Rebellion struck gold in 1999 with the release of their highly regarded Alien vs. Predator game which at the time stood as proof that a movie property can be well translated into video games with the right developers behind it.
Many properties ripe for a solid movie to video game translation have come and gone with only half baked results – Terminator being a perfect example. With such awesome source material to draw from there’s no good reason why we still don’t have anything worth playing on that front.
Fast approaching retail the Alien vs Predator reboot has a pretty stunning legacy to live up to. Having spent some time with the demo do things appear to be on the right track with Rebellion’s latest efforts or will this space bug have hatched too soon?
To demo only offers a free-for-all deathmatch style game mode to showcase the game mechanics. Since the old school version of AvP on the PC was all about species based teams this might put some players off wondering why they have to shoot other marines – that would never happen in real life (unless you’re a cowardly Weyland Yuanti executive of course..)! Marines holed up in a bunker trying to fend off waves of aliens and a couple lone predators prowling the edges of the map picking off the stragglers. This is what the online game play was all about. Fortunately Rebellion has indicated that there will be a wide assortment of game modes which will include 4 player co-op survival modes and likely species based team deathmatch.
Personal feelings about straight up deathmatch aside how does the game play?
Aliens are fast and aggressive as you might expect. They have a wide vision range with an anamorphic lens effect to simulate their bug like vision. When they run they do so on all fours to maintain a low profile and since you can cling to any surface using the right trigger it’s easy to hide in the dark corners of a room and just observe your meals before dropping down and eviscerating unsuspecting predators and marines. With razor sharp claws and teeth you’ll quickly dispatch opponents up close before skulking off in the dark again. The right bumper allows you to swipe at foes with your claws while the left bumper is a context sensitive heavy attack usually employing the alien’s stinger tail. Also sneaking up on any life form from behind will allow you to perform and instant execution kill by pressing the X button. These stealth kills are contextual based as with the heavy attack and while they are flashy and usually gory they do leave you open to attack from others. The aliens have a pheromone based tracking ability able to see others within a certain radius regardless of whether or not the alien has direct line of sight. Since the aliens demand up close kills this helps immensely when stalking your targets. The largest threat against the alien seemed to be the marine with their ranged weaponry. More alert marines will be able to shred incoming aliens before they even have a chance to close a distance for the kill.
The marine is probably the strongest of the species in terms of ranged arsenal although they are severely outmatched against others when it comes to face to face melee fighting. A motion tracker with the familiar metronome beat and radar blips is lifted straight out of the movies and helps the marines determine where their attackers are coming from while a somewhat underpowered flashlight will help illuminate some of the maps darker rooms. I wish that flares were back in this reboot of the series. Being able to throw down light sources really gave the marines an edge to stave off surprise attacks from aliens. One thing that really bothered me is how slow the marines move. Unless you’re using the sprint function the marines walk which I suppose plays right into their defensive nature but I would have liked for them to walk less like they were taking an afternoon stroll and more like they were being pursued by bloodthirsty space freaks. During each match I played I found most all the weapons to be useful particularly the default starting weapon, a pulse rifle. The pulse rifle boasts a huge clip allowing you to kill 4 or 5 enemies before having to reload. The pistol on the other hand seemed pretty useless – certainly a last ditch effort weapon.
I had a hard time getting the opportunity to play as the predator. Since only two predators are allowed to populate the match it was a struggle to snag a slot to play as one and after about 10 rounds of trying to do so I called it quits. I’m going to bet when the full version of the game comes out this will be a typical experience for the online adversarial stuff – almost how in Splinter Cell everyone wanted to play as a spy. Fortunately the other species are really fun to play as too so while I can’t speak to the experience of playing as the predator I can say that they are indeed the most technologically advanced and natural hunters. Their cloaking ability and infrared vision give them an acute advantage over other species and the skilled players will be some of the most powerful foes you will face in this game.
Despite my nagging with the deathmatch style of gameplay Alien vs. Predator has a certain appeal all it’s own. Playing as the bugs you really do feel like a primal and aggressive creature throwing tactics to the wind to meet death face first with snapping jaws and slashing claws. As a marine you feel a sense of dread when that radar blips appears onscreen and you’re trying to locate the source in the dark. And as the predator, well, yeah… I couldn’t even play as one but I’ll bet it’s pretty bad ass.
If I only have one concern about Alien vs. Predator it’s this – with multiple campaigns for the different species will Rebellion have been able to put enough polish on the entire package to elevate AvP to greatness or will their efforts have been so divided that we’re left with a half baked piece of software? Knowing Rebellion I’m going to bet that Alien vs. Predator will be an all around solid experience worthy to call itself a successor to the PC franchise from over a decade ago.