Aliens vs. Predator
First-person sci fi horror shooter that promises lots of variety and innovative multiplayer modes.
A brutal three-way conflict begins as the Colonial Marines, Xenomorph Aliens and the mysterious extraterrestrial tribal species known as the Predators happen to cross paths on planet BG 386. Each race is left to their own devices when these hostile agendas clash, but who is the rightful victor in a conflict left untouched by juridical and political powers? And more importantly; what is going on behind the scenes as the scientist and researcher Karl Bishop Weyland manages to open up an ancient and mysterious vault built by the Predators?
Aliens vs. Predator is a crossover universe that’s instantly recognizable as an interesting concept for anyone who has seen the now cult sci fi horror movies Alien from 1979 and Predator from 1987. Both the Alien and the Predator should easily make it to anyone’s top ten best movie monsters list – they’re really genuinely well designed and worthy of the praise. The Aliens vs. Predator franchise has seen quite a few video game adaptations in the past, but this 2010 title is an entirely new chapter with a new, stand alone storyline.
This is a first-person shooter type game where you can play as either the Colonial Marines, the Alien or the Predator. The game mainly consists of three separate single player campaigns in which you get to follow a series of events from three different view points, and some varied multiplayer game modes.
Playing as the Marines your mission is simply to survive a surprise attack and to ultimately eliminate the Alien Queen who has a hive somewhere on the planet. The Aliens on the other hand are trying to hinder the Marine intrusion and recover from the assault on their queen. The Predator is on a hunt to avenge his fallen tribesmen and to stop the human researchers from violating their sacred grounds.
The default controls for this game is a standard mouse and keyboard setup. You’ll move around pressing the W, A, S and D keys and activating your various special abilities and switching equipped weapons using nearby keys. Each playable race has its own keyboard setup, but by default they’re pretty much the same, meaning that if you know one of them you’ll be able to adapt to another in no time. You can adjust your keys in any way you want through the options screen.
Alien vs. Predator for PC has native support for Xbox 360 controller pads. For some reason it does not support other USB controllers.
Playing as these powerful extraterrestrial races demand some unique controls – the Predator can make targeted leaps and the Alien can climb upside down or sideways on walls. The Predator leap is performed by holding the Shift-key while targeting the desired destination of your leap. Jumping while having this target activated will make the Predator jump to that destination. This leap will allow him to jump further and higher than otherwise possible, but it is also a bit haphazard when used in a stressful situation – either the target marker won’t appear where you want it, or it may not appear at all. It’s quite sensitive and seems to have a mind of its own. When it bides your will though, you’ll be able to use it to great effect.
The wall climbing feature of the Aliens is also a bit unwieldy if done wrong. The default settings will automatically climb any surface you approach, which easily becomes disorienting and troublesome to manage. This is because the camera view automatically adjusts to align with the surface you’re climbing, and when this adjustment happens rapidly it’s impossible to keep track of where you’re going. By turning the automatic wall climbing option off, you’ll have better control of when you want to climb and what. It will require more button presses from you, but it’s worth it.
Every now and then, regardless of whom you play as you’ll be caught in a melee combat. Melee combat is extremely deadly in this game – as the Alien and Predator you can catch an opponent and perform special finishing moves. The basic gist of melee combat is that you can block incoming attacks with timed mouse button presses, and when the opportunity arises, deliver your own attacks. If you stun your opponent with a heavy blow there’s a bigger chance that your finishing move will execute correctly – otherwise your opponent may break free by countering your grab. You can, of course, counter grabs yourself, but it will also require well-timed button presses.
Seeing that the melee combat has some depth, it isn’t exactly easy to grasp. It is, in fact quite cryptic, mostly because the game is very picky with when exactly you can perform grabs.
As the game allows you to play with three entirely different characters, it promises variety and many unique experiences. Some of the things you’ll get to do in this game include; running around in an abandoned spaceship with only a flashlight and flares as light sources fighting the savage Alien intruders, stalking in the darkness and killing off people one by one as both the Predator and the Alien, as well as decapitating unsuspecting victims and enjoying the nimble acrobatics of these two extraterrestrial species. Shortly put; this is an action packed game that has a healthy amount of sci fi horror elements.
The single player campaigns cleverly tell a three-way story revolving around the same key events, meaning that you’ll get to revisit some locations but from different view points. It’s also worth noting that the campaigns are chronologically arranged so that you should play the Marine campaign first, followed by the Predator one and finish it off with the Alien’s. The first play-through of the three campaigns will take around ten to twelve hours on average and it can be played on four different difficulty levels.
The hardest difficulty level (called Nightmare) requires you to clear each level without the convenience of using checkpoints, so there’s definitely some hardcore challenge there. Otherwise the game follows the modern trend of evenly spaced checkpoints where you can resume your game if you happen to die – there’s no other way to save or load your progress so the process is entirely automated. The checkpoints are evenly spaced and typically only one combat encounter away so they’re plentiful all the way through.
If anything, it could be argued that there’s no middle ground between the Nightmare- and the Hard setting and that Easy and Normal feel pretty much the same. Experienced players will also find that the Hard setting is typically not challenging enough. In this respect the game is a bit too easy to beat – sure you’ll probably die quite a few times on the first play-through, but this isn’t because there’s so much genuine challenge. Rather, it is because you haven’t yet figured out a tactic that works for the given situation. Occasionally it feels as if the game is designed to be played in a specific way, which of course is restricting.
Every time you die you’ll have an option to change difficulty level. This feature requires you to restart your current mission though. This is a rather useless feature, but hopefully someone is happy to have it in there.
The Marine campaign successfully captures the panicked struggle of a lone soldier facing the nasty Aliens first hand. It plays much like a survival horror action game. The bread and butter of this campaign is the run and gun element in which you can use five different military weapons; handgun, pulse rifle, shotgun, flamethrower and the iconic Smartgun that can scan through walls and automatically aim the fire. The handgun has unlimited ammo, and even though it is relatively weak it makes sure that you’ll always be able to defend yourself.
Iconic to the original Alien movie, the marines are also equipped with special motion trackers that can detect enemy movement within 30 meters. Alien vs. Predator enthusiasts will note that the motion trackers in this game will not register friendly targets and other non-hostile movement, making it a bit too reliable. It also reveals that enemies are popping up from thin air.
When get hurt you’ll see that light damage will heal up automatically, but if your health bar reaches a certain point, it won’t heal up beyond that without the use of a health stim, which can be found lying around here and there. You can only carry two weapons at a time other than the handgun, so sooner or later you will need to choose one weapon over the other. Typically this choice would depend on your personal preferences and what type of situation you are in, but if you are trigger happy at all, you may find that you’ve ran out of bullets and thus need to change weapons.
The Predator campaign focuses on stealth gameplay and the use of the Predator’s various tools and tricks, the most unique one being the ability to lure humanoid targets with recorded voice samples. The Predator is able to play sounds and make it appear to emit from a nearby location, much like a ventriloquist if you will. The target human will investigate what he thinks is the source of the sound, giving the Predator a perfect opportunity to catch him either separated from a group or off guard. Predator can also turn virtually invisible to the naked eye with the use of his high-tech cloaking ability. Needless to say, this is a huge advantage when hunting in populated areas.
The Predator also has the ability to switch between view modes, either using a thermogram type technology, which is perfect for spotting humanoid prey, or a Xenomorph sensitive filter. He also has the ability to magnify his eye sight which allows him to observe his surroundings with uncanny accuracy.
The Predator has a shoulder cannon which is very powerful but quickly drains his energy supply. Through the story he’ll also get to use proximity mines, a throwing spear and the Smart-Disc which is a thrown disc weapon that can be guided while it is in the air.
The Predator is a badass stealthy killing machine, and playing as one certainly gives you that feeling. He can take quite a lot of punishment, and much like the Marines, he can heal up light wounds over time. He can also use special shards that heal wounds, as well as use batteries to charge his energy driven weapons. It’s worth noting that the cloaking ability and view modes do not use up energy, so you can really take your time using these abilities if you want.
In the Alien campaign you play as an Alien who has been raised in a human laboratory. You must try to escape from captivity, which you’ll find is a little harder than it may seem at first. This campaign also has a focus on stealth and hiding in the darkness, waiting for the right opportunity to strike. The Xenomorph Aliens are very nimble and can climb unhindered on almost any surface, even ceilings, and they can fall great distances without taking damage. You’ll be crawling in air ducts, underground tunnels, sewers and pouncing violently on unsuspecting victims while exploring the Marine’s facilities. As the Alien, your biggest strength is your speed.
You can knock out lights and this is supposed to make it easier to hide from enemies. You never need to use this in the campaign though, and even if you do, you can’t rely on it to work very well.
One of the most useful features of the Aliens is that they can focus attention on targets, and this is done by holding the Shift-key. If you are close enough to a target and focus on it, you can perform a pouncing attack, which typically throws it off-balance, giving you a chance to deliver massive damage with your claws. If you’re going head-on against an enemy, this would be your best bet.
The Alien can make a hissing sound that, if heard by an CPU controlled Marine, will provoke him into investigating the sound. This can be used to lure enemies into ambushes, but to our experience it isn’t very useful. Also, if you get detected in a bad spot you can typically run away and hide with no problems using the Alien’s dazzling speed dash. The Alien can regenerate any damage taken if given enough time and it can also eat heads to help the regeneration process.
Aliens also have the ability to sense other living entities through walls. This makes it easy to make ambushes and sneak attacks, especially in multiplayer.
Each race has its own way of navigating through the environment. Marines have an arrow on their radar showing where you’re supposed to go next. Predators have points of interest marked on their HUD, and Aliens have an arrow pointing them towards their next objective. You’re pretty much lead by the hand at all times and levels tend to have a linear design – no surprises there.
Playing the game through you’ll realize that there are lots of missed opportunities here. Sure automated Sentry guns and hatching Facehugger eggs are great elements, but there easily could have been more varied problem solving, more sneaking and more killing in the game, given the rich universe in which the game takes place. Sure, weapons have alternate fire modes, and that’s cool – but it isn’t quite enough in the long run.
As the game uses the automatic checkpoint save system, you can’t easily share the game with family and friends as you can only save one game at a time. It may not be a big deal for most, but it’s still an unnecessary mechanic that hinders how legit customers use their software – there’s no reason we should have to stand for it. Also keep in mind that the game requires Steam software to run.
As mentioned the multiplayer player base isn’t very big, but there’s still a few full servers running, and we suspect that it will stay that way for quite some time yet.
The multiplayer portion of the game offers quite a few interesting and creative game modes. These are Survivor (co-op), Predator Hunt, Infestation, Death Match, Species Death Match, Mixed Species Death Match and Domination.
Multiplayer is divided into Ranked- and Player matches. Ranked matches will earn you XP points and ranks, which in turn enables automated skill-based matchmaking and team balancing. Players can’t host their own Ranked matches – these are played on dedicated servers. You can search for servers that run your preferred game mode or just join any available game but since the player base for Ranked matches seems to be low, it’s hard to get a game running.
Player matches can be hosted and created by players, and there are also dedicated servers for them. Scandinavian players such as ourselves will face high pings on most of the available servers, so we’re left with two crummy options: either live with it or setup your own server.
LAN multiplayer is available as a third option though, so if you have friends on a network, it may be a very fun way to kill off some time.
We’ll go through the various multiplayer modes here:
Survivor (co-op) is a four player game mode where you play cooperatively in a team of Marines trying to survive in a sector infested with Aliens. You can collect ammo, health stims and weapons as you fight off wave after wave of AI controlled Aliens. The goal here is to survive for as long as possible.
In Predator Hunt one player will begin the game as the Predator. All other players are teamed up as a squad of Marines trying to hunt the Predator down. The one who plays the Predator will obviously be at an advantage as he potentially is able to rake in some easy kills, but if a Marine manages to kill the Predator, that Marine player will become the Predator instead. This game mode easily becomes a tense and terrifying cat and mouse game where the Marines often find themselves outmatched and outwitted.
The Infestation game mode will once again team up the Marines in one squad, but here one player will assume the Alien role. When a Marine gets killed, that player will also become an Alien and this goes on until all Marines are killed or until time runs out.
The various Death Match variants are either free-for-all or teamed kill-or-be-killed game modes where the goal is to score most kills. It’s mindless fun, and while pitting the races against each other like this may not be the most balanced game experience, it sure is fun. Respawn times are typically short, so the action just keeps going until someone reaches the target score.
- In Domination mode you fight in teams to conquer control points on the map. There are three control points spread out on the map, and the team that holds the most points when the time runs out is declared the winner.
On top of these game modes, there are online leaderboards and an online lobby feature that lets you invite players into a group so that you can join games together.
Obviously multiplayer balance is a sensitive issue, and with exotic game modes like these mentioned above, there’s bound to be some problems. For example what happens if the weakest player in the game starts as the Alien in the Infestation mode? He will be pushed over hard, and the experience loses entertainment value. But still it’s refreshing to see these interesting game modes in play and it’s also worth mentioning that the multiplayer levels are well designed and interesting to play on.
The finishing moves and instant stealth kills are also available in multiplayer. As these moves take a few seconds to perform, there’s a possibility that you’ll be caught in the act by a hostile player. If this happens, he’ll have the upper hand and be able to finish you off while you’re busy. We get that a killing blow will require you to take a risk, and it works okay, but wouldn’t it be cooler if you could cancel the killing blow if you sensed that someone was coming, thus being able to save yourself?
The multiplayer maps are based on locations from the single player campaign and are pretty varied, but since there are only eight maps available in the retail package it feels a little on the thin side. There are two downloadable map packs available that add extra maps and multiplayer game modes, but this only further spreads out the player base, making it harder to find people to play with. Thus, adding multiplayer maps to a competitive game and charging for them is not very well thought out to say the least.
Aliens vs. Predator lets your play the Survivor game mode in single player, and there is some extra stuff do for the player who wants to collect extras such as Achievements and hidden items. In the Marine campaign you’ll come across voice recorders that have audio diary entries on them. These are voiced messages that tell stories and (as vaguely as possible) document events that have happened recently. The other collectibles are lost tribal heirlooms that the Predators are on the lookout for. Aliens will too have to search the environments carefully because they are out to destroy jelly containers often found in the strangest of places. This is all optional stuff though, and only accounts for Achievements on your Steam account.
Some of the levels you’ll explore look great, like straight from the movies. There are some outdoor areas that look less convincing though. The jungle area in the game doesn’t look much like a jungle, and the other outdoor areas are small and enclosed by high mountains – it just doesn’t look convincing. However, Alien vs. Predator is a good-looking game overall. It shines in portraying the dark corridors of abandoned Colony stations. The game has a fair deal of caves and underground systems and it looks good too. Everything has a dark tone to it, and everything tends to be glistering in a forbidding darkness. It’s a cool style overall, but the graphical effects are a little overdone.
This is a very violent and gory game. The finishing moves are extremely graphic and pretty damn cool overall. If there’s one thing you remember from this game, it’s the finishing moves.
The Aliens look slimy and are as intimidating as ever, and their animations are well done. The Alien has a fantastic design and seeing them up close is strangely fascinating. The Predator also looks great with the cloaking ability and iconic three dot laser sight.
There are also accurate light- and shadow effects in place, which further increase the creepy atmosphere of the game.
Sound and music is a crucial element when it comes to creating a horror atmosphere. This game does have a cinematic soundtrack that captures the setting well. The only problem with the music is that it only appears to be dynamic. It occasionally picks up in intensity as if something horrible was about to happen, but it’s only how the music goes. Other than that, the soundtrack gets the job done well.
The sound effects are mostly just about perfect – the Predator’s snarling is bone chilling and simply awesome, but sadly doesn’t get enough screen-time. Voices that come from a distance will sound muffled – sometimes even when they shouldn’t, which causes some confusion until you realize that it’s just the way the game is. Everything else is grand; the Alien’s squealing is always alerting, and the sustained noise of pulse rifles going off is very much iconic to the franchise.
There is a whole lot of voice acting in the game, and sadly some of it is pretty bad. At worst, it sounds like it’s been read from a script, and that’s not a good thing. Luckily there’s some good voice acting in the game too.
Alien vs. Predator is a good game with interesting multiplayer options. As this is a truly unique crossover universe, the potential is huge and there’s always room for more innovation and clever ideas. Sadly not all wishes can be granted, and game designers are bound to make mistakes here and there, but on the whole, this is a worthy title for the franchise.
If you are a fan of the old sci fi horror movies and enjoy playing action packed first-person shooters, you’re obviously in the market for this one. Chances are that you’ll have a few great, memorable gaming moments, too.