A perfect hunter
There can be few characters in the movie world better suited for a videogame incarnation than the Predator. Coming with a unique visual style and complete sets of weaponry and technology, the masked alien hunter seems the ideal choice for a developer to base an action game around and some developers have already tried it, the Predator was first seen in videogames in 1987, the same year that saw the release of the first hit movie starring the cloaking demon and Arnold Schwarzenegger tearing up a central American jungle in an attempt to put each other in the ground.
The latest outing for the Predator, on PS2 - Predator : Concrete Jungle - is strikingly accurate to the film and its 1990 sequel in terms of character and established paraphenalia with all of Predators weapons making it into the game as well as his technology like the different modes of vision - including the classic thermal vision - and the all important cloaking device which allows the beast to move around virtually invisible.
The Concrete Jungle versions of the Predators gear seem spot on, amongst the hardware you get comes the shoulder-mounted Plasmacaster, which like other ranged weaponry comes along with its red-triangle targeting system in first-person view, the Speargun, which like its film counterpart will sometimes fire a shot which will carry its hapless victim backwards to the next wall and the slice-and-dice wristblades which can be brought in and out of play by pressing down on the d-pad.
We have the technology
You can also make use of Predators other functional technology, you have three different vision modes which can all be used in either first or third person view with the most recognisable being the thermal vision, the thermal vision is invaluable in spotting enemies in darkened areas or where they are far away and difficult to see normally as their body heat will give them away, aside from thermal vision you have tech-vision and neural-vision, tech-vision will allow you to easily locate energy recharge points by seeing the usually hidden cabling leading from them as well as allow you to scope out security systems for weaknesses, neural-vision gives you the chance to scan the minds of your prey in order to assess how aggressive they are likely to become. Finally in technology you have the option to use your cloaking device to aid you in tracking your prey unseen, the cloaking device will lose its effectiveness somewhat if you are moving quickly and like the films it cannot work when wet.
The game plays out in a series of chapters which you may replay whenever you want in order to try to unlock more secrets from each one, the earlier levels left me with a bit of a bitter taste as they are less about stalking prey silently and more to do with running around a riot zone gutting people left and right, these parts do not really have a Predator 'feel' to them but perseverance is the key as later you get some top class stealthing action in your hands.
The game excels in the stealthy levels, during which you may for example be asked to gain entrance to an enemy facility and this is where it starts to feel right, it 'feels' like Predator to perch yourself on some high platform, scope out your surroundings and your prey and then quickly take off someone's head with a well placed burst from the Plasmacaster or to track your preys movements and then sneak up behind them invisible in order to relieve them of their head and spinal column.
Concrete Jungle brings a nice element of difficulty to the table by not holding the players hand and leading you through each mission blow by blow, many games I have played, even classic greats like Vice City to me seem guilty of always telling the player exactly what to do and where to do it during missions instead of leaving you the challenge of figuring it out for yourself, in Concrete Jungle you do have to figure it out for yourself and in my opinion this works massively to the games advantage, carrying on my above example of attempting to gain entry to an enemy facility you will need to explore the level a bit first and see what kind of security set-ups are in place, where the points of entry are, where the guards are etc before making a game plan which if it fails means you can retry and go to a different part of the level and try a new entry-gaining tactic instead, rather the game just sticking say a flashing arrow above where you need to be and saying 'Go here, do this, and you'll be in'
You are guided around some of the levels via GTA style markers but not to the point where you don't have to think about what you are doing, and these 'go here' markers are much less prevalent during the stealthy and tactical missions, there are some frustrating parts though during some chapters which seem unnecessarily harsh on you in terms of getting spotted by the enemy during which one glance at you from the wrong guy can mean a failed chapter, what can also frustrate the player is that the chapters have no checkpoints, so failure will mean having to replay the whole chapter again from the start, this is frustrating on levels where there is a long section of play followed by a difficult section as each time you reach the difficult part and die you will have to play through the long part that you have cleared possibly stacks of times before in previous attempts, all over again each time.
Graphically Concrete Jungle varies, some of the levels look amazing and are full of atmosphere while some are rather bland and boring to look at, the one area where the graphics engine excels in my eyes is in the lighting put out by some of the scenery, there is a section where your Predator is being restrained and must break free - the camera angle seems set up to show off the lighting as much as possible here and it does a damn good job of it too, the lighting effects used for most things from security systems in Tech-vision to the visible damage on the Predators body seem to emit an eerie glow which adds atmosphere in spades.
The character models for the Predators various costumes are top drawer quality too, it could in fact be argued that the Predator models are the graphical high point of the game in terms of modelling and textures, they are superb.
I would recommend any players of Predator : Concrete Jungle to stick with the game and persevere with some of the frustrating sections, there are some real gameplay gems in store for you later on if you are a fan of Predator and stealth gameplay.