|Gearbox' Colonial Marines, and Obsidian's Aliens RPG may both have found themselves canned, but fear not! Rebellion's Aliens Vs Predator still lives! And in fact, is out! A decade on from Monolith's fantabulous AvP2, how's it stack up? Well...actually...|
I've been yearning for this
game for years. That is, the super cutting-edge, next-gen Aliens game of my dreams. There's just something so captivating about the site of dimly lit, cold grey corridors and icky, slimy alien eggs that seems oh so perfectly matched to video game form, ain't there? A match made in heaven. Or hell, I guess. You can trace it all the way back to the great, great grand-daddy of Alien games; Aliens TC. For the babies not born at the time - 1994 - this was a "total conversion" (or "mod" as they call 'em nowadays) for the original Doom, in which some bright young chap named Justin Fisher redid all the game's graphics, enemies and sounds to turn it into a full-blown copyright infringing Aliens FPS. For free.
That game was amazing
in its day, and one of the unsung, genre-changing classics that few people speak of these days. Little things like comms chatter and audio triggers were pretty much invented in that game, back in a time when scripted events and the concept of having entire exploration-centric levels devoid of any
enemies simply didn't exist. Aliens TC had more grander ideas up its sleeve though, see, such as scares, ambience and pure undiluted atmosphere, rather than simple spraying and preying. Scary to think that that game is 16 years old, given how shockingly ahead of the curve it was.
Even scarier to think that it had more originality and brilliance in its first level, than all of this right here. AvP - out now on PC, 360 and PS3 - ain't a horrible game, but it's certainly one of the biggest let-downs in recent years. It can't even match the old AvP games of yester-decade either. Perhaps its biggest crime.
So, sorry to be a dick, but I'm gonna go into excruciating details about just why that is here, and ruin the entire thing from start to finish. Turn back if you must, but at least know that I do so for your own good. Now. Let's tackle its - worryingly brief and constantly recycled - three campaigns one by one, shall we?
The go-to campaign for most people - and arguably the "proper" part of the game, if you will - the marine mode tells the tale of a rookie caught up amidst the ongoing intergalactic AvP conflict. There are alien infested corridors, Predator temples, and plenty o' futuristic labs with Weyland Utani logos adorning them just as you'd expect. Sadly I can't really speak much more to the plot beyond that though, due to crippling audio bugs that plague the PC version from start to finish. This resulted in no NPCs ever talking to me - despite turning subtitles on - and most of the cut-scenes playing sans sound. No music either.
Never mind, I had in-game audio effects, which is what matters most, no? Ahhh, pulse rifle - how I love thee! The undeniable glee of firing off 10 millimeter explosive tip caseless, standard light armor piercing rounds cannot be stressed enough. Pleasant sigh. Hmmm. That's sorta the problem with the AvP though. All the coolest parts are the stuff it gets for free. Hearing aliens scream in pain as you gun 'em down, Lance Henriksen showing up for voice-acting duties (when I can hear him), and just the downright iconic sight of lil' blips going off on your motion tracker are all just as potent as ever...but have nothing really
to do with the quality - or lack of - of this game. Strip that stuff out, and you'd be left with a worryingly bland sci-fi shooter here. It still kinda is, to be frank. Much like the latest Aliens Vs. Predator movie
...it has all the sights and sounds you want and expect. But it just doesn't feel cool
for some reason.
|This really does look a lot more fun than it is|
I think a big part of that, is down to how fighting aliens in this game just ain't a whole heap o' fun. Aliens, as a movie, is the original "mow down large swarms of bad guys" property. Gunning down hundreds of the buggers should be satisfying, fun, but tense, as you contend with impossibly large odds attempting to overwhelm you from all sides. Forget the first flick, that
is Aliens to me. But developers Rebellion don't really get this concept, and instead make the individual alien stupidly hard to kill here, then pit you against only 1 or 2 at a time for the most part. They take a depressingly large amount of ammo to take down, and there's an annoying emphasis on requiring headshots to actually kill 'em too. There was one "hold the line" style sequence where I had to defend a position while I waited for a hacking device to open the door behind me, where a grand total of - no exaggeration - three
aliens showed up to thwart me the entire time. Terrifying.
Battling the Predator - which pops up a little further in - is a little more interesting and unique, particularly as you can use a somewhat inventive x-ray vision sniper rifle to show him up when cloaked, at the risk of cutting off your peripheral vision and requiring the wrist reflexes of a ninja to follow. You won't see much of him, sadly, but I dug that showdown considerably more I must say.
What I didn't dig was the stupidest decision ever
that follows, of having you fight milky-blooded evil androids in the latter half of the game. What's the one thing you don't
go into an AvP game expecting, or wanting? To fight ruddy humanoids, that's what. Weak.
I slogged through wave after wave of Bishop wannabes up to the final level, where the PC rendition's various crash-related bugs and audio "issues" became too much, and the game quite literally wouldn't
let me finish it. I promptly gave up and moved onto Alien mode here, though I can only presume you square off against a Pred-Alien, or Weyland - or knowing this game - a demonic hybrid of both in its finale.
On the whole, the initial concept of battling these infamous creatures in a 2010-engined shooter does hold some smiles, I'll admit, but the execution ain't up to scratch, and there are some serious mis-fires from the ground up that constantly hinder what should have been an easy home-run of a game, quite frankly. There's nothing really as scary or memorable here as that first level in AvP, or your early introduction to the hive nest in AvP2. And that's pretty friggin' inexcusable.
|What Alien lacks in guns, he more than makes up for in speed and brutality. The "harvest" feature - involving facehuggers - is a particular highlight|
My biggest gripe with the alien campaign is how it throws you right in at the deep-end as a fully-developed adult Xenomorph. Monolith's AvP2 had such a jaw-dropping, genius intro in its alien campaign (back in 2001, need I remind you), in that you started out as a face-hugger in search of a host. After that, you switched to playing the hatching alien inside the dude's stomach
, and had to button bash to gnaw your way out.
From there it embraced its routes as a stealth game with you having to hide from marines as a baby alien, until you could find some "feline fun" to chow on in order to grow. At which point, the hunting began. Does any of this sound cool? It was. And there's nothing remotely as interesting here, I'm afraid.
For AvP3, you essentially have a similar style of game, minus that stroke of inspiration. You can similarly climb on walls, leap at dudes from miles away, and form some fast-paced stealth tactics by way of scent and destroying lights. Honestly, that's all still kinda cool though. You don't really consider the AvP franchise when discussing the stealth genre, but there's something to be said for this species and its abilities that make such antics quite unique. And insanely fast to boot.
Sadly it's over in literally two and a half hours, and comes off more like some kinda bonus mode as a result. Next.
I'm a big Pred fan, and have always been somewhat captivated by him as a character. I particularly love how the original Predator movie starts out as some stupid, dumb Rambo flick, then promptly goes dark as fuck the second he shows up and starts taking names. Almost like he appeared mid-filming and began murdering all the cast and crew. I similarly dug the first AvP movie, I'm not embarrassed to admit, due to the downright bad ass Predators and their ace use of gadgets.
As a playable character, Pred is a reasonably decent "expert" class, with far more depth (and buttons) than the other two combined. He was always a little fiddly to play in the older AvP games, and still feels in need of some streamlining here, but persevere and his many different abilities do start to become second nature and suitably dominating. Everything from invisibility cloaking, to multiple vision modes, to deployable mines, to heat-seeking projectiles are all on offer, meaning gameplay-wise he can essentially be molded to whatever play-style you wish.
|Pred still looks the part. His levels ain't too bad, either|
Jumping around tree-tops while cloaked is fun and stalkery, while charging in with the laser cannon then slicing up dudes will appease the less strategic folk. I did feel the level design was a huge let-down in this campaign though, with the kind of corridor-based jungles seen in Metal Gear Solid 3
and the like, rather than proper, sprawling Crysis-style environments that I'd have perhaps hoped for. Imagine that, eh? Miles of wide open terrain, and a genuine free-form approach to your objectives and targets. I suppose those
are the sorta expectations I had going into this game. Foolishly, I guess. The Predator's levels are far more linear and weirdly claustrophobic by comparison, even though the mechanics are sound. It almost reminds me of Arkham Asylum's antics at times, of hiding out in the roof (tree tops) while you pick guys off one by one. Only not as cool.
I dug the storyline of this campaign though, I will say that much, with your nimble young Predator attempting to dispose of fallen comrades and regain stolen artifacts. Along the way he uncovers all kinds of neat Pred gizmos and lore, including a bizarre holographic vision sequence in which a bunch of past Predators cheer riotously at the death of a Xenomorph. Well into all that.
Once again though, the final level here just all-out broke on me, and refused to play nice (and by "play nice", I mean actually load up the geometry and not just a skybox). Hence I can't speak to the climax of this campaign either. Which - again - I reached in one sitting through roughly...1 hour and 30 minutes of play. The real crime is that all three of the ruddy campaigns re-use the same exact levels as well.
Whoever Wins, We Lose. Seriously
|AvP looks pretty good on PC, all motion-blurred out and nicely lit. Console versions fair less well|
So yeah. Ditch the human section - aka most of the game - and I guess things improve, but not to the level one would have hoped going in. Rebellion have plummeted a little further from their previous lofty heights as a result, after the (far more embarrassing) Rogue Warrior. Given that this fumble drags down the license of all licenses with it however, it's considerably less forgivable.
It's neat to see cutting-edge renditions of the famous sights and sounds found in these classic action movies - from Giger's stunning alien designs, to Predator's awesome thermal vision - and the engine does wrap that all up in some strong, detailed environments. Not to mention - when it works - impressive sound design.
But the endless glitches, constant lock-ups and general lack of inspiration running rampant through at least half
of this damn game cannot be ignored, and you'll probably leave it emitting a big old deflated sigh considering what it could have been. I know some peeps are fond of the multiplayer, but in these days of Modern Warfare 2? Not for me either.
Let us cross fingers for a Colonial Marines resurrection, eh?
NOTE: Though I've only replayed the opening of the game for testing purposes, recent patches appear to have fixed up all those sound and performance issues if that is any indication, and the score's been upgraded accordingly.