Aliens vs. Predator Review

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Aliens vs. Predator Publisher: Sega
Developer: Rebellion

Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC
Reviewed on Xbox 360

The Freya's Prospect Colony is operated by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation on the eighth planet orbiting the star WY-BG-3. Four months ago, Karl Bishop Weyland showed a personal interest in the colony, shutting down all joint ventures on the planet. Simultaneously, Weyland-Yutani dramatically increased traffic to this fledgling world. Now, an urgent request for assistance has brought in the marines. Something Mr. Weyland has discovered not only fascinates him, but appears to involve other, dangerous alien species.

Kyle Ackerman

It's been a very long time since I played an Aliens vs. Predator game. I'm not necessarily a fan of every film, crossover product or even game that has featured the aliens or predators, but I'd be hard-pressed to think of another franchise better suited for videogame adaptations. Humanity's Colonial Marines, predator hunters, and xenomorph aliens of all shapes and sizes are made for suspenseful, single-player stories, and all three do battle in multiplayer matches that are more frenzied action than measured horror.

Nuke The Planet From Orbit...

This return to the franchise had a strong start. From the moment I loaded up the human campaign, impressively creepy sound meshed with rich but dark environments so that every ping on my motion detector scared the living daylights out of me. In mere moments, Aliens vs. Predator did what so many other games had failed to manage: scare me. After a suspenseful sequence in which I faced off against an elusive xenomorph alien armed only with a pistol, I found myself in a strip club with thumping music. Instead of strippers, the place was a hive of xenomorphs and the dangling bodies of skinned colonists.

The human campaign started off strong and suspenseful, but once I found myself fighting androids in the jungle, the game went from claustrophobic horror to standard jungle combat fare. That said, a game that intersperses great moments of horror among ordinary shooter sequences is still good fun. The xenomorphs are disgustingly horrific and the predators are notable foes that are difficult to tackle. Most of the human campaign is filled with enough edge-of-the-seat horror that adrenaline gave me the shakes after a few hours of play. Not only are things constantly leaping out from the darkness, but just letting a xenomorph get close can be deadly, as their acidic blood splatters when they are slain, often taking a posthumous revenge.

As a human marine on a distant planet surrounded by xenomorphs, a target-rich environment isn't a good thing. The best parts of Aliens vs. Predator involve hurrying through shadowy settings, jumping at shadows and sudden musical chords, occasionally wasting far too much ammunition to take out a single alien. But playing against its suspenseful strength, the game often forces players into scripted battles in constrained areas against waves of aliens. Combat may be fast and deadly, but these sequences transform Aliens vs. Predator into a twitch shooter rather than twitchy horror, which detracts from the overall game.

I'm Not a Number, I'm a Free Alien
(With Acid For Blood)!

The human marine campaign is easily the longest of the three, but is well balanced by the Alien and Predator campaigns, both of which focus on stealth. As both the experimental alien subject (number "6") and the predator, you get to play the hunter rather than the prey. Both are entertaining, although it is appreciated that both are shorter than the human campaign as the two are more similar than they should be. The predator can leap to certain high vantage points in the landscape and has a few, particularly nasty, weapons with which to hunt. The alien can run on any surface and relies on darkness and sudden bursts of speed to demolish unwitting prey. Despite their differences, both races feel something like a stealth boxing simulation.

Both the alien and predator need to isolate human and android enemies, sneak up behind them and then gruesomely slay their foes with claws that are, effectively, punches and quick jabs. Stealth kills generate a series of truly disgustingly satisfying animations, including ripping or biting heads off, slicing throats and disemboweling enemies. Stealthily slaying lone enemies is clearly the way to play both campaigns, since any attempt at frontal assault ends up with the alien or predator using his claws to slash enemies until they fall.

Doomed To Suffer For Extra Play

The stealth play is satisfying for a time, but could have been vastly improved with better maps. The game uses the same set of maps for all three campaigns. This creates a rich feeling of three intertwined stories taking place on the same doomed planet, but each with its own agenda and resolution. Still, many of the maps feel clearly crafted for one race, leaving the others as afterthoughts. The colonial tunnels are made for the marines and work adequately for the aliens. A cave system provides splendid cover for the aliens, but feels awkward for the predator. The jungle with a colonial marine outpost is perfect for a predator hunt, but is particularly awkward for the aliens.

In some ways, complaining about this is unfair. The colonial campaign alone is as long as some premium games, so to get two more playable campaigns, even with reused terrain, is still a pleasant bonus. But each campaign would have been even better had the maps been specialized or developed further. I also have a personal grudge with the conclusion to each and every campaign. To see the final cut-scene, the marine needs to perform an extremely fast act of dexterity. The alien and predator both have to engage in confrontational boss battles that neglect the stealth play that makes those campaigns fun.

But save Aliens vs. Predator's boss battles and occasionally problematic map reuse, the three campaigns are easily entertaining enough to justify the game's purchase.

Aliens vs. Predator vs. Humans Is A Lot
Less Fun than Aliens vs. Predator

Since the single-player campaigns are strong enough to recommend Aliens vs. Predator, I won't harp too much on how much I loathe the multiplayer in Aliens vs. Predator. The single-player campaigns are crafted to support a style of play that intersperses stretches of suspenseful terror with occasional rapid confrontations or frenzied firefights. The three playable sides (marine, alien and predator) are built to support that. Multiplayer, instead of being a deliberate exercise in slow stalking, is an Unreal Tournament-style blaze of frenzied action. Because instant stealth kills are still an option, I found that many of my multiplayer sessions involved spawning, only to repeatedly watch my gruesome insta-kill animation play out on the screen from a spawn-camping alien.

When I was able to learn the maps, I found that many of the weapon pick-ups were unnecessary, as it deteriorated into sparring matches between predators and aliens as I exchanged (claw) punches and blocks until someone fell. I did (somewhat) enjoy a few match modes in which human marines face an alien infestation or a single, invisible predator. Even so, most of the online players seemed engrossed in team deathmatch, which was a frenzied free for all of punches and insta-kills that entirely failed to be entertaining. Keep in mind, too, that unless you've played through the alien and predator campaigns, it's nearly impossible to jump right into the multiplayer action and have any idea how to play.

Especially if you choose to ignore the online play, Aliens vs. Predator provides suspenseful and entertaining action in one of gaming's top franchises. Just keep in mind that the difficulty settings are entirely serious about their names. "Hard" is hard, and "Nightmare" has no checkpoints (meaning that it's "Hard" with added annoying). There's also a scoring mechanic that seems intended to add replayability, but instead served merely to undermine my relief at surviving a given sequence.

Still, it's great to be back on the "bug hunt."

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 18, 2010 8:47 PM.

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