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Thursday | August 16, 2018
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Aliens vs Predator (PC)

Aliens vs Predator (PC)

Aliens vs Predator
People who grew up in the eighties know two things – the first being that Aliens was amazing and the second being that Predator was also amazing. This would lead anyone from that time to arrive at the conclusion that combining the two would be very much a wining idea. So it proved across various systems, the nostalgia mash-up delivering what many of us had hoped for down the years. Much like the films the previous incarnations of this game franchise have stood the test of time and still impress. This is of course a blessing and a curse for anyone that tries to follow on from what has gone before – there will be a lot of interest but there will also be elevated expectations.

Enter Rebellion who were keen to push the game to new heights in an era where the multiplayer experience has become a defining one, As well as delivering a finished product that would appease long term fans of the films and games alike.
We saw with the demo they had certainly delivered an experience brimming with authenticity; the motion sensor for the Marine beeps its panic-inducing staccato, the Predator’s heat sensor is presented with the pounding heartbeat, the Aliens hiss and screech like a pot of boiling reptiles. Sure, on the surface it would be easy to get swept away, pulled out into a sea of memory by an undertow of nostalgia. However as with all things that are overtly polished and immaculately presented there is always the question about what lies beneath.

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With Rebellion not wanting to reinvent the wheel the game is split into the usual three species based single player campaigns. This time around players have to move through these campaigns in a set order, starting with the Colonial Marines. As a starting point for the game it is a fairly tame and uninspiring introduction. Little has changed from the demo and in the single player campaign the human species is easily the least exciting of the three. What doesn’t help the game is that so little new is tried; ready to embrace what has gone before in complete totality without recognising that it has been over ten years since the original PC version and the market has moved on.

As such there is the usual “they’re coming out the walls” scares, the occasional intense firefight where it looks like the Aliens might overrun whatever makeshift fortifications are available and the simplistic “shoot to kill” approach. When nostalgia shifts into de-ja-vu it ceases to be as much fun and the problem with the marine campaign is simply that there is little variation and almost nothing new to experience. Once the player is past the looks and the sounds it quickly becomes a standard, repetitive experience.

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What is frustrating is that given the frailty of the human form, especially when coming up against creatures that can see them no matter where they hide and can injure them even after they are dead, is the lack of movement options that enable players to make the most of the terrain. Utilising cover is simply a matter of standing behind it and there isn’t even an option to crouch. This is even more of a problem when forced to use the incredibly underpowered Pulse Rifle. It draws out scenes that should be over quickly and adds a level of difficulty to the campaign that isn’t needed.

Having said that, the marine campaign is designed to be the most accessible it can be forgiven for its limitations to a degree. The Predator campaign fares better owing to the wider variety of ways of killing enemies. For example a series of overpowered weapons make the Pulse Rifle seem like a pea-shooter. There is however a real lack of intuitiveness with the controls which detracts from the enjoyment that could be experience. Why should it be so difficult for the universe’s greatest hunter to do something so simple?

With the Predator comes the introduction of melee attacks but again, while it might look good, it is so basic in terms of game mechanics it actually becomes a boring and laborious chore rather than tense or exciting. Slash, block, wait, slash… There was a wider variety of moves in Punch Out on the NES. Of course, if a player can negotiate their way behind someone they can execute one of the animated execution sequences by pressing the “E” button though with limited AI this is not as challenging as we would have wished. The Predator does have trophy kills but they require being in trigger points to do them and the game is very unforgiving when it comes to placement. A fraction outside of the designated spot and the attempt will be unsuccessful.

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So it remains on the Aliens to save the day, a strange prospect in itself and initially it seems that they might by allowing a unique level of access to all areas of the maps we experienced with the Marine and Predator. Unfortunately accessing wall and ceiling areas can be a little frustrating. Sometimes the character will run up a wall automatically, other times they will have to manually attempt it, then there are some surfaces we simply can’t climb, yet this can only be discovered after several attempts. Given that the Alien relies on stealth and speed, continuously having a problem with using terrain for getaways or fast attacks is a significant issue.

Essentially, each of the species feel defined by the limitations and problems rather than their advantages. Combine this with an engine that feels somewhat dated and we have a single player campaign which may only appeal to hardcore fans of the series. Take away the iconic 80s monsters and the authentic sights and sounds and what we are left with is a very basic FPS game that would be largely unremarkable in any other skin.

Where the game manages to deliver something more enjoyable for the player is in the multi-player modes. Forget the deathmatch mode as seen in the demo. In truth it’s probably the worst mode available for online play. The Domination mode plays like a standard capture the flag, which introduces elements of teamwork that give a new dimension to the game. Team Deathmatch offers similar mechanics without the thought and timing being required and is good fun, especially with a group of friends.

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The real fun lies in the creature specific multiplayer modes. Survivor sees the marines having to last as long as they can against a never ending swarm of Aliens, something which is immediately more exciting than anything contained in the single player campaign. Predator Hunt sees a group of players up against a lone Predator, similar to the Source engine mod “The Hidden” for those that played it, each player gets to take it in turns as the Predator where they try and get the most trophy kills. Again, it showcases everything that is unique about the species and does it in a way that is far more interesting than anything on display in the single player game.

The mode we like the best absolutely has to be Infestation. A group of marines versus a lone alien and each time a human dies they respawn as a xenomorph. Eventually the soldiers come up against greater and greater odds until someone wins. It is a simple premise brilliantly executed and it is one that drives right to the heart of what made the movies and the earlier games so great. It also provides a tantalising glimpse of what the rest of the game could have been like if it wasn’t so focused on the past.

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Although not a hugely impressive feat the game does possess some nice lighting effects and atmospheric touches. The close up animations are gloriously gory and everything a fan would expect visually from an AVP title is here. Luminous blood, the corrosion effects of metal and the sight of torchlight cutting through the gloom make this the best looking installments in the franchise.

The lack of imagination in level design doesn’t provide much of a platform for the game to show off and the same textures are used almost to the point of overkill. Couple this with a few animation glitches in player movement and the game lacks the polish that could have really made it shine.

For those with DirectX 11 capable hardware the situation is a little better, there is an extra level of detail added to the engine which allows it to shine a little more than on older hardware or consoles.

This is definitely the one area that surpasses all others; the sound is the reason for much of the game’s atmosphere. With all the weaponry and equipment sounds having been lovingly recreated from the films it immediately taps into those memories and lends credibility to the game. It isn’t just the movie related sounds that come good though. There are nice echoes, the drips of faulty pipes and alien goo, the clunk of metal as the characters sprint and blaring sirens in crisis situations.

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Rebellion also try to inject some movie style tension into the proceedings with some music that is designed to become more dramatic at set trigger points though a lot of the time these are red herrings designed to keep the player on high alert. The music doesn’t really add anything to the playing experience but it does show that the composer was clearly hungry to create something for players that borders on cinematic.

After playing Aliens Vs. Predator the player is very much left with a feeling of “what could have been”. Clearly Rebellion’s heart was in the right place, yet their lack of courage in trying to deviate from a ten year old template has seen them fall short when compared to other titles on the market. With an interface which is not intuitive and clunky controls the single player game really offers little and is a disappointing experience all round.

Multiplayer modes spare the title from mediocrity and they show a genuine understanding of what the players want from this sort of game. Even after the single player campaign has faded from memory the Infestation, Survivor and Predator Hunt modes will keep the player coming back to the game, especially if friends can be drafted in.

Alas a few fun multi-player modes a game does not stop Rebellion’s Aliens Versus Predator from feeling dated and overly simplistic for the gamer of today. Diehard fans will doubtlessly find something extra to love about the title, however the average consumer will struggle to find much depth in this incarnation of AvP.

Gameplay 68/100 Kudos for the multi-player modes although even then there is no escaping the control system.
Graphics 72/100 Nice lighting effects and clever use of shadows lend to the sense of danger but some animation glitches and lack of variety take some of the shine off.
Sound 87/100 The game’s real winner. Everything from the movies is here and it ramps up the atmosphere more than anything happening on the screen. The music can become a bit jarring but otherwise it is very impressive.
Value 67/100 The single player campaigns are not only repetitive, they are short too. The multi-player modes will keep players coming back to the action for some time though.
(Not an Average)
68/100 Flawed, frustrating and fleeting; Aliens Versus Predator gives glimpses of what could have been a great game but ultimately plays out like something from another era as opposed to another world.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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