While the big screen franchise of Aliens Vs. Predator may be the very definition of squandered potential, the pixilated face-off between the galaxy’s most badass beasties, with the colonial marines completing the party, have proven to provide some of the most exhilarating gaming around. But despite boasting a solid, well-balanced multi-player experience, the single player AVP falls down on some of the most basic FPS principles. Split into three separate, self-contained campaigns (Alien, Predator, and Colonial Marine), each with their own unique environments and challenges, AVP presents the players with three very different gaming experiences, each with their own moments of fist-in-the-air awesome and controller smashing despair.
As a Predator, you have stealth camouflage, superhuman strength, and enough weaponry to start a small war. Yet an ever diminishing energy pool that can only be recharged at designated stations punishes an over reliance on gadgets, meaning agility and guile are still your best offensive tools. A special mode of vision known as “focus mode” will allow you to pinpoint your movement through dense terrain to maximize your advantage, but the lack of a fully free-roaming environment means that you’re leaping to the top of the tallest tree one minute, and unable to negotiate the smallest branch the next, blocked by invisible barriers that steer you in the direction the developers had in mind.
The Alien requires even more in the way of dexterity, playing as a combination of lightening fast reflexes and finger-numbing patience, dashing through the shadows and crouching in the blackness, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. As an Alien, you have night vision, lightening fast speed and a 360 degree field of movement across all three axis. Yet the transition from one surface to another often requires, at the very least, a second thumb, meaning that you’ll often slither up a wall and scuttle across the ceiling only to lose your grip on the button combo and drop helplessly into the crosshairs of your intended prey. Though when you actually do get it right and manage to tear your helpless, quivering foe limb-from-limb you’ll roar like an intergalactic god toying with his minions.
Finally, there is the colonial marine, easily the most fun, and at the same time, the most disappointing. As a lowly human marine, you have a pulse rifle and a flashlight and a painful awareness that you are in way over your head. You’re squishy, but you make up with it through sheer, unmatched firepower. Inching through the blackness and steel you twitch at every sound and cry out at every movement. Your only company is the lonely chime of your motion sensor, and when you finally get a flashlight, you can only use it in 2-second bursts, lest you give away your position. Turn it on and you get a beautiful, crystal clear image of the vessel of your destruction, right before it rips your flesh to pieces. It’s an unparalleled, nerve-shredding experience, but it only works in the DARK!
Rebellion’s original 1999 Aliens Vs. Predator featured an atmosphere processing facility on LV426 that was a note-perfect rendering of a bleak, desolate tomb in which we new there was little chance of escape; the unending downpour. the cold indifference of the ancient rock; the constant darkness. Here, after the initial couple of missions, we leave the desolate interior for a verdant, green, brightly lit jungle at which point the trademark atmosphere disappears and the game becomes just another shooter.
Thankfully, the multi-player experience is the game’s saving grace, offering a perfect, harmonious balance between the three races. Marrying the industrial horror of the Weyland corporation with the dank, warren like labyrinth of the hive, most maps offer a home field advantage to both sides, while encouraging players to venture forth in search of kills. Meanwhile the Predator – whose technology is distributed liberally through the map, forcing the player to seek it out – is afforded a vision mode than will hone in on either Aliens, or human, but never both, not to mention leaving him especially vulnerable to attacks from his own kind.
Aliens Vs. Predator is solid, but is far from the next generation experience a full decade should bring, and remains a title that will likely please fans of the movies more than fans of FPS video-gaming. The graphics were never cutting edge, even back then, with emphasis quite rightly placed on the gameplay. Yet the clumsy control system and basic environmental errors make this latest edition feel like, in all honesty, a bit of a step backwards.
Format: PC, XBox 360, PS3