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Tuesday | September 25, 2018
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Aliens vs Predator (Preview)

Aliens vs Predator (Preview)

Aliens vs Predator
We here at GamingHeaven can remember back to far flung days when the original Aliens Versus Predator was a reason to purchase the largely forgotten Atari Jaguar. Since then each version has looked to ramp up the atmosphere, authenticity and action of a crossover franchise that is for many a mash-up of 80s nostalgia taken to a glorious extreme. The storyline is fairly straightforward – Colonial Marines, the lethal Xenomorph and the universe’s ultimate hunter, the Predator, have all conspired to end up at the same place at the same time. An inter-species tear-up ensues and it’s up to us to guide our selected race to victory completing a series of objectives. As this latest incarnation from Rebellion puts it "Hunter, Survivor, Prey – which will you be?"

The demo doesn’t feature any of the one player campaign but instead is a single map deathmatch mode for up to eight players. Upon loading it and navigating through the Weyland Yutani corporation themed menus – nice touch – there is an automated match making system, which was subject to some glitches but has since been patched and so the selected character is plunged into battle.

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The game handles somewhere between Quake and Modern Warfare. The maps in particular are very Quake-esque in that they are multi-leveled with set respawn points and sections where it is possible to pick up ammo, health and weapons. The movement of the characters is more like a Modern Warfare title. Hold down sprint and the gun is put to one side with a huff and puff – or gurgle, or growl depending on our species – but the gun stops shorts of using an “iron sight” system. The one thing the movement really seems to lack is a genuine sense of pace and urgency. Everything seems a little bit slower than previous versions. Even the usually rapid Xenomorph feels a bit sluggish to its earlier counterparts and it does take a bit of getting used to.

In terms of atmosphere the game isn’t far off. The visuals look straight out of the universe, with the dimly lit corridors, the organic surfaces of the Alien hives, the flashing orange lights in the cargo bays. The light effects are in particular a key component of the game, with the Marine’s torch being used to push back the darkness and see what lurks in the distance. The Predator class can bypass this by switching to his trademark thermal or xenomorph detection views and their invisibility cloak is lovingly rendered as the hulking heat shimmer we remember tormenting Arnie and company in the jungle all those years ago. Their triangular targeting system lurches out of the shadows in unbreakable beams and when we shoot them their luminous blood splatters on to surfaces. In this regard it ticks all the boxes expected from an AVP title.

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The sound is also gloriously authentic, culled directly from the movies. The Marine’s rifle sounds exactly like the ones from ALIENS, Predator thermal vision has the heartbeat rumbling over the top and Aliens squeal and screech like amplified insects. The sounds of combat come echoing down corridors and it is a key part to playing the game effectively that players learn to be able to pinpoint what is going on. When the sounds of a claw-off between Alien and Predator are round the corner, time it right and there will be two easy kills. Time it wrong and they’ll probably tear the character to pieces before getting back to their brawling.

The tactical elements of the game cannot be underplayed and they are more important than they have been before. Each species has its very own distinct style, that is nothing new but this time around it does feel like a must to adapt a playing style to their unique traits if the player is to have any modicum of success. The squishy marine has to keep on the move at all times as to stay still is to get caught in close combat, which almost always invariably results in death. It becomes easier to run and gun thanks to the authentic motion detector that gives the tension building beeps whenever something is closing in. Combined with the torch on the rifle it pays to be super-alert at all times, understanding that threats can come from all angles. The marine is probably the easiest race to simply pick up and play as anyone who has played any form of FPS at all will be immediately at home with their style.

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The Predator is a slow lumbering tank, capable of absorbing a lot of damage, healing and has a variety of weapons that make it effective in both close combat and at a distance. It has a selection of weapons including the wrist claws, the already mentioned shoulder mounted laser gun and the boomerang style razor disc. The latter can be used to kill multiple opponents from a distance if they line up just right and it is the most powerful ranged weapon available on the demo, seeming to dish out instance death to anyone it carves through. While the Predator is slow, he can take a lot of punishment and with his options to change his vision types he can usually see most threats coming. The only stumbling block seems to be that the controls for using this array of technology seem to be clumsily assembled and at times the player will be holding down a lot of buttons simply to shoot at something.

The most challenging race is without doubt the Xenomorph who has to use terrain, darkness and timing to be truly effective. The racial bonuses for this character are that they can climb on any surface, are the fastest moving in the game and can see every character in the map with a species specific coloured outline through walls. While it might sound like a huge advantage in theory, in practice it isn’t. The Alien body is fragile and easily broken by unfriendly fire so stealth is the way to rack up the body count. To do this requires intelligence and perfect timing. The melee system incorporates the ability to get behind an enemy and grab them from behind, which in the Alien’s case is the best way to go about business. Do it right and an animated death sequence is played showing either a tail poking through a chest, claws ripping through limbs or the mouth-within-a-mouth bursting open a head. Not that this means a frontal assault is a bad idea but it does pose more of a threat and it needs to be timed to perfection to come out of it unscathed. A Xenomorph corpse is also a dangerous prospect, the acidic blood in particular doing serious damage to the marines that can result in death for the unlucky recipient.

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There will also be an experience system introduced in the final game that will allow players to level up in ranked play and unlock new skins. Do something outside of our species’ comfort zone and the experience awarded is greater. Whether or not there will be any other features, such as unique weapons hasn’t been revealed at this stage but skins alone would seem a little bit of a poor pay-off for a multiplayer game, especially in this day and age with a host of titles presenting players with bells, whistles and genuine rewards for the amount of hours they invest.

In terms of bugs there were a few of note that we hope would be ironed out by the final game. The match making system, even post patch, seems to be a little bit random and not very satisfyingly constructed. It is entirely possible to retry the search for a quick game a few times and end up with a better option on the third attempt than on the first, which would raise questions about the game search criteria using this method. Sometimes the sound seems to glitch resulting in loops that only stop at the point of death, or feedback type noises that stay until a return to the menu system is made. The funniest of the bugs encountered has to be involving the Alien corpses. As their corpse placement has an impact on the game environment due to their blood dealing damage to players, they sometimes twitch and judder to the point where they are moving around the map despite being under nobody’s control. All minor quibbles in truth and ones that should be ironed out by the time of general release.

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What the latest Aliens Versus Predator game presents is a very solid shooter that fans of the series and indeed the FPS genre will enjoy but as well as losing some of that instant “pick up and play” appeal that previous versions had, it has lost some of the charm and nice touches that made them such a joy. Predators don’t take trophies from their victims and give victory jeers any more, the Aliens don’t feel quite as Alien as they used to and the Marines could be just any other foot soldier from any other game were it not for the gun they are holding. While the map might have looked the part, it lacked the features of old… No lifts, no moving walkways, no terrain that can be destroyed. It feels like the usual “ramps and boxes” type level design everyone has seen a thousand times before. Strip away the AVP setting and there’s not a lot here that is original or new, which wouldn’t be a problem in itself if the game had retained some of the features from earlier versions that elevated those games beyond their humble structure.

It is still early days for the game and Rebellion have kept their cards close to their chest before this demo, so it is impossible to judge what new features we will see in the finished product. The demo felt impressive at first, waves of nostalgia and genuine atmosphere combining to generate excitement but within a few hours those had quickly dissipated, mainly due to the map design. Still, we can’t wait to see how much more the full game has to offer when it is released later this month.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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