In 1994, a developer called Rebellion made Aliens Vs Predator for the Atari Jaguar. 16 years later, they’re back for round two with the new AVP on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. It’s sporting prettier graphics, gorier visuals, and supposedly genre-changing multiplayer.
The game is divided into three campaigns for each race; the Human Marines, the Aliens, and the Predators. These campaigns run parallel to each other in the overarching storyline and it’s a unique concept. The Aliens path has the standard experimental specimen escaping from the lab and turning an isolated space ship into an orbiting tomb, the Marines’ campaign picks up on a planet surface in an attempt to stop the Aliens, and the Predators begin in a jungle before all three factions meet for the finale.
Each race plays differently and each campaign follows a different path so you won’t be replaying the same levels three times with a different character. Unfortunately, bad design and finicky controls plague two thirds of the game, with the Marines campaign being the only redeeming factor.
The controls for the Aliens are fundamentally flawed and no matter how long you play, you’ll never master them and manage smooth movement and combat. The learning curve is steep, to say the least, and for the first several missions you’ll be struggling with the disorienting ceiling and wall walking and the poor targeting. Stealth is a large part of the Aliens campaign and it’s passable but it’s amazing that Thief II: The Metal Age is still the standard for stealth so many years after its release. Many maneuvers are executed by a single prompted button press, but the game is very particular about where you have to be and how your crosshair is positioned for that prompt to actually come up. It results in unnecessary aggravation. You’ll occasionally feel like an Alien from the movies, but only once you’ve gotten used to the controls.
Predators are no less unyielding. The problem with them lies in their platforming and targeting. The reason is that both are handled with the same targeting reticule, meaning if you’re trying to attack an enemy from a distance, chances are good that he’ll move out of your sights and you’ll just end up jumping into an empty space. The problem lies with the fact that it can scarcely qualify as a targeting system. It’s better described as red crosshair and nothing more. Just as with the Aliens, you’ll never feel quite as lethal as the creatures from the movies and it’s quite amazing that the developers could go as far as to mess up jumping, the mechanic for which has been cemented for over a decade. After a few hours, you’ll have overcome the poor controls but that usually means finding that one move that always works and repeating it ad infinitum.
The Marines, on the other hand, control with the simplest of FPS control schemes, though the lack of aiming down the sites is somewhat disappointing. The Marine campaign is also the one that will make you feel like you’re in an Aliens or Predator movie because you’re at a disadvantage. Unfortunately, the game climaxes prematurely and has you pitted against a swarm of Aliens in the first 10 minutes of gameplay with absolutely no suspenseful build-up. It seems that the developers knew that an encounter like the one at the end of Aliens would be the high point of the game and they couldn’t restrain themselves enough to gradually work up to it.
Story & character-wise, the game isn’t anything special. The obligatory fanservice can be found in the casting of Lance Henricksen (who played Bishop in the Alien series) as the head of the Weyland-Yutani corporation and the Marines campaign is populated by archetypal teammates including the hostile Latina and the black squadron leader. Its predictability is infuriating.
TV Spots and Trailers have claimed that “Online combat will never be the same” and in a way, they’re right. It took 10 minutes for me to actually get into a match because so few people are playing it and once the match ended (with only 5 players in the game at its most crowded), I had to go through the same process to find another match. The lack of a simple lobby system is inexcusable and makes finding matches a chore.
In terms of game modes, you have a series of standards but the only one worth your time is the Infestation mode, which pits a group of Marines against one Alien. Whether you’re playing as the Marines or the Alien, it’s the most fun you’ll have online, but the strife of actually finding a match far outweigh any potential enjoyment of playing one.
In the end, Aliens vs Predator isn’t worth your time. It’s a rental at best, but unless you’re a huge fan of the movies and really want to experience something similar, then don’t bother. It’s not horrible, but it could have been so much better had the gameplay been improved. Let’s hope that Gearbox Software can produce something better if and when Aliens: Colonial Marines comes out.