Aliens vs. Predator Xbox 360 Review
Aliens vs. Predator has had a somewhat spotty history. First appearing in the form of a crossover comic series in the early nineties, itís expanded to nearly every major realms of entertainment over the past two decades. Following the comics (as well as a quick nod to the Aliens franchise in Predator 2 there were toys, action figures and books. On film, the talentless hand of hack director Paul W.S. Anderson has tainted the property, and the film adaptation was somehow able to earn a sequel despite the originalís PG-13 rating.
In major interactive media, there was the SNES game adaptation, as well as one on the Jaguar (the latter of which has the somewhat dubious honor of being perhaps the only decent game for Atariís ď64-bitĒ system). Then we had Rebellionís first crack at the series with 2000ís Aliens vs. Predator and its sequel, neither of which made it to consoles. So you might say that given the increasingly narrow gaps between video games, film and other media steadily, Rebellionís new 2010 iteration of AvP is the first major release for the series, and unlike many of the hit-or-miss incarnations of the past, this oneís actually pretty good.
From a design standpoint, AvP is very similar to its PC predecessor, only polished up and streamlined somewhat to meet contemporary design standards. To any fans of the PC title, the idea should be familiar: the game takes place over the course of three separate campaigns, meaning youíll get a chance to play as an alien, a predator and a member of the colonial marines. No matter who you play, the first thing youíll notice is that Rebellion has really taken their time on this title. The entire conceit of being able to play as your favorite species is pure fan service, but the devil is really in so many details the team has put in to give AvP an authentic feel. Enter an alien hive and youíll be assaulted by black, organic Giger-esque environs. Messages from an orbiting Predator ship are quickly translated to English from the Predatorís original symbolic language, and grabbing a defenseless research scientist will allow an alien to impregnate them with a well-rendered face-hugger, to give a few examples.
Core gameplay varies in an authentic way as well. Naturally in the alien campaign you canít use firearms of any kind. Only your claws and mouth will work to attack your foes, although you do have the ability to crawl all over any surface in the game, use darkness as cover and automatically see outlines of enemies by sensing their pheromones. Although itís initially very disorienting to play as an alien, once you get used how the species operates, crawling around and slashing up marines is pretty fun. Like Aliens vs. Predator 2 for PC, the three campaigns are all interrelated, telling a different side of the same story; the alien campaign is sadly the shortest, though given the events of the story and the species' inability to speak, it makes sense.
The game gives you the option to choose which campaign you want to play in what order, tracking overall story progress both through narrative exposition as well as a percentage meter. I personally recommend playing the alien campaign first, then following up as the marine before finishing out under the mask of the predator.
Interestingly, the marineís campaign is both the longest and the focal point of AvPís narrative. It makes sense in terms of plot, as humans are the only species whose language is Ďuniversalí rather than xenolinguistic, but still surprising given Segaís focus on the two extraterrestrial campaigns (and more specifically the graphic deaths visited upon the marines themselves) before the gameís release.
Frankly, I wouldíve pegged the marineís campaign as the weakest of the three, considering a soldierís weakness against such aggressive and powerful alien foes. This is hardly the case, however. Donít worry, youíre not some hulking superhuman. In fact, as a lowly private, you can easily be torn limb from limb (albeit more or less offscreen). But despite the relative vulnerability of soft, human flesh, you can hold your ownóat least with the right firepower and some stim packs. But the most surprising thing about the marine campaign is that itís set up like an FPS survival horror title. Unlike the alien and predator campaigns, the lighting and atmospherics are dialed up to eleven. Even environs you trek through with other species will be darker and more foreboding as a marine. While not as scary as say, Doom 3, your tiny flashlight coupled with wall and ceiling crawling aliens skittering through the darkness can yield a few jumps. Itís in the marine campaign that itís the most obvious that AvP is something of a throwback shooter, like one that existed before cover systems or depth-of-field aiming a la Call of Duty and countless others. Rather than being a detriment, though, this actually is a bit refreshing. Weapons are simplified, with only a handful available to the marine, but Rebellion put enough polish into the finished product that it hardly matters; youíre not going to play this game if youíre not a fan of either Aliens or Predator anyway.
Finally, the predator campaign is something of a mixture of the other two campaigns: itís the second longest, the predator has a limited arsenal of weaponry (like the marine campaign) and technology tools like stealth and vision filters (similar to an alien). The level design, though as linear as with the other two species, is more fun with the predator due to a streamlined jumping system. Basically you can target any area within a certain distance, hit A and youíll automatically jump to it, making traversal across levels faster and more efficient as a tribal hunter. Thankfully, not all of the predatorís weapons use energy (which can be siphoned from human power supplies), although for most of the game I focused heavily on the beastís powerful melee attacks as well as its unlimited stealth camo, which aided in finishing off soldiers with graphic stealth kills after luring them away from a post or lookout point.
Ultimately, if you donít like either film franchises that this game is based around, thereís not going to be much for you to enjoy in AvP. But Iíd posit that most gamers like either one series or the other (or, at the very least, the idea of science fiction). Now perhaps itís clear why Rebellionís Rogue Warrior sucked so muchóall of the studios time and budget were going into this game. It's not the deepest or longest game, with any given campaign lasting between three and five hours, but if you play through all three the time adds up, and thereís always multiplayer. For the fans that AvP was very obviously made for, however, the high production values, attention to the universeís detail and generally smooth gameplay make it a worthy addition to the franchise. At the very least, we can be thankful that the godawful marine dialogue that made Aliens so (at times) cringe-inducing is in short order. Thank god for that.