Aeon Flux

Groan. I take a look at the theatrical trailer for Aeon Flux and fear the worst. I mean, I've only seen a few episodes of the MTV show it was based on, but it was stylish, daring, and absolutely stunning to look at. One look at the live-action film and I'm thinking that it's going to be something that strays the line of coolness without actually crossing it. But I'll save judgment for when I see it. Maybe I'll be a bit happily surprised, kinda like I was with the Aeon Flux video game, based on the film.

Flux is brought to us by the development team at Terminal Reality, who have had a track record of decent games made in the past. Here, they manage to capture the tone of the film and surround it with a few cool action scenarios that make it withstandable as you go through stage to stage, battling futuristic soldiers and rolling around with metallic balls, large and small. It probably won't be anything that's worth mention years from now as you look back on gaming's past, but, hey, at least it doesn't follow the rule of Acclaim-licensed movie games, where the credo is "suck as much as you possibly can".

In the game, you control Aeon through a number of scenarios as she wreaks havoc through a futuristic city, trying to turn the tide back in favor of the people instead of the one-sided government it's become. This involves a number of missions that strangely follow a storyline that bounces all over the place. This may confuse some who wonder why Aeon's fighting one side one minute, and then crosses over in an undercover role the next with very little explanation. I suppose fans of the series may get it over time, but those doing a normal playthrough may question her tactics.

This is a platforming game, plain and simple. There's mostly stages that involve navigation through a series of levels, some requiring you to run along walls and hop along poles with utmost precision, and there's others that involve the butt-kicking that only Aeon herself can deliver. Still, they play better than they deserve, with Aeon packing plenty of abilities that are easy to pull off. The introduction level, an odd stage that is kind of like a futuristic fashion show, introduces you to her array of dazzling moves.

Later on in the game, you're introduced to a series of metallic balls that come into play. Some are mere tennis-ball shaped spheres that you can roll into play to activate switches or put into position for crucial moving-ahead in a level. Others are enormous and allow Aeon to climb in and roll around, mounting herself into cannons and easily dashing over enemies, like a bowling ball does to a pin. It's the mixture of platforming and ball-rolling that helps Aeon stick out from the norm, and most of the moves are pulled off with ease. I just wish Terminal Reality did a little more with the gun-aiming system. Sometimes you can run out of ammo just trying to shoot down a series of enemies, putting yourself in a jam until you find some fresh bullets.

The graphics don't look too bad at all. Level design freshly captures the futuristic look of the movie, with dark neon-lit corridors and atmospheric touches that make you feel like you're bombarded within the walls of the futuristic city. But not all is perfect here. The animation seems a bit stunted at times, not as smooth as it deserves to be. The camera can be problematic when all you want to do is get in the right position to avoid a mounted turret or an ambush, and that combines with the targeting system for much frustration. Furthermore, the frame rate occasionally chugs along, particularly when you're in the middle of a bungee dive into another room. This game could've used about another month of work to make it look as alluring as Ms. Flux herself.

The audio seems like it could've been done with a little more as well. The music is standard variety, not getting to the point of annoyance but not really moving us along either. The sound effects are good, with a wide assortment of gunfire and little effects that perfectly capture the atmosphere. But, really, the voice acting is mostly meh. Most of the other voice actors suffice, but it's Charlize Theron herself, the woman playing Flux in the film, who seems to be a bit droll here. She tries to read her lines convincingly, but I can sense boredom in her voice.

The game is fun for a full play-through, but lacks sorely in the long-term play. Once it's over, there's very little to rummage through in terms of extras, aside from some beautiful new outfits for Aeon. There's zero multiplayer as well, so you can't gun it out between Aeon and her enemies in a big gun battle. A game like this would've heavily benefitted from pitting Aeon and her foes in some sort of futuristic arena. Bummer.

Aeon Flux fortunately shys away from the pratfalls that usually beleaguers a movie-licensed game, and offers a bit of merit for fans of the movie. The ball-rolling alone makes this worth at least a rental. However, the game could've used a bit more development pushing to make it a little something stronger. It'll likely be forgotten in a matter of months, and I don't think that's the kind of legacy that Aeon Flux was striving for, do you?

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.