Perhaps one of the most under-rated games of 2010, Aliens vs Predator is a jaw-dropping experience from start to finish. From its horror fest tension and shock-a-minute frights, to its well crafted missions and amazing characters; this game is truely stunning in what it has achieved.
After a few months break from multiplayer lobbies, I’ve spent what little time I can scrape together working through the solo campaigns of this master piece. I’ve just completed the Predator solo campaign and holy crap, it was intense. I’m not sure what I’m enjoying the most so far though – the rebirth of the ultimate survival adventure franchise that stole my youth, or just plain getting tooled up and stuck in.
Lock and load people, this is more than just a ‘bug-hunt’…
Game: Aliens vs Predator
Released: March 2010
Deep in the jungles of “BG 386″, the ‘Wayland Corporation’ has located a mysterious temple of unknown origin. Led by the obsessive explorer in the further regions of experience himself, Mr Charles Wayland, the human science team tries (and succeeds) to unlock the secrets of this monsterous tomb, to their fate…
There are plenty of references to the movie franchise, and you’d surprised if there wasn’t. They are classic examples of the sci-fi horror survival stories, even if some of the movies weren’t received well. But the story Rebellion has portrayed here is fantastic. Naturally there has to be some cross-overs in the game, however there’s nothing that says ‘this is the game of the film’. It’s all background folk-lore as this adventure is unique. If you want to see the marines landing their drop ship at a colony and looking for survivors, it’s here. Want to get your grubby hands on firepower of the USMC and go searching room-to-room? Absolutely. Need an immersive story-line that sucks you in and really makes you work and think hard to survive? This is it. In fact, that’s the way it’s been designed for all 3 of the races, as there are significant solo campaigns for humans, predators, and aliens; each with it’s own mission objectives and direction. A really interesting theme recurring throughout the game is that the races use the same maps for their missions. They vary slightly with extra features like tunnels, props, physical objectives, and of course the perspective changes with who you’re playing, but it’s all across the same locations on the planet between the Colony, Refinery, Jungle, Ruins, Labs, and finally the Pyramid. Let’s take a look at each race campaign in turn.
Humans (Colonial Marines)
This will be the selling point for many people who were fans of the orginal PC games or even James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’ film, and straight-off the bat you will see how they have carried the marines over to this new edition. This is the main campaign, the longest, and probably the hardest, although the others are still challenging enough. As the first mission begins, we find our heroic marine seperated from his friends after the inevitable ‘accident’ that takes out the drop ship and his squad. This is the ‘training’ mission and you quickly find your feet using the motion tracker, torch, and flares at your disposal, before eventually discovering further weapons like the iconic pulse rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, and smart gun. It soon becomes clear that you have to work your way through some other-worldly resistance if you want off this this planetary death-trap, and to progress you have to achieve various objectives that are mostly issued to you by supporting marines or scientists just before they get killed themselves.
You begin in the planets human colony, which has become a ghost town of tumble weed and splattered hints of violent killing. Rather than drop you in the thick of it right away, the game lets you find your feet to get familiar with your surroundings and objectives, then slowly introduces the aliens as the story unfolds. As soon as I started this scenario though, I felt the tension rising and nervous anticipation mounting, so when I came across my first adversaries it wasn’t disapointing. This isn’t a game to really sit and relax into, as you’re on the edge of your seat and sucked into the atmosphere that it creates. I ended up standing to play most of the entire game, somehow feeling safer because I could ‘see better’. I really must connect it to my surround sound system as well, as the music and creepy noises are superb.
Now, you’d think that being a Colonial Marine, your main weapon would be the M41A2 Pulse Rifle. This is the standard USMC assault weapon and its magazine holds 99 10x24mm caseless rounds, coming with a lightweight underbarrel explosives launcher. Coooool! Except that it’s a little unpredictable, and less effective than the superior shotgun at close range desite the larger magazine. If possible save the pulse rifle for longer range engagements or blowing up gas cylinders, and use the shotgun for close quarter fighting. You’ll see alot of this as there are frights around most corners; even as you get into elevators, or negotiate holographic strip clubs at the colony. The rifles’ built-in grenade launcher is fairly effective at taking out closely packed aliens, but seems to have a very small area of effect; at close range however it’s a sure way to get yourself killed too. The shotgun is self-loading and dual barrelled, using a box magazine and benefits from two modes of shooting – either one or two barrels can be fired at once. The shotgun is probably the best weapon your marine can have when facing off against tough bosses like the Praetorian or Predator. In most areas of the game, the enemies are usually limited to a handful at a time or small groups as they spawn, but there are situations when time is of the essence and you really have to move fast to your next objective. To ‘encourage’ you along, the game will sometimes unleash an infinite salvo of enemies, although this is limited to between four and six at a time. The sewer section is one of these instances of infinite enemies coming at you, and in these cases the only way to win is by running like a mad-running-thing. You can’t win in a stand-up fight as you get over-run very quickly and dragged off. Just run for the level exit after you grab all the ammo and audio logs you can.
Thankfully all the games objective markers are highlighted with a pulsing square emblem which is visable in your peripheral vision as well. These often signify something you need to interact with such as levers, switches, door releases, power-packs, laptops to enable automatic sentry gun control, or gaseous pipes that need shooting to release fire-dampening vapour, and it’s all very well thought out. It’s not just a run-and-gun-to-survive story, you have to unlock and activate things to proceed when obstacles block your way. Eventually it’s not just the Xemomorphs that you must worry about, as the Predators make an appearance in the Marine campaign as well, taking pot-shots at your hero before you enter the jungle. If that wasn’t bad enough, a new strain of alien appears that spits acid, and the Wayland-Yutani Corporations’ combat androids take a rather negative view of your presence as they attempt to secure the secrets of the Predator temple.
The marine campaign is very good over all, and an excellent tale of survival horror that keeps you wanting more of the same. From aliens coming out of the wall from a curled foetal position, scurrying and pouncing facehuggers, and the infamous Praetorians (from a xenomorph that’s hatched from an infected predator host and has adopted some of the predator host characteristics such as size, strength, mandibles, vision, etc, merged with that of the alien), you are thrown challenge after challenge, with plenty of surprises along the way.
The Alien campaign was great fun, and possibly the easier of the three. It did take some getting used to orienting the 360 degree movement of the alien with its limited striking, but a little time and patience paid off to produce a very satisfying objective-based adventure. You’d be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t as good as the other races, but eventually it becomes clear that this monster is actually a juggernault of death. It’s fast, furious, and relentless and will crawl after you even if their legs are blasted off! Unlike traditional shooters, AVP rewards you more for shooting certain enemies (like aliens) in the limbs, and indeed direct hits to their bodies takes a bit of effort to drop them. Even shots to the head aren’t always reliable, unless you get a one-shot-kill.
What impressed me the most about the Alien character is the power of it’s seemingly basic attacks. It has a close range claw strike, and a slightly longer reaching tail-skewering attack, which when combined with its fast movement and leaping makes for some very effective hit and run tactics. Even more up close and personal is the ‘bite’ attack, which includes an awesome annimation of the toothed tongue being fired into the firmly held victim through open jaws. The first time I was on the receiving end of one, I couldn’t help but squirm and call out “No! Nooooo!”, and hoped dodging it in my living room would help. ‘Fraid not… haha. There’s a handy jump target marker that appears as well that lets you aim to where you want to spring to, and this really helps for getting out of holes and making surprise attacks on unsuspecting victims, which brings us to the ‘Alien-Master-Plan’: harvesting and killing. Yes, it’s that simple. Okay, throw in a few obectives like evade the marines and gun turrets, help release the Queen, and transgender yourself to become a new Queen-hybrid; but essentially your job as the playable alien is to get close enough to enemies so you can harvest them by interacting with the (X) button, pinning down your victim to allow a ‘face-hugger’ to crawl over their mouth and impregnate them. Here we’re treated to a nice clip of that very creepy thought. Of course as a juggernaught of destruction, you also get to kill ‘em all too with plenty of bodies to rack up the count for, including some very hard Predator bosses…
The Predator campaign was a real pleasure to play. What more can a guy ask for than gadgets, plasma lasers, and a cloaking device?! I was a 7 foot tall dreadlocked monster, and in gaming-heaven. The toss-up of which is better between the Marine campaign or the Predator campaign is a tough one. Both are really good, in-depth adventures in their own right, but the Predator seems to add something a little extra. As a human character you feel the gung-ho empathy towards the hardened Marines; but as the Predator there’s a sense of other-worldly, almost supernatural power that gives you a swagger in your graphically rendered step.
Most of your adversaries are human to begin with, representing scientists, guards, and marines. Later you see experimental drone troopers that present more of a challenge, and the Aliens eventually crash your party with an acid spitting hybrid to further the chaos. Just what the Doctor ordered, or rather the mad Charles Wayland running the show. Just like the Aliens, the Predators have equally impressive and gorey finishing moves, which demonstrate just how formidable they are at slicing and dicing. By using their wrist computer terminal, they can make chips and grate cheese. Yes, okay I jest there, but it functions exactly how it would in the films, offering a selection of brutal weaponry and vision modes including heat sensitive, cold sensitive (the Aliens are cold-blooded), and normal views. The cloaking device is great fun and very effective for sneak attacks on human targets; although Aliens generally ‘smell’ you and androids see in heat vision, so it has its limitations. It is also quite draining on the energy you collect from power-outlets around the map environments, but thankfully there are plenty around that will keep you topped up. Weapon-wise, you get your hands on some pretty awesome firepower in the shape of the plama-caster shoulder cannon, javelin, disc, mines, and the iconic Predator wrist-blades.
The Predator mission is to track down a missing fellow Predator who has been captured by the human factions. On the way through the adventure you find clues that he has left for you, and some of his weapons that are being studied in research facilities. These always come along at just the right moment and offer a hint of things about to go pear-shaped a little further on where you are likely to need that extra fire power. The javelin is pretty much a one-shot-kill throwning weapon, but you have to control it carefully to ensure it hits its mark as you get limited numbers. The mines appear as triangular golden-reddy icons which can be attached to surfaces to catch enemies out, and come in quite handy. The down side is you have to charge them from your wrist terminal which drains your energy, but it’s a small price to pay. The other energy weapon is the plasma caster sholder cannon, which has two modes of fire – bursts and larger blasts. Bursts are quick shots that you can fire off towards where your targetting reticule covers on the screen; whereas blasts involve aiming with the really impressive red triangles we’ve all seen in the movies, and charging up the cannon for a powerful smack in the kisser. If you’re really lucky it can take out a few enemies at once. Probably my favourite though is the disc as once it’s been thrown towards a point, you can control its flow and bounce back to return to your hand, much like a cross between a frissbe and a boomerang. Personally I’m too scared to call it a ‘frisserang’ incase someone takes my skull and spinal column as a trophy…
As thrill-a-minute as the Predator campaign was, I did feel the last few scenes went quite quickly towards the innevitable big boss battle at the end. I wouldn’t say it was a predictable ending to the story, but it made sense and you kind of expected it to happen that way anyway. That said, any other ending and I’d have been disapointed! As ahuge Predator fan however, my mandibles were salivating for the whole adventure. Superb.
Multiplayer Online Overview
If you’d heard the rumour that the single player missions were just designed to prepare you for the main focus of multiplayer combat, then you should go and play the missions first, as they are amazing games in their own right. I don’t believe they were just stuck in to compliment the online games. The solo campaigns are an important way to introduce you to the whole Aliens vs Predator mythos, and set the scene for the traits, weapons, and tactics of all three races concerned. Naturally these are the same for online multiplayer games as well, and you won’t be disapointed.
As well as the standard deathmatch (free-for-all) and species specific (team) deathmatch games, we are introduced to Predator Hunt, Survival, and Infestation. Predator Hunt sees the Marines looking for one player, the Predator. Whenever a Marine gets a kill, that player takes over being the Predator. Survival is a great co-op game, although you can also do it solo too, which pits you and your fellow Marines in a last-stand action against waves of Aliens coming through barricades and vents. It’s great fun and thourily scary as someone is bound to get seperated or runs out of ammo and needs to dive back into the previous room. This starts off in a corridor with a barricade at the far end, which the Aliens begin climbing over and clambering along the ceiling, before charging at you in swarms; then opening other areas like a large loading area with stairwell, and side room too, offering extra weapons and cover. Infestation was my favourite multiplayer game, which for me embodied everything the Aliens film introduced. This game randomly starts one player as an Alien, with the rest being Marines, and basically as soon as the Alien gets a kill the victim is harvested into another Alien; and so their strength in numbers steadily increases. One of the two playable maps (all multiplayer maps are actually locations in the single player campaigns) is a colony outpost with jungle to the side, and it just gives you that edgy feeling of dread. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the Marines are going to either A) try and form a defensive perimeter to stop anything getting into the compound, or B) go hunting… The thing here is that it’s so easy to underestimate the playability of the Alien, and assume that being hardened Marines with as much firepower to level a building will make you survive. Wrong. With the literally 360 degree movement on just about any surface, considerably long reaching leap and run speeds, and formidable tail strikes, the Alien player will find it doesn’t take long to fine holes in the Marines strategy; and that’s the sheer beauty of this game-type. It’s the horror of it all as your fellow soldiers slowly get picked off and taken for harvesting, and your team gets smaller and smaller; then realisation sets in that you’re the only one left as you see them swarming along walls and dropping from ceilings. On release night, Project Echelon ran a public game of Infestation on a 20Mb connection, and had around 18 players all running around like headless chickens. It was a superb session and it ran very smoothly. In fact it’s probably one of the largest and most enjoyable online games I’ve ever had, yes it was that good.
A wonderfully crafted sci-fi survival game that embodies the horror of the Alien franchise. This game throws you in the deep end and expects you to sink or swim fast. Players will be left both breathless with excitement and sudden shocks, as you achieve mission objectives and puzzles to survive, escape, or breed.
Suitability for Clan Matches
Yes, absolutely. Although from initial enquiries, there are a limited number of other communities out there that have invested in this for competitive gaming. We’ve used it a few times already for internal gaming nights which have been very entertaining.
Score out of 10
9/10 – My personal experience of the game has been one of a thrill-a-minute ride in one of my all time favourite film genres. I haven’t had any of the negative issues that faced other reviewers, and I think all-round this game has been drastically underestimated, and undervalued. My only reason for not giving it a 10/10 is that some of the objectives like holding an area until reinforcements arrive, for example, at times seems impossible and you need to replay the same section 10+ times to work out where you ‘should’ be standing to trigger actions. This is my only real frustration, as otherwise it’s an epic game.