We had the distinct pleasure to get some time behind closed doors with developer Rebellion, who gave us a first look at the Aliens vs. Predator single-player mode for the Marines. This was the thing I was looking forward to seeing the most at E3, and it has to be said that I did not come away disappointed with what I saw.
Set 30 years after the events of Alien 3, the story tells a tale of a discovered Predator pyramid on a Weyland Yutani colony, chock full of Xenomorph eggs. Naturally, the eggs unleashed a Facehugger-flavored doom upon the colonists, and the marines are thrown in to help. You play a rookie marine whose team gets slaughtered by the bugs they were sent to exterminate, and from there it's a dark and bloody quest for survival.
Hit the jump for our impressions.
Aliens vs. Predator runs on a custom-built engine, the Asura Engine, which has been designed to provide realistic light and dark effects, as well as help bring to life the unique abilities of the game's characters, such as the Xenomorph's wall crawling. Whatever they did with Asura, it definitely worked. When the game first booted up, my jaw dropped. It looks absolutely amazing. Perhaps not quite as amazing as the first teaser screens shown a while back, but definitely superb.
The game starts off slow and atmospheric, in what looks like a very definite nod to the movie Aliens. You can see signs of a long-silenced struggle between the colonists and the Xenos, with broken doors, wrecked machinery and acid burn holes through the floors. After our hero pulls open a door, he throws a flare underneath the stairs to show off Asura's lighting effects. In short, they are fantastic. The light filtering through the stairs is incredibly realistic and strikingly alters the way the environment looks.
Of course, dynamic lighting is great, but you want to know what the Aliens are like. In a word: Scary.
Rebellion's head of art & design Tim Jones says they still need to balance the game, so the Xenomorphs might be weakened a little before release, but they are vicious and durable bastards who, if they get close, will cut you up in seconds. Even being shot a considerable amount of times won't stop them, as a wounded Xenomorph will crawl towards you in an attempt to do some damage. Killing them at close range will of course result in acid splashback, and they will burn the environment with their ichor as well.
As well as being tough, Aliens are also smart. Acting very much like their movie counterparts, the Xenomorphs will hide in shadows, burst from air vents, and drop from ceilings, doing what they can to get the jump on you. You'll be able to use NPC fire, torches, flares and the iconic Marine motion tracker to spot and find them, but they'll definitely freak you out.
Close combat was given a very brief demonstration, as an Alien jumped the player and attempted to finish him off with a biting tongue to the face. The Alien was pushed off and gunned down before he could do any damage, and this was done without any input from the player. However, Rebellion is still working on the close-quarters encounters, which are intended to be last-ditch struggles, and hopefully it will become a more interactive experience.
Even though the Marine is outclassed, he's certainly not outgunned. In addition to the standard pulse rifle, the Marine is backed up by sentry guns, which will be recognizable to fans of the movies. There is an incredibly cool section where Marines are trying to get through a blockage in a tunnel to reach you, but are dragged back down to their side of the rubble by attacking Xenomorphs. The Aliens then start charging from the ceiling, but are cut down by the sentries. Sentries can run hot though, and will need to be brought back online as console points.
Rebellion is being quiet on the other characters, but they did confirm that Aliens will come in more varieties than the standard warrior caste. The predator will also be able to assess threats by viewing and analyzing the weapons of the enemy. That's all we know so far. The Aliens in particular on on total lockdown.
There is a hands-on opportunity on the showfloor, where players can get their hands on the Predator. I will be doing this, and shall have personal impressions for you tomorrow. Keep watching for that.