Aliens Versus Predator 2

The lightning-fast weirdness of the Alien and the cold-blooded bad-ass factor of the Predator mix with all the weapons and guts of the hardcore Colonial Marine. It sounds like a recipe for the perfect game, and Aliens Versus Predator 2 comes extremely close. It starts off like just about any other Aliens/Predator story: a bunch of Marines lands on a strange planet to investigate a lost colony, and they end up being attacked by two of the sweetest monsters ever to grace the silver screen. You play as either the weapon-slinging Marine, the stealthy Predator, or the spine-tingling Alien as the events unfold.

Unlike its predecessor's, AVP2's story lines crisscross and intersect. For example, in the Alien campaign, you'll hear radio chatter that refers to things you'll do in the Marine's game. Other than a common story line, though, the three species play very differently; mastering the Marine won't make you a better Alien. This difference in play adds tonnes of replay value to the game.

AVP2 bests the original in just about every way. For one, the game's difficulty has been tuned so that it ramps up intuitively as the game goes on. Considering that each species has special controls, AVP2 handles really well, though the Alien's wall-crawling can get very disorienting, and a handful of awkwardly placed keys forces a wee bit of keyboard-searching. Visual cues help with the disorientation, and you can remap the keys completely, so these are only minor gripes.

This is definitely one of the best presented games for the PC. Each species has its own head-up display and ambient sounds, adding to the immersiveness established by incredibly detailed environments and well-designed enemies. You've never seen the Lithtech engine crank like this. The utterly perfect soundtrack delivers exactly the mood you want, from the smooth coolness of the Predator's snarl to the eerie silence of the Marine's pinging motion tracker. The Marine campaign is not for the squeamish; the humans are by far the underdogs in this battle, and you'll spend a lot of time in the dark listening for spooky noises and emptying clips into harmless wildlife that blipped into your motion detector.

AVP2 is definitely one of the coolest PC shooters for some time. As you play, you'll keep hearing, "This is so cool" ringing in your mind - in those moments of rest between mowing down waves of bugs and calming your violently beating heart.

Publisher: Sierra.

Developer: Monolith.

URL: http://avp2.sierra.com.

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