Aliens versus Predator 2 Review

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Publisher: Sierra and Fox Interactive
Developer: Monolith

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium III 450 MHz, 128 MB RAM, 16 MB 3D video card, 750 MB HD space

On Planet LV1201, three species vie for supremacy over an inhospitable world that contains the remains of a fourth, long-dead but advanced species. The Weyland-Yutani corporation has established a facility on LV1201, engaged in archaeological exploration of ancient technologies, and perhaps more sinister research. A group of Colonial Marines are dispatched to investigate when the facility on LV1201 ceases all communications. The xenomorphs are an alien species with a hive-like mentality that have long thrived on LV1201. The aliens will use claw, tooth and tail, even spilling the acid blood of countless drones to protect the queen and drive out the human incursion. A third species, know to the humans as "Predators" seem to live for the sport and honor of the hunt. LV1201 has been a favored hunting ground where Predators could prove their mettle against the fearsome alien hive. When the humans capture two Predators, a third emerges to hunt for his brethren and pursue the challenge of hunting humans. Three deadly species in such close quarters can only end in a high death toll, where the lucky ones escape, and the truly fortunate escape with their sanity intact.

Aliens versus Predator 2 is a first-person shooter which presents three single-player games (one for each species) and multiplayer support with a variety of individual and team match modes.

Kyle Ackerman

Aliens versus Predator 2 (AvP2) captures the cinematic feel of the movies that spawned it, making it engrossing. While graphics are often the mainstay of the first-person shooting experience, AvP2 maintains a high level of tension and immersion through pacing and sound effects. This game moves fast. All three campaigns urge the player ever forward, rewarding a brisk pace and reinforcing that nagging certainty that staying put is the most dangerous action you could take. The sound design evokes vivid memories of the Alien and Predator films – the sound of the Marine's Motion Tracker together with the perfect cadence of the Pulse Rifle summon the tension of the Alien films before the plot of AvP2 has really begun. The roar of the Predator as he collects a trophy by severing the head of his victim is deeply satisfying, unless you're a Marine, and that haunting sound is coming from somewhere nearby.

The pacing of the action and plot is the strongest aspect of AvP2. Hostile creatures are placed strategically to draw the player along in a frenzied rush of killing and self-preservation. Better still, the designers at Monolith understand that a target-rich environment is not the only way to impel the player onward. Blind terror, movie-style, is often sufficient. In the early portions of the Marine campaign, a broken duct masquerading as a xenomorph drone is worth a few hundred rounds from the pulse rifle before common sense replaces blind instinct. Late in the scenario, the Predator is always running just ahead, so that the player can never be sure if the Marine is running after the Predator or away from it. The alien drone is fast and deadly, but vulnerable. Clinging to the ceiling and rending scientists limb from limb, the alien is always as much prey as hunter. The dramatic tension and palpable sense of danger are ever-present. The cut-scenes are a regrettable exception to this, as they tend to break the tension and drag slightly. That said, the cut-scenes do offer a welcome opportunity to unclench and relax before continuing.

Powered by the LithTech engine, the graphics are good, but by no means perfect. The graphics engine looks much the same as it did when No One Lives Forever was released in November of 2000, but such attention has been given to the textures, level, lighting and gameplay, that AvP2 could look far less perfect, and be just as enthralling. It was simultaneously frightening and thrilling to send the Marine cowering in a hidden corner, only to turn and have the Shoulder Lamp swing to highlight three skinless bodies, hanging from their feet, dripping blood into a pool on the deck. Moreover, the outpost on LV1201 has been so filled with details, logs, notes and conversations that the experience seems deeply personal. Unfortunately, the cut-scenes that also attempt to move the plot along are so stilted that decent voice acting and scripting can't overcome the feel of blocky characters waving their arms as though acting out a radio play. The three campaigns (one each for Marine, Alien and Predator) are intertwined, and the protagonist of each makes a cameo in the other campaigns.

In the Marine campaign, Harrison of the Colonial Marines is on a mission to the research outpost on LV1201, set in a dark future. Not dark because there are two alien species out to decapitate or devour the human presence on LV1201, but because there is so little light. Broken and devastated habitation modules, with stuttering power sources and soggy, organic alien hives are poorly lit, so that Harrison can see only what his motion detector and solitary Shoulder Lamp can pick out of the night. The Shoulder Lamp drains limited battery power quickly, and his image-intensifier even more so such that a careless marine can quickly be left alone in the dark with nothing but the clatter of xenomorph claws to keep him company. Far from an unappealing design choice, the darkness, combined with approaching blips on the Motion Tracker makes for a tense and sometimes terrifying experience. Aliens come from all sides, above and below in swarms, but all Harrison can see is a narrow ray of light as the blips multiply and aliens swarm. As if aliens using his teammates as incubators were not enough, Harrison also must contend with a Predator that can cloak itself so as to be nearly invisible and that is hunting humans for sport and revenge. Events always conspire to keep Harrison alone, but an M-56 Smartgun, some luck, his wits, and a few quick-saves just might be enough for Harrison to rescue most of his comrades and escape the nightmare that spawned on LV1201.

The Predator is a sophisticated hunter with superior strength, a Cloaking Field Generator that can make him nearly invisible to humans, a Mask that highlights prey, and a staggering array of weaponry. After emerging from the dark and tense Marine campaign in which you crouch in terror from everything as you unload clip after clip, the Predator feels like a master of the planet. The interface looks entirely different, and play tends more towards stealth. Long range sniping with a Speargun is not only lethal, but pins trophy heads to nearby scenery for easy collection. Still, most satisfying is leaping twenty feet in the air, nearly invisible, to land between two Colonial Marines and dismember them with Wristblades or Combistick as they fire in confusion into the air. The Predator, more than the Marine or Alien, has the occasional luxury of stealthily choosing his targets, but the setting seems to call for speed as well as stealth, encouraging the Predator to rend the human population until he is forced to pursue a human foe into the body of the alien hive. The Plasmacaster is integrated with the Predator's vision modes, and launches homing energy projectiles at selected targets, and is essential when the Predator enters the body of the alien hive. The vision modes make the Predator mission most unique, as the Mask adds human hunting, alien hunting, and predator hunting/light enhancement modes to the Predator's normal vision. While each mode makes hunting that species easy and efficient, other species are nearly invisible, creating entirely new dangers. Lastly, the Predator's incredible leaping prowess turns certain areas into jumping puzzles or a search for exits on high platforms. While mildly disappointing, this seems so in keeping with the Predator's skills that it is an easily forgiven flaw.

The Alien scenarios are also distinct, and unlike the Predator or Marine missions in play or feel. Your avatar for most of the Alien missions is a xenomorph drone, able to rend prey with claws and bite, and possessed of a scorpion-like tail that stuns humans. Clawing or biting restores health, and careful aim at the head of a victim will cause teeth to appear at the top and bottom of the screen, allowing you to bite off the head with the Alien's inner jaws, restoring even more health. While the rest of AvP2 is fast, the Alien missions are even faster. The drone is speedy, vulnerable, and can cling to walls and ceiling, introducing a challenging three-dimensional strategy into the mix. Single humans are a tasty snack, but groups of humans, synthetics (androids) and Predators are a taxing challenge. Perhaps the most atmospheric and satisfying sequence was inside the human colony module, playing a game of hide-and-seek with human guards, popping in and out of ducts and catwalks to catch individuals unaware, then disappearing before the armed response could arrive. Not only do you play a xenomorph drone, but you begin as a facehugger, the defenseless crab-like creature that must stealthily find a solitary human, and implant a seed to gestate into a more mature xenomorph. During the Alien campaign, the player is briefly confronted with a reddish pulsating wall-like object. By using the jaws of the chestbuster (the developmental stage after facehugger), the player can chew away tissue to reveal the inside of a ribcage, and then perform the obvious chest-busting escape. This is the sort of clever exposition that aids in-game storytelling. The alien missions occasionally become searches for an air duct or hidden escape, but these are easier once the player becomes accustomed to using the walls and ceilings to the fullest. The Alien campaign is fast and furious run-and-claw gameplay, although the final battle with all of two predators took considerable trial and error before finding a workable strategy.

Multiplayer is well-conceived, but poorly executed. Game modes include deathmatch, team deathmatch, hunt, survivor, overrun, and evac. Each has an interesting conceit, and the species are well-balanced, but the game is so jerky even on a high-end machine with reliable connection and good server that the game is little fun to play. Multiplayer AvP2 might be more workable for a large group with a Local Area Network, but internet play is shaky enough to lose its charm.

The scenarios for all three species are short, and could easily be completed in a weekend of dedicated play. While the multiplayer aspect of AvP2 is largely unfulfilled potential, AvP2 has so much drama, tension and style that the short single player campaign is a "must play" in the first-person shooter category.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 19, 2002 12:52 PM.

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