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Area 51 is an on-rails shooter that puts the player in the shoes of a member of the elite military group 'STAARS'. The player must use a light gun to kill all the aliens and zombies in the Area 51 facility without killing any other STAARS members. The arcade game's board was a souped-up Atari Jaguar.
Area 51 was one of many arcade games that was ported to the Sega Saturn and PlayStation consoles. Only the Saturn port was well received.
In most aspects an unremarkable light gun game, Area 51 was notable for using 2D video sprites for all characters in combination with pre-rendered 3D environments, which gave the graphical style a somewhat incongruous look, similar to other Midway games of the time like Mortal Kombat.
The Area 51 license was resurrected in 2005, when Midway released a first-person shooter bearing the same name, which was loosely based on the events that took place in the original arcade title.