They're coming through the walls!
Rebellion created a great AVP game on the PC back in the day and now we've got faster systems, better graphics and more horsepower than we had before for home machines and consoles, it's time for a new AVP experience - but is this experience a homage to the films or does it fall completely flat?
Woven through three interlinked species-specific campaigns, the story of AVP follows the events after Karl Bishop Weyland opens a veritable Pandora's Box of Predator origin, something bad happens, Aliens get loose, USCM are called in and the Predator's arrive to contain the whole thing and have a glorious hunt. It's not exactly the best story told for the genre but hey, it works and it's faithful enough to the source material.
It's a first person shooter or brawler depending on which of the 3 species you play it, you have the usual mix of control types with a skill set that you need to learn. By far the easiest to play as is the USCM character that basically just shoots things. There's no crouch here or fiddly controls to learn, point and shoot, toss a flare, turn on your flashlight and scream when the motion-tracker pings anything that's not a USCM npc backup AI character. There's the Pulse Rifle, the Smart Gun, a cool night-ops style sniper rifle and a shotgun, not to mention pistol with unlimited ammo for backup as your arsenal and you can only use 2 weapons at a time.
The pistol is always equipped and the Smart Gun takes up 2 inventory slots, so it's an all or nothing weapon. The Marine can also block and riposte, or strike with his chosen firearm to knock an Alien or Predator on its ass with a carefully timed counter. That's all you really need to know to play as the Marine, the rest is going from A-B in the short themed levels and kicking as much ass as you can manage, whilst tracking xenomorphs and turning them into acidy salsa. Humans heal with stim-packs.
The Predator is armed with several high-tech gadgets that will be familiar to fans of the films and comics, has brutal wrist blades and can leap around the scenery or onto unsuspecting characters. He can cloak for an unlimited amount of time, use a plasma caster or combi-stick (spear) for distance combat. His mask works just like the movies with several vision modes, and the ability to distract human prey to a specific location useful for setting up the perfect trophy-kill ambush. The Predator can stealth kill enemies and has several combination attacks to put some serious hurt on their foes. Predators can suck the energy from human power sources and use it to replenish their stores; they heal via the use of health shards that work like human stim-packs.
The Alien is tricky to use at first, since they can traverse on any surface, running up walls, taking out lights to cloak the area in darkness and hissing to lure in unsuspecting prey. Their vision automatically adapts to the luminescence or lack of it, in an area. They are armed with claws and teeth, can use their tails to smash out lights or lash out at enemies in combat. The Aliens health regenerates via head bites and it can dish out some vicious damage in combat with its combination of claws and tail attacks. The Alien also gets around via vents which can be freely entered/exited and can be used to get the drop on prey.
Out of all the 3 stories the Alien story is perhaps by far the most interesting.
In combat you have a fast attack, a heavy attack and as the Alien and Predator, leaping or alternate attacks depending. A fast attack can break a heavy attack and you can block then swiftly counter, it is a bit clunky at times but works well enough once you get the hang of it.
There are numerous checkpoints throughout the game and you can save at any time as well.
All 3 campaigns are short and it's possible to blast through the stories in under a day, there are 2 survival maps that can be played single player as well, but these offer nothing substantial and are fairly frustrating after being able to play Halo ODST and Gears of Wars 2's horde-style survival modes, not to mention L4D and L4D2.
There are some issues with the Alien's traversal from time and time and the combat can seem clunky at first, there are some times that the physics seem to be a little off and for every awesome AVP style moment there are some frustrating ones from the game's engine itself. Some doors can be tricky to move through as an Alien especially if you have auto-traverse on and you can often find yourself on a ceiling when you really wanted to be on a wall stalking the poor sap that had no idea you were there. The Alien has been given a nice navigation aid though in terms of its minimal hud marker, with a point that always shows where down is in relation to the creature.
The gameplay does a good job of replicating the feel of the 3 species, you feel like a sneaky stalker as the Alien, a stealthy hunter as the Predator and an embattled warrior as the USCM.
I actually like the graphics for the game, they're gritty and they have the right feel about them. Rebellion seems to have taken the source material to heart and produced a fairly faithful view of the Aliens and Predator world with the Marine equipment textures and design being the star of the show. There's something immensely satisfying about finding a Smart Gun and letting rip with a staccato stream of hot lead into the Aliens all around you, hearing them squeal and hiss as they get nailed.
The look of both the Alien and the Predator as well as the colony, swamp and jungle environments, Alien Hive and so forth have been replicated pretty faithfully. There's a nice use of light/shadow in the game and dynamic lighting, quality texturing, though whilst there was no tearing we could see there were moments where the shadows and a few other close-up textures suffered from jaggies and the like.
The stealth and finishing moves in the game are the star here, they are visceral and fit in with the Alien and Predator style of combat based on the species in question. They evoke a brutal and satisfying feeling when playing as either of these and you get the perfect quiet takedown. They are animated beautifully and on the whole the game has some great animation, especially when the Aliens swarm you and you see their tails swishing around from side to side, like reptilian cats.
The AI in the game is a mixed bag, it works beautifully some times and other times it just decides to take a break and have a cigarette for about ten seconds. The Alien AI can use the environment, vents and the like, it can traverse the walls but sometimes has a problem where it gets stuck and becomes an easy target. The Marine AI is fairly decent and some of the more tenacious soldiers provide a solid challenge when hunting them down as a Predator or Alien. The Predator AI is actually fairly good and will make use of its cloaking device, weapons and advanced agility.
There's a fairly good physics system in the game, this is mostly ragdoll in terms of enemies and a few explosions from damaged gas canisters. There's not much else you can say about it since it does not really need anything else, no walls come tumbling down from a massive plasma caster hit or a strong blow etc. There were some odd physics moments when bodies shot up into the air and landed several feet away from an Alien's tail blow, this was more amusing than annoying though.
The pure high point to the game, this is where the sound library really comes into effect. Aliens sound like Aliens, Predator's sound like Predators and the mask's tell-tale swish as it switches vision modes is enough to bring out geeky-smiles from fanboys who watch the game being played. The rattle of the Pulse Rifle, or the thunder of the Smart Gun has been replicated perfectly and the other audio is likewise up to snuff, it's a great audio package all round.
A good quality thumping Aliens style score backs the action in the game; it would have been nice to see a bit more in terms of Alien-themes since the music tends to be the same throughout regardless of the species that you're playing as.
Lance Henrikson steals the show as Karl Bishop Weyland bringing his dulcet tones of evil to the performance, the rest is a competent cast and they do a fairly good job bringing the various characters to life. The Dialogue/Script is a little hoky in places but again, it does a credible job of creating the atmosphere of a gung-ho group of USCM or dubious scientists such as Weyland's own corporate doctors.
After completing the rather short story based campaigns the multiplayer in AVP is balanced, comes with a variety of modes and setting that you can tweak. There are modes such as Infestation where one player is the Alien and has to kill the other players; each dead player respawns as an Alien and the fun just keeps on rolling in.
Predator hunt lets you play as the Predator if you kill the Predator; it's also the only way you can score.
There's deathmatch (yawn) and species deathmatch (more fun) as well as a few other modes and a 2 map cooperative (4 player) survival mode that is lack-lustre compared to Firefight from Halo ODST, Horde Mode from Gears of War 2 and Survival from L4D 1 and 2. The maps are uninspiring and bland, with very little in the way of features compared to the original bunker-style maps from AVP on the PC.
The game in terms of multiplayer is extremely balanced already and whilst the Predators are dangerous and seem overpowered, you can usually only have 2 on a map at any time compared to the Aliens and Marines.
It's a fun romp that's not going to knock Modern Warfare 2 off the top spot in terms of MP but it's enough to pad out the very short single player. However for me, who thrives on single player, with no cooperative campaign, this game falls short in multiplayer fun.
Whilst not a terrible game, it's one that could have done with a bit more polish and screamed for at least a Marine based cooperative gameplay story. It is faithful to the core material and designed to appeal to Aliens, Marine and Predator fans alike. There's something to be said about making a good solid game based on this kind of material and whilst it's not an ambitious rendition of the AVP franchise, it's fun enough until you grow tired of the multiplayer and the lack of maps until DLC pops up.
It is worth a play for definite.