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The original Aliens Vs Predator, or AvP for short, was released in 1999 for the PC. Now over a decade later, Rebellion is set to release the third game in the series for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. It’s been a long time coming but considering that Rebellion’s last couple of games (Rogue Warrior, Shellshock 2) haven’t exactly been AAA titles, should you place your faith in them to deliver the goods with the new AvP? Or are they relying too much on the legacy of the original ground breaking FPS?
Just like in the original game, you play three separate campaigns, one for each species: the Alien, the Predator and the Colonial Marine. This is what has always made AvP fundamentally different from other games in the FPS crowd as each species is unique and challenges you to address situations in different ways depending on your species of choice. Each campaign shows a different side to the main story, although it remains to be seen whether there is one overarching story to directly tie all the campaigns together.
The Colonial Marine
The Marine is probably the most conventional of the single-player campaigns as he has the biggest arsenal and relies on run and gun raw firepower. The gun play is fairly standard when it comes to FPSs. That being said it is definitely the most atmospheric and cinematic campaign of the three. You’re on your own for the most part but you do have a commanding officer giving you intel and orders throughout who also helps push the narrative along. The game does a great job at keeping you on the edge of your seat. The Marine’s levels are possibly the darkest with a lot of the lights either out of action or eerily flickering which means that you have to rely on your trusty flashlight and flares to see anything, let alone what’s coming at you. As a result you will feel relieved when you get to light filled areas and equally tense when trudging through dark corridors. When the motion sensor picks something up you will be looking around frantically trying to see if anything is really there; this fear of the dark is something that is emphasised in the Marine’s campaign.
Rebellion have tried to make the Marine’s campaign the most cinematic since you and your fellow human Marines can display a lot more emotion than the Alien or Predator. Unfortunately this comes with a price — predictability. The game is set up for powerful set pieces and choke points, however after a while these moments can be seen a mile away and while it’s always a little scary when a horde of Xenomorphs are about to strike, a lot of the fear you’re supposed to feel is missed because most of the time you know where they are coming from. There are only so many times your commanding officer will tell you to regroup with another squad/turn the power on/open a door with you being ambushed at the end before you start to see a pattern. The set pieces themselves are often fun and definitely intense to play but without the added fear and shock value the experience can come off as a little diluted.
That’s not to say they aren’t good and there are still a few genuinely scary moments. The first time you come across a horde of Aliens on your own and you are completely outnumbered and forced to run away is truly exhilarating. If Rebellion do one thing right with the Marine campaign is that you do feel like you are up against powerful enemies; you are being hunted and are trying to not only uncover what has happened but also just trying to survive.
The Alien is the polar opposite to the Marine. As the Marine, you learn to fear the dark and as the Alien, you’ll learn to use it. The ability to move on any surface completely changes the dynamic of the game play and the lack of a HUD emphasizes the fact that you have no weapons and instead use your claws and tail to dismember your foes. You’ll spend the majority of your time crawling through air ducts, ceilings or walls and pouncing on unsuspecting victims. You only have one aiming cursor on the screen which also doubles up as a compass that always points to the ground and a quick press of the right trigger (or R2) will detach you from any surface so you will land on the ground the right way up if you do find yourself disorientated or want to quickly drop behind an unsuspecting Marine. While the Alien is by far the fastest of the three species, it’s slower than in previous AvP games, mostly to avoid “Blitz tactics” where you would jump down kill your prey and jump back up before you were discovered and repeat the process. The new slower pace forces you to play stealthier and tactically as being reckless will result in you being seen and killed by a hail of bullets. This also makes the Alien the most difficult species to grasp as not only does traveling up the walls and ceilings take some getting used to but to be an effective killing machine you will need to know your surroundings and use the environments, especially the shadows to succeed.
While the Aliens campaign is arguably the most interesting to play, it does suffer from the weakest story. The problem with this is not the story itself but rather it makes objectives sometimes hard to understand and achieve since there isn’t much of a narrative to tell you where you’re supposed to be going. Checkpoints are highlighted on the screen but with no map and the ability to crawl anywhere, getting from A to B can sometimes be more difficult than it should and if you don’t have a good sense of direction, getting lost can become quite frustratingly common especially as there is no help or guide button. The camera can also become an issue when climbing as it will always try to face forward in the way you are moving. There are times when stalking your prey, you want to keep an eye on them; this leads to frustration as you try to move around yet keep the camera on your target.
The Predator’s play style falls between the Marine and the Alien; an emphasis on stealth and preparation with added firepower. His weapons in general aren’t as versatile or as fast as the Marine’s; they are mostly used at a distance while his wrist-blades will make short work of closer enemies. He isn’t as quick as the Alien but he has a lot of unique skills and equipment, the most important being his cloaking device which you have access to from the beginning of the game. The Predator also has the ability to jump large distances by simply holding down the left trigger (or L2), pointing at a suitable location and releasing. This can be done multiple times in a row for either a quick escape or to climb to a more advantageous vantage point, which is indispensable when planning how to take down your next victim.
The areas in the Predator campaign are much more open and flexible than the other two species. It’s still no sandbox campaign but you can at least choose whether you use a voice replicator to lure a Marine out into the open or just use the cloaking device and sneak behind him. Unlike previous AvP games, the Predators more powerful weapons such as the plasma caster (shoulder cannon) consume energy to use and needs to be recharged when depleted. This forces you to use them a little more conservatively as recharge spots aren’t as frequent as ammunition is for the Marine. As a result, you have to be a little more creative and cunning as the Predator because like the Alien, if you are spotted by a group of enemies and are outnumbered, even as a Predator you will not survive. You’ll find that playing the Predator in a more methodical manner will more likely lead to success and this also carries over to the multiplayer.
In terms of story and narrative the Predator campaign is stronger than the Alien’s but not as fleshed out as the Marine’s and while you do have some level of interaction with other Predators, for the most part you are on your own.
Aliens Vs Predator shows a lot of promise. The single-player campaigns are genuinely enjoyable and the atmosphere, setting and three different play styles for each species make the game feel unique. Unfortunately though, there are a few flaws that prevent the game from reaching true greatness for me.
Each of the three species move completely differently, however they all feel tremendously light and lack any real distinguishing character, that is unless you are sprinting because when you sprint you can see and definitely feel the difference but that’s pretty much the only time. This also affects one thing that you will be doing a lot with the Alien and the Predator; melee combat. Due to the light feeling of the characters you don’t get a real sense of power behind the melee attacks and this often results in button bashing until the enemy keels over and sometimes it’s hard to see because of all the blood splashing around. It also doesn’t help that your enemies are often screaming during the fight and it’s nearly impossible to tell whether it’s due to them attacking or you stabbing them in the face. Depth perception is another problem with the melee combat especially with the Alien’s tail.
There is a nice counter move that all three species can execute; by holding down the left and right bumpers (or L1 and R1) you can hold a counter stance and when the enemy attacks if you press the right bumper (or R1) immediately after you will push the enemy to the ground setting yourself up to retaliate. This works great when you are facing one or two opponents but is ineffective when outnumbered because you simply can’t counter all the enemies in quick succession. This brings about a good change of pace when confronting different amounts of enemies even if it’s unlikely a Marine would actually be able to force a Xenomorph or Predator to the ground. It also alleviates frustrating moments when you can’t see the enemy and are assaulted from the dark, unless they attack from behind.
Presentation wise, AvP is a mixed bag. The games lighting is great but the environments and character range. Models look good at one point and then questionable the next. The Marine’s and Alien’s campaign are sufficiently dark and mysterious with the buildings and interiors looking cold and eerie. The Predator’s jungle levels look lush and full of life however, on closer inspection, blurry textures and jaggy lines plague everything from the foliage to the computer monitors. The same can be said of the characters and most notably the Marines; at one point they are well animated and believable and the next they are dull and lifeless. This is the most apparent during the one hit trophy kill moves which can be executed from behind or when you have weakened your foe. Many of them look fantastic and brutally animated but then again, some of them are not; especially the ones that have multiple animations. The first part of the kill move is often fine, however after that animation, the character more often than not looks dead and vacant but then the kill move continues and the character continues to scream while looking like they shouldn’t. That being said, the kill moves are still incredibly satisfying to perform so long as you don’t end up exposing yourself and getting killed.
Despite its faults, Aliens Vs Predator is still a good game. For a full preview of the multiplayer side of things check out Justice’s preview.