Review | Aliens vs. Predator
Format: PC/Xbox 360/PS3 | Genre: FPS | Publisher: Sega | Developer: Rebellion | Release date: 19/02/10 | RRP: £29.99-£39.99
It would be so easy to ignore the aliens, the predators, the motion tracker, the vision modes, the face-huggers and the chest-bursters, and look at this game from a purely detached, cold, emotionless void, pointing out design flaws and mediocrities, coming to the conclusion that, really, this is a game stuck ten years in the past, and one that doesn’t really do anything new.
Problem is, all those things do something to you if you’ve seen the films. Hearing the faint patter of the motion tracker as you slowly move through acid-burned corridors, praying you won’t hear the tell-tale blip of an alien coming up on you. The slightly dated look of the Predator’s cloak, all refraction and blur, coupled with the swish and 80s sci-fi of his vision modes switching to thermal. The rattling hiss of the alien just before it bites someone’s face off. All these things pull you into the world that has become all but an institution in recent years.
So no, you can’t look at this game in isolation of these things.
There’s a reason there are so many god-awful licensed games cluttering up the shelves of your local retailer. There’s an automatic wish-fulfilment in a developer providing you with a world that you’ve only ever been able to passively experience. Suddenly, instead of watching the marines in Aliens, you’re one of them, and everything’s twice as frightening. It’s an important fact to lay out, because it’s going to colour everything else beyond it. Essentially, Aliens vs. Predator works because, well, it’s Aliens vs. Predator.
ALL IN ORDER
Obviously, that needs elaboration. There’s a reason so many licensed games fall flat on their face, and give the impression of a cheap tie-in to rake in as much cash as possible. The immediate reason AvP works so well is that it’s probably the only license in existence that makes complete sense as a game. The Motion Tracker is perfect because it’s essentially a pseudo-HUD, even in the films. It’s your mini-map, right there in the bottom of their vision, and transposing that into a game just makes sense. And aliens are a natural enemy. They don’t need elaborate scripting or reams of dialogue. Hell, they don’t even use cover. To get aliens right all you need to do is have lots of them, and let them run all over the walls once you’ve turned out the lights. Flashes of shiny black tail retreating up the wall are easily terrifying.
On top of all this you’ve got the predator, space dick extraordinaire. He’s purely there to rain on everyone’s parade. He can take on a dozen aliens in hand to hand combat, and his ranged arsenal far outmatches anything the marines can throw at him. Oh, and on top of all that, he’s invisible. The game tries to focus things on the fight between alien and predator, but I always perceived him as the interloper; he’s there to do what he wants, and the aliens and humans are just in his way, having their own little fight.
AvP has always been an odd beast when it comes to singleplayer campaigns, because it attempts to craft three separate, but interlinking, stories together, to create some sort of emergent narrative from all three. There’s something excellent about hearing about stuff going on in the Marine campaign while you bounce around a map as the predator. One of my favourite bits of the game was when, after killing a boss as a marine, you come across the remains of the boss as predator, after your predator chums are warning you of this big fight. It’s an anti-climax that works, surprisingly.