The atmosphere's brilliant and you feel like you're in either of the films, but the levels are formulaic and repetitive.
Although the Aliens vs. Predator films have been rubbish, the games featuring two of cinema’s most iconic monster villains have always been great, stretching all the way back to their first appearance on Atari’s Jaguar console. We were dead excited, then, when the new game landed on our desk.
As with previous incarnations, Aliens vs. Predator lets you play as an Alien a Predator or a marine. The plot for each revolves around a slightly different story, depending on the character you play. As a marine, you need to escape the facility you’re trapped in as it’s become overrun with Aliens and attacked by Predators. As the Alien, you need to escape the scientists experimenting on you in the research facility. As the Predator, you have to attack the facility and find out what’s been killing the youngbloods.
The plots are only loosely linked together and we’d have preferred tighter cohesion. For example, as the marine you arrive at the gateway to the facility to find dead marines and ruined sentry guns; as the Predator you attack the marines and sentry guns. We’d have liked to have seen a bit of a plot crossover, such as seeing the Predator attack from the marine’s perspective. Playing the game the other way as the Predator, it would be good to see your marine escape the attack. It’s a minor point, but one that would make playing the game from all three perspectives a bit more fun.
The quality of the game varies depending on which character you play as. The marine game is pretty much like any other first-person shooter. You start the game with just a pistol, but can find a shotgun, sniper rifle, flame thrower and pulse rifle as you progress. You’re also equipped with the motion sensor, which eerily beeps as Aliens move towards you. The other sound effects have been grabbed from the film, Aliens, so you get the full iconic sound of the pulse rifle (quite probably the best sounding gun in a film, ever).
It’s a shame that despite this polish the game’s so formulaic and slightly flawed. Every mission is basically a variation of ‘go to point A, fight some Aliens and flick a switch’. It’s repetitive, although still remains mostly fun. The combat’s frustrating at times, as you don’t get much ammunition for any of the decent weapons (the pistol has infinite ammo, fortunately). As the Aliens are incredibly tough to kill, you’ll typically run out of bullets before they die and have to switch back to the pistol, which takes ages to finish anything off. Annoyingly, when you empty one clip you can’t run until you’ve reloaded, giving anything attacking you plenty of time to step in and kill you.
For atmosphere most of the game play takes place in the dark, which just turns out to be annoying, as you’ve been equipped with the world’s worst torch. Rather than helping light a room, your torch is capable of lighting only a perfect circle directly in front of you. This makes it incredibly hard to see where you’re going and to take aim at oncoming Aliens.
As the Predator you get all of the gadgets and tools you’d expect, including the targeted laser, devastating claws and a cloaking device. All bar the claws require power, which you have to loot from the marine base.
These missions are more about stealth and you can leap through the trees like some kind of monstrous Mario in a violent platform game. From the treetops you can distract marines and force them to move to a specific spot on the map, with the unlikely tactic of shouting at them in a robotic voice. Fortunately, the marines are both too stupid to notice this and too dumb to ever look up, leaving you plenty of opportunity to leap down from your perch and impale them from behind with your claws. More gorily, you can rip some people’s heads off and use them to open security doors. Once again, the levels are rather formulaic and are centred round repetitive tasks.
Playing as the Alien is probably the least exciting part of the game, primarily because it’s mostly about running up to your enemies and dispatching them from close range. You can run on most surfaces, quickly moving from floor to wall to ceiling. It sounds fun, but it mostly ends up being quite confusing and a bit difficult to follow. You get set objectives from your queen, such as escaping from a room.
A multiplayer game lets you play as the characters online, but our early test version had this option disable. The graphics throughout have been lovingly created and it feels as though you’re in Aliens or Predator when you play. We only tested the DirectX 9.0c version, but the full game uses DirectX 11, so should look even better. Combined with the iconic sound effects, the sense of atmosphere is fantastic. It’s just a shame that there’s nothing new here and the missions are so repetitive. If you’re a massive fan of either film series, you’ll have fun, but there are better first-person shooters.