’s around to witness (and create) quite a bit of history.
Æon Flux’s gameplay is essentially Prince of Persia Lite. Like the time-traveling royalty of PoP, Æon is gifted with almost supernatural agility. She quite easily runs along walls, nimbly leaps from pillars and bars, and performs rappelling attacks without breaking a sweat.
Unfortunately, unlike the Prince, Æon is almost too easy to control; her most impressive acrobatic moves are all anchored to a single button, melee combat is a button-masher’s dream, and the controller scheme is nowhere near as deep as PoP. I was very impressed the first time Æon ran Matrix-style along a corridor wall towards a group of enemies with her gun blazing, but the thrill quickly vanished when her ammo ran out.
For a game with a “Style” meter, Æon Flux’s hand-to-hand combat shows a suspicious lack thereof. Your enemies apparently suffer from Braindead Goon Syndrome, as they just stand there and wait for their face’s date with Æon’s boot. Hammering on the two attack buttons is just as efficient as using intelligent tactics, Æon’s auto-aim is ridiculously sharp, and nothing even approaches the deadly ballet featured in the recent Prince of Persias. I appreciate the effort (Style can be used for charge attacks, and special finishing moves), but it still feel like a cheap knockoff.
Æon Flux is actually quite solid when it comes to audio. Oscar winner Charlize Theron – (mis)cast as the film’s Æon -- was somehow blackmailed into lending her vocal talents to the digital Æon, and does a decent job with the character. The other voice actors put forth a valiant effort with the material they were given, but can’t transcend the limitations of the script. Sound effects are passable, with some neat little touches. When Æon fires a Shockwave shell, creating a cone of pressure and sound that severely damages all nearby enemies, the ambient music and sound effects are muted for a few seconds, simulating damage to the eardrums.
Another issue I have is with the length of the experience. Despite only having 7 relatively short stages, the jump/shoot/kung fu formula begins to wear thin quickly, and the storyline just isn’t interesting enough to carry the game. The developers tried to inject some variety with turret and “orb” piloting segments, and I guess they succeeded: I couldn’t wait to get the hell out and run around unencumbered again as Æon. This is a perfect example of a game that gets better when you’re cheating; give yourself unlimited health and ammo and feel free to play with the different projectiles and moves available.
Be advised that I’ve heard several complaints of glitches, including uncorrectable freeze-ups. I personally haven’t encountered anything serious in my copy (aside from minor animation problems), but it seems that some slim-model PStwo’s are having problems with Æon Flux.
As of the time of this writing, we’re deep in the yearly malaise that grips the gaming community right after Christmas. Let me come right out and say that Æon Flux is not worth the $49.99 USD it currently fetches at retail. However, to anyone looking for an action adventure fix, and dismayed by the lack of choices out there: as soon as Æon plummets to $19.99 USD (which will be soon), or if you see it for rental, give it a shot. By no means is it a life-changing experience, but you could do much worse than exploring the dreary world of Æon’s future. Yet another semi-decent movie game? No one’s more surprised than me.
More articles about Aeon Flux