February 26, 2010
The first thing any prospective buyer of Rebellion's latest AvP title should do is forget anything they saw during the quite terrible Alien vs Predator films, as they are not indicative of the quality and storytelling that this franchise is capable of. Instead you should pay more attention to the original PC games and the quite epic comics and novels that excel in blending these two (well three – but who cares about humans?) species together. The standalone Alien films are great, as are the Predator ones, so a great game should be a formality or so you would expect. Hopefully we can make it through the review without our chest exploding from sheer excitement, or due to a parasitic life form.
Rebellion have had a less than successful time of it so far on the 360, with the quite appalling Rogue Warrior and Shellshock 2 being panned by critics – and rightly so. However, here they have a chance to step back to the game that made them famous and a series that enjoyed providing plenty of nerve shredding moments for gamers all over the world.
The story, such as it is, is pretty much tosh, as each species has their own agenda on the same remote planet. Be it escape, investigate or survive; it is all an excuse for each species to beat up on the other two and you cannot help but feel like things could have been fleshed out a bit more. I am not demanding Shakespeare here, but the whole game chugs along with very little in the way of explanation. How long can the series seriously cast Mr Weyland as the primary antagonist? That guy must be long overdue for retirement.
With three campaigns you might expect a fairly lengthy game, but nothing could be farther from the truth as each campaign is alarmingly short... almost to the point where it feels like a mere training run for the obviously favoured multiplayer component. That is not to say you cannot have some fun along the way though, as each species handles differently and can throw up some fun moments.
The marine is more like a standard FPS shooter, although the ever present motion sensor does its best to creep you out, as unseen enemies lurk around every corner. The real surprise here is not how creepy the game is, quite the opposite, as the fear factor is never really ramped up to the levels experienced in the older titles. For some reason the game never truly puts you on the edge of your seat, and you can quite happily meander through the game at your own pace. Such a far cry from the claustrophobic atmosphere you would hope would greet you. Can I also put on the record that being able to block alien melee attacks and then beat them to death in retaliation is possibly the most ridiculous sight known to man and so far off the chart in terms of the films lore that it is almost insulting.
The Alien and Predator campaigns are also fun at first, but soon pale into insignificance. Running around with hi-tech gadgets and disappearing into the scenery is great fun as the Predator, but it soon becomes repetitive come the later missions. The same can be said for the Alien too, as the controls are very disconcerting at first as you skitter along the walls and ceiling, but soon become second nature as you sneak up on your prey to disembowel or infect them. All of the campaigns cross over the same worn backdrops too so you will start to get a sense of déjà vu as you progress. What is great for fans are the unique touches and references along the way, such as the Predator being able to collect the skulls of his foes or Aliens being able to attach facehuggers to unwary victims. Not to mention more than a few nods at the movies themselves as you would expect. On the whole though, while you can have fun experimenting with each species, the novelty soon wears off and the lack of a solid storyline and a truly gripping atmosphere makes it a hollow experience.
While the single player campaigns may be a bit of a letdown, the multiplayer modes are far more entertaining. In what seems to be the norm nowadays, you can take part in a "Survival" mode (insert your own Gears of War style Horde reference here) which sees you and a team of buddies taking on waves of opponents in a battle for, you guessed it, survival. It is good fun all around and one that you can easily pass a lot of time on. If you do head online straight away, the species may feel a little unbalanced at first, as newer players may struggle to come to grips with some of the unique attributes for the two non-human species. Get to grips with them though and you can look forward to multi-species deathmatchs and the unique "Predator Hunt" mode that pits a single Predator against a crew of marines. This mode in particular can provide polarizing experiences that consist of either intense joy, or a long drawn out affair that can bore you to tears. Still, you can easily see that this is where you money is really going and anything you have experienced before, during the single player, is little more than training for taking on the rest of the world.
For the full thousand points you are looking at a lengthy, but fairly varied, experience. There is a good mix of campaign progression achievements, online tasks and random fun, so you should be snagging points on a fairly regular basis. Plus, who does not love the fact that the achievements quote the film? Crazy people, that's who. Your main trouble will come from completing the game on each campaign on "Nightmare" difficulty which can vary from straightforward to stupidly hard. Also you are looking at a lot of online multiplayer grinding to get you where you want to be. Not a quick completion by any means, but one that will be immensely satisfying to have under your belt.
Frankly, I had very low expectations for this game and it exceeded them on every front. Perhaps Rebellion are not quite back to their best, as the single player mode is somewhat short and underwhelming, but this is a firm step in the right direction and one that will hopefully get this franchise going again. Massive fans of the film will probably get a lot more enjoyment from this game than people who pick it up on a whim, but if you are prepared to sink some time into the multiplayer modes then you will surely get your money's worth.
Decent, but not really as atmospheric as you would hope for considering the source material. At times you want the tension to be ramped up and it never really happens. A missed opportunity.
The classic visuals are all present and correct here with brooding Predators and nimble Aliens, although it never really pushes the 360 too far. Online is nicely lag free and exceptionally smooth as well.
You will get a real kick out of playing with each species, but some of the controls and levels can get frustrating, especially on the harder difficulties. Online, the species seem a bit more unbalanced, especially for novice players, but once you get the hang of it or find a good team, then business picks up.
A solid, if unspectacular game, that delivers a fairly limp single player experience, but makes up for it with a much better set of online modes.
A decent list, although you will have to suffer through the Nightmare difficulty and get an inordinate amount of online XP. Still, the list has a nice mix of level progression, fun tasks and online grinding.
While this game is not as strong as its predecessors, there is still plenty of fun to be had here, unfortunately the single player campaigns are all far too short and linear to hold your attention for long, but at least the multiplayer makes up for that by being a very solid offering indeed. If you tire of just killing people with guns then you can take a Predator or Xenomorph for a whirl. The game is not for everyone, and Alien versus Predator fans will certainly get more out of it, but you could do worse than give it a try.