Aliens vs Predator: hands – on preview

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This was one of my most anticipated games of the expo. It’s a cool license, that has been exploited surprisingly rarely in the world of video games. So when I heard another game was coming – and it was by Rebellion, who made the excellent PC Aliens vs Predator game – the geek in me was threatening to break out and start buying toys in their original packaging for five figure sums. Well, not quite, but I was chuffed to bits to see it would be playable at the expo. I was slightly disappointed to find that the single player story mode wasn’t present, but trying out the multiplayer against other human beings – albeit just three of them (the final build will support 18 players) – was the next best thing.

The playable demo had been finished just nine days ago, so I could be sure of playing the very latest version. The available map had an ancient ruins/jungle theme, with the interior sections being rather dark. This was intentional, to help promote the horror – style atmosphere (which isn’t easy to maintain in a multiplayer experience). This atmosphere can’t be explained properly without discussing the differences between each species:

The human marines are a victim of the popularity of the Alien movies. The ‘space marine’ has become the most overused, unwelcome cliché in FPS games; but at least here you have the satisfaction of knowing you’re playing as the original real deal. The marines play largely as you’d expect; point and shoot, pick up ammo and weapon pickups, sprint at the cost of being temporarily unable to draw your weapon, use melee in an emergency. You also have a torch (do you leave it on for a better view, or turn it off to make yourself less of a target?) and – of course – a motion tracker. You can at least feel instantly familiar with the controls and playing style playing as a marine.

Aliens play almost exactly as you might remember from the previously mentioned PC game. They’re fast, can hide well in the shadows, and can leap onto unsuspecting enemies from a distance. Best of all perhaps, they can scamper up walls and even along ceilings – though it’s easy to get disorientated whilst doing so. They have no projectile attacks though (no acid spitting, not in the demo build at least), so have to make the best use possible of their speed and agility.

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Then there’s the Predator, who thankfully is every bit as cool to step behind the mask of as it should be. You get the cloaking device, the different vision modes, the lock – on missile (which kills anything instantly), the glaive and, though nobody seemed to have found them whilst playing the demo, apparently mines. On top of all that, the Predator can leap huge distances in any direction.

These three very different characters turn the bog standard deathmatch into a brand new experience. Did I just see an Alien crawl round the top of that tree? Damn, I just spotted a Predator at the top of that Pillar training its laser sight on me! I just heard an assault rifle and a shotgun; how close are those marines?

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Another game mode I tried seemed to go under the name of ‘Predator Hunt’. The basic premise is that everybody playing is a marine on the same side, with the exception of one player who is cast as the Predator. The marines work together to hunt and kill the Predator and, when it’s taken down, whoever got the kill is taken off the map and respawns as the new Predator. This idea of pitting one player against all the others is nothing new; but if whoever plays as the Predator stalks the marines, it can be a tense and exciting experience. The marines must rely on their motion trackers, which doesn’t differentiate between friend and foe – unless the Predator is very close, in which case its blip glows slightly brighter than the others.

One thing that threatens to overpower the multiplayer is the presence of ‘stealth kills’ for the Predator and Alien. Play as one of these, and you can get a one – hit melee kill if you get behind or to the side of any character (at a generous distance). The problem is, the game makes no attempt to distinguish between stealth kills that are made by players that haven’t been spotted, and stealth kills that result from dancing round the opponent till the button prompt appears. In addition, each ‘stealth kill’ involves an animation of five seconds or so that leaves both players wide open to attack.

Nonetheless, it was great fun and, with tweaking in all the right places, could make for an excellent online experience.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

2 comments

  1. Anthony H /

    I’m definitely looking forward to this one and I must say that the Aliens sound quite cool, as the fear that hides in the darkness, as opposed to the predator, the fear that hides anywhere because he’s invisible.

    The Predator Hunt mode sounds quite cool and reminds me of an awesome source mod called The Hidden. Most the players are marines, but one is The Hidden, an experiment gone wrong who is completely invisible, but armed only with a knife and pipe bombs. The most fun part of it all is you can pick up the marines you kill as The Hidden and pin their lifeless rag dolls to walls.

    I imagine with the Predator being invisible, armed with a knife, but also missiles, the tri dot shoulder cannon thing and some other pretty nasty stuff will make the lone player feel an awful lot more powerful, like he has the advantage despit being out numbered.

    I just hope that the marines won’t just become the meaty obstacle that gets simply hurdled by Aliens and Predators.

  2. Michael J /

    The Marines Campaign in the original AvP was fantastic, the bleeping of the motion sensor was almost as frightening as what was actually lurking in the dark.
    I wonder though if they’ll take the difficulty down several notches as seems to be the case with a lot of newer games, the original AVP was so harrowing and scary to play as a Marine, because it was difficult, not despite it.

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