Released: Out now
Platform: Xbox 360/ PlayStation 3/ PC
Players: 1 – 18
Despite being 20 years old this month, the Aliens Vs Predator franchise is still going strong. Although anyone with only a passing interest may not see this as a great occasion, considering the last two films it’s quite frankly astonishing the audience is still there. Alas, it is, and the latest instalment has arrived in the form of a videogame. What’s more, it comes from a studio who, digitally at least, was on board with the series way back in the early Nineties: Rebellion.
Comprising of three independent campaigns – the Alien, the Predator and the Marine – it shifts radically depending on which faction you decide to take control of. We’ll start with the latter, which also happens to be the highlight. Whether it’s due to tying into both films so well, or just the atmosphere it skilfully crafts, stepping into the shoes of a lone human tasked with the unruly mission of taking on the two alien species is tantalising. Paced with extreme proficiency, every stride is taken with a tremendous touch of caution and fear. The environments are hideously dark, often making it a struggle to see the gun in your hands, and the way Aliens stalk you consistently can be terrifying. It doesn’t help that your radar, like the entire HUD, has been designed with the Alien cannon in mind. As soon as a xenomorph has your scent, the haunting bleep present in Aliens, and games from yesteryear, starts to play, leaving the more anxious player to turn around like a madman, wasting bullets as they’re shot at any wall in the hope of taking anything down. The same ideas are present for AVP’s set pieces. It’s not uncommon for certain situations to be overwhelmed by an Alien horde, trapping you in a small environment and forcing you to stand your ground. Such moments can be incredibly tense, especially when the finale asks you to run for your life towards a nearby elevator. Only then do you get your deserved period of relaxation. By and large, the Marine campaign maintains this level for its relatively short lifespan as well. The only real downfall is when you come up against a Predator. Used as what are essentially boss battles, fighting the beast made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger lacks any of the intelligence or strategic planning you’d think was necessary. Dumbed down to quite a large degree, these encounters are, unfortunately, not as exciting as we had hoped. They’re certainly not bad, but considering the licence, a lot more could have, and really should have, been achieved. Sadly, this is apparent when playing as either extraterrestrial entity.
Be it Alien or Predator, switching to one of these races from the accessible human campaign is a struggle. With complex controls for both, it takes a good hour or so before you start to even feel comfortable. Admittedly such problems are almost a requirement – the range of skills at each’s disposal are diverse and intricate – but seeing the game over screen simply because you were struggling with the control pad is not a pleasant experience. Individuals with patience, however, will eventually find aspects to enjoy. The xenomorph is the more agile of the two. Able to pounce from wall-to-wall and scurry down corridors with frightening swiftness, the Alien’s focus is aimed towards meticulously watching your foes until the time is right to strike. Picking off soldiers while the rest of their squad falls into a mad panic is the idea, and although performing this is disturbingly satisfying, there’s so much more Rebellion could’ve done with it. Witnessing the Marines getting increasingly more frantic would have given a greater edge to proceedings, visually rewarding you for your work as well as creating pockets of fear to take advantage of. Instead, after a few hours, proceedings have taken a formulaic turn.
The Predator falls foul to similar issues. Again, there’s some tolerance required while you understand how best to integrate all of its moves and once they’ve become customary AVP’s gameworld does open up a tad. Environments are now your playground, enabling you to leap to tremendous heights before using its magnitude of gadgets to confuse and decapitate anyone who dares get in the way. Throwing your voice and then ripping a man’s spine out of their body rarely gets old. These tools allow the Yautja to be the most varied of the three but, once more, it lacks the gripping nature needed to drive it forward. Attempting to stick with it for long bursts is not the best approach to take.
So despite having a slightly old-school feel and containing a campaign that’s far superior to its other two, AVP is a worthy entry within the franchise and one that clearly understands the world and narrative very well. Those with a love for the mash-up will come away feeling content whereas anyone who is drawn to it from a fresh point of view will be impressed, mainly thanks to the horrifying adventure from the perspective of the Marine. A solid entry that manages to justify its existence.
While the Predator and Alien campaigns are fiddly, AVP still creates an atmosphere that delights.
Aliens Vs Predator is availiable to buy now, on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows-based PCs, courtesy of Sega and Rebellion. For up-to-the-minute gaming news, features, interviews, reviews and previews, and much more, be sure to visit NowGamer.com and bookmark today.