Developer Reveals Alien Resurrection PS1 Piracy Softmod 23 Years Later

hero alien resurrection cdrom composite
Console video games go through an extensive qualification process with the platform holder to make sure that they meet specific standards. This was even more true back in the day, when it wasn't so easy to simply patch a game that shipped with serious flaws. Despite that, the developers of Alien Resurrection, a cult classic FPS title for the original PlayStation, managed to sneak in the only disc swap softmod that we're aware of in a shipping retail game.

It goes like this: boot up Alien Resurrection and put in a series of cheat codes. First, you have to unlock the cheat menu itself, which requires entering a code. Then you have to unlock the stage select option, which requires entering another code. Once you've done both of those, you have to put in a third code that will seemingly do nothing, which explains why it was listed as "Unknown function" in the list of cheat codes on The Cutting Room Floor -- until today.

tcrf resurrection cheats
The Cutting Room Floor's list of cheats for Alien Resurrection, updated today.

After putting in the third code, head into the stage select and set the options for a specific stage (6) and section (1). Hold down the L1 button on the controller and press the X button. (Remember, on PlayStation that's the bottom button, not the left button.) As long as you continue holding L1, the disc will stop spinning in the tray and the screen will go black. It's waiting for you to swap to another disc.

Okay, technically that's not true. It's actually waiting for you to press Square and Triangle simultaneously, or to release L1. That's the step to perform after you swap discs, though. If done correctly, the new disc will boot normally. That doesn't sound exciting until you realize that it bypasses the system's copy protection mechanisms and lets you boot burned discs without having to install a mod chip.

Note the piece of paper wedged in the PS1's lid detect sensor.

To be clear, making this work with burned discs does require an additional setup step, helpfully demonstrated here by Modern Vintage Gamer. You'll need to jam something in the button that tells the PlayStation that the disc tray is open. Otherwise, when you put in the new disc, it will perform one specific type of validation check that a burned disc will fail. As such, it's important to make sure that the PlayStation doesn't know you've swapped discs, so make sure the button is depressed.

MVG actually revealed this trick today after being informed of it by a developer of the original game. Incredibly, nobody even knew that Alien Resurrection even had cheat codes until last year, and while the necessary code for this was found, nobody knew what it was for until today. Sony's execs would have flipped their lids if this trick had been revealed back in the day, so it's no surprise that the developer kept his mouth shut.

If you're wondering why this would even be in the game to begin with, it's apparently because there was a possibility that Alien Resurrection would have been a multi-disc game, and so this was a test for disc-swapping functionality. It just so happens to also serve as a sneaky softmod for folks that want to play their completely legitimate backups of games that they definitely used to own. In 2023, given the state of PlayStation emulation and the existence of things like FPGA consoles, it's arguable that the value of this trick is pretty small, but it's still fascinating to imagine what else like this lurks in ancient game code.