Aliens vs. Predator
As a shooter fan and someone who watched all eight films that make up the Alien, Predator, and Aliens vs. Predator series, I had high hopes for the title
- Sights and sounds from both franchises are authentically recreated, Predator campaign has its moments
- Deeply unsatisfying level design, disjointed campaign structure, occasional glitches
Even though it nails the sights and sound of the sci-fi film franchise, Aliens vs. Predator still suffers from disjointed gameplay, unbalanced characters and lacklustre level design.
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Released in 1999 on the PC, the original Aliens vs. Predator is largely considered an underrated classic; based on the excellent science-fiction crossover franchise, it allowed you to play as a Colonial Marine, Alien from the Alien movies, or Predator from the awesome Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. The original developers, Rebellion, return with a highly anticipated follow-up and the formula sounded like a recipe for sure-fire success.
Unfortunately, while the game's team does a terrific job of maintaining a level of authenticity -- they nailed the little details like the strange clicking sound the Predator makes with his mouth and the unsettling way an Alien egg peels open to discharge a face hugger-that fans will not only recognise but deeply appreciate, they got just about everything else wrong. The structure of the single-player campaign is my biggest complaint. You are given the option to replay each mission from the perspective of the three characters, but rather than employ a Rashômon-esque story structure that interweaves the unique vantage points into one coherent narrative, they simply recycle the environment and set you loose on three discrete storylines.
Each character is so different from the others that it would have made for a really interesting experience: Aliens snake around on ceilings and in ventilation shafts, using their speed to get their claws into enemies; the Predator makes use of stealth and high-tech weaponry to cut down his foes; and the hopelessly overmatched Marine does his best to not wind up as a xeno's lunch. But the way the campaign is structured, you're left with an extremely disjointed experience and I felt they wasted an excellent opportunity.
The overall game experience is also rather weak and there's no real incentive to play through it more than once. Because of the wealth of tools at your disposal, such as heat vision, cloaking, and the trademark shoulder-mounted laser, I enjoyed the Predator campaign the most; it was the most satisfying of the three and it requires a great deal of strategy and stealth. The Alien and Marine scenarios were less successful thanks to some design issues: rapidly crawling through vents as an Alien is incredibly disorienting and the Colonial Marine campaign is unexciting due to bland level designs and lack of interesting abilities. I also experienced some annoying glitches, such as corpses whose limbs vanish if you attack them, and while it may just a case of a review build where all the bugs haven't been squashed, it added to the overall impression that the game was rushed and hastily constructed.
As you may have noticed, we delayed posting our review of Aliens vs. Predator online last week when the game was released in order to give me enough time to play the multiplayer component of AvP in a real-world setting. I spent a week playing each of the seven multiplayer modes available in Aliens vs. Predator, which includes your stock FPS modes like death match, team death match, and territories; however the game offers more interesting options like Predator Hunt and Infestation, two modes where one player is selected to be the Predator or Alien and are then pitted against everyone else who are colonial marines. Infestation is slightly different from Predator Hunt, though; whenever a human marine is slain they become an Alien Xenomorph who must go after the remaining marines.
But the multiplayer mode I enjoyed the most, and thought highlighted Aliens vs. Predator's best qualities, was mixed species team death match; here teams can have any combination of Predator, Alien, and Marine fighting together. Since each species has their distinct strengths, weaknesses, and fighting style, assembling mixed species teams makes a lot of different strategic opportunities possible. For instance, an Alien or Marine can serve as a distraction by taking on an enemy head-on, while a Predator cloaked in invisibility can sneak up behind them, executing them silently. This is just one example of the situations you can set up working together with different species, and it's the main reason why I enjoyed this mode the most. Unfortunately, while the multiplayer side of Aliens vs. Predator presents some interesting gameplay variations, the experience is not enough to raise the score I initially gave the single-player component of the game. It's far better than the lacklustre single-player campaign, but it isn't enough to compensate for that mode's shortcomings nor is it good enough on its own to warrant a recommendation. It has some interesting ideas but it lacks refinement and polish, and despite the unique setting and characters, I never found myself wanting to invest in it the way I did with a better title like Modern Warfare 2.
I was really excited about Aliens vs. Predator. As a shooter fan and someone who watched all eight films that make up the Alien, Predator, and Aliens vs. Predator series, I had high hopes for the title, but it fails to do both the genre and the franchise justice.
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