1st March 2010 - Aliens is my favorite movie of all time. The effects for the time were incredible, the characters and world created engrossing, and the scene where Ripley fights the queen legendary. Predator, surely the most hard ass hunter ever brought to the silver screen, also has attained cult status over the last 20 years. The thermal vision and clicking throat noise are unmistakable for anything else. Fans everywhere had been waiting for the two to clash. When they met on film in 2004 there was bits of brilliance, but overall it was disappointing. The second film in 2007 was better but ultimately also didn't deliver. This game is the first on current generation consoles and I was hoping and preying (sorry couldn't help myself) that it delivered the goods.
The game runs in the first person with three different campaigns. There is a loose story that is similar to the first AVP movie, where humans have come across a pyramid on a planet and are attempting to unlock the secrets. During this they have discovered aliens and are experimenting with them. The predators rock up on the scene to stop their sacred grounds being desecrated. The marine campaign will be the most familiar to gamers. Regular FPS controls with different guns, melee attack, flares and the all-important motion tracker. This is a vital part of equipment both in keeping you alive and in building tension, which is done very well. There is a real sense of vulnerability, especially early on when you are poorly equipped. When the constant blip of the motion tracker is replaced by a high pitched beep and a distance reading, you start scanning the corridors, walls and ceiling trying to find the vicious little buggers. In true aliens style they come from everywhere too. Hidden in wall cavities, vents, and dropping from the ceiling, when they swarm you they are wall to wall. In corridors it's not too bad as they are bottle necked, but in larger rooms or outside it's a nightmare trying to keep track of them. Sometimes this was annoying when you are getting attacked from all angles. A quick target switch similar to COD would have been useful and less frustrating. You can easily pour through ammo trying to hit the aliens and there isn't an abundance of munitions.
The two xenomorph campaigns are very different. As the predator you are able to jump huge distances and so take advantage of rooftops and trees to stalk your prey. The vision modes and zoom are done brilliantly. Switching from normal to thermal and then alien vision looks exactly like in the movies and has the same sound effect too. The predator is all about stealth and cunning. Sure you can drop down into a group of soldiers and take them out, but the real fun is strategically picking them off one at a time, collecting trophy heads along the way. Within this lies a problem though. Sure the predator’s main game is stalking, but he is also supposed to be strong and equipped for hand-to-hand combat. I didn't get that feeling at all in this game. You can drop into a group of soldiers but if there are more than two you will probably end up dead. You feel quite weak and that you have to stick to high places otherwise your ass gets handed to you. Melee combat is quite lame with a light and strong attack. That's it, and they're not even that strong. I don't know about you but if a predator and a human go head-to-head especially with wrist blades it should be over pretty quick. Of course it is when you sneak up on someone and perform a 1 button trophy kill but still, I didn't feel like the most advanced hunter in the universe.
The alien campaign is very different again. As the only species with no long-ranged attack you rely on speed and agility. Aliens can traverse any surface and use ventilation shafts to travel unnoticed. Darkness is your friend so strategically taking out the lights and then waiting upside down on the roof to pounce on your prey is the order of the day. If you go for a front-on assault on more than one human you will be dead pretty quick. This style of play is very different to your usual FPS and takes a little getting used to. Using the walls and ceiling can be disorientating when you're moving quickly but once you get the hang of it, it works well and opens up a whole new perspective on the levels. Once again though, melee combat is done poorly. There is the same light and strong attack with 1 button violent kills, and that's it. Seeing as melee is the only attack aliens have it felt a bit clumsy and too simplified.
Once you have worked through the campaigns the multiplayer awaits. There are several modes along with the usual death matches. Survivor is where you play with 1-4 marines against waves of stronger aliens. In Predator Hunt one person is a predator against a bunch of marines. The person who kills the predator is the next to be the hunter. Finally Infestation has one player as an alien, who must kill marines who in turn become aliens and hunt the remaining marines.
It's obvious that the game has been put together by fans. There is great attention to detail and re-creation of the Aliens and Predator universe. This includes the accurate design of weapons, equipment, sounds, music, and vision modes, and quotes, lots and lots of quotes. I had a big smile on my face and a tip of the hat every time I heard a “They cut the power? How can they cut the power?”
So the gameplay is okay, solid but unremarkable with some design flaws in combat. Fans won't really care though as its good enough. They will love playing AVP not because it's a brilliant FPS, but because it creates the AVP world authentically and lets them loose in it.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the game, the graphics don't have anywhere near the resolution and texture work of a Modern Warfare 2. Which is really disappointing as there has been so much obvious care taken into recreating things like the pulse rifle, motion tracker, predator cloaking and vision modes. The accuracy of replication is there but just not the smooth, high res graphics to go with it. I felt like if they had held off release for another 3 months it would have made a world of difference. There isn't much story so cut scenes are few, but even those are done poorly. Inside as the marine or alien is not so bad due to the low light setting but outside in the jungle it just doesn't cut the mustard compared to other FPSs.
Where the graphics are a sore point the sound is fantastic. The voice acting is pretty cheesy but that doesn't matter because the dozens of quotes and references from the movies are fantastic. The people at Rebellion have watched the movies and talked to the people at 20th Century Fox and it shows. The blip on the motion tracker, high speed gunfire of the pulse rifle, screech as aliens die and clicking of the predator's mouth are perfectly done. The music is taken and used at appropriate points like the drums when entering the jungle as the predator or high intensity military when a swarm of aliens attacks. The team has done a good job of creating suspense as well. Particularly when playing the marine, exploring a corridor the silence is eerie with just the constant blip of the motion tracker. Brilliant.
There isn't a great deal of re-playability in the campaigns with a few difficulty levels and some collectibles for each species. You will want to play it down the track just to be a predator or alien once again, rather than thinking “The gameplay was so great I need to go back for another ride”. The multiplayer will keep punters going for a while longer with some twists on the usual modes utilizing each species' strengths, although sadly with nothing unlockable other than skins I can't see it lasting months.
If you're a fan this is a must-play. Not because the FPS mechanics are great, or the graphics are mind blowing, but because it is so much fun playing in the AVP universe as all three species. Each campaign is very different and overall an enjoyable experience. It's a shame the game wasn't more polished though, especially in the fighting mechanics. The graphics are pretty ho hum for current gen, but the sound is spot-on taken right from the movies. The niggling things keep it a good game and not a great one.
If you're not a huge fan of the movie series, the game is still worth playing but maybe a hire job and not a purchase. So in the end I didn't quite get the game I was hoping for, nor was it a terrible incarnation. It's a decent effort recreating the AVP world and fans will be satisfied if not elated. Happy hunting.
AAG SCORE: 7.5/10
- Authentic recreation of the AVP world will please fans
- Great sound effects
- Three very different campaigns
- Good integration of equipment like the motion tracker and predator vision modes
- Very linear old style FPS
- Poor graphics for current gen
- Little reason to play through campaign multiple times and no upgrades in multiplayer
- Poor melee mechanics
Written and Reviewed by Khye Davey
Buy this game now for $67.50 AUD from GAMELANE