Review: Aliens vs Predator (Microsoft Xbox 360)


Aliens vs Predator
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Rebellion
Genre: First Person Shooter
Release Date: 02/16/2010

Ever since that fateful day when a prop designer stuck an Alien skull on a Predator trophy wall, the idea of a species war between these two classic sci-fi icons has been nailed deep into the psyche of fans. Since then, the franchise has spawned numerous comic books, a pair of films, and even a couple of video games from a few years ago. Now, Sega and Rebellion have tasked modern gaming power with putting you in the front lines of a war between the ultimate hunter, the ultimate killer, and the ultimate soldier. Aliens Vs Predator is back. Is this going to be a stand up game, or just another bug hunt?

1. Story/Modes

While there certainly is a story here, it takes a quick back-seat to the action. Kind of like a disjointed Borderlands , the story of Aliens vs Predator meanders across three separate campaigns, each with five missions. For the humans, you are part of a marine force sent to investigate a colony that has lost communications. Sound familiar? Well, due to the arrival of a Predator ship, your drop to the planet goes a bit bumpier than in the film. From there it becomes a standard game of run away from everything deadlier than you are while trying to hit the right switches to call for backup. Playing as the xenomorph? Your story actually starts with your violent birth, straight out of the chest of some poor human. Turns out that Weiland-Yutani still wants to use you for the bioweapons division despite prior setbacks. You will need to escape the testing facility, free your hive-mates, and liberate the queen before you end up just another corporate product. What about the Predators? Playing them starts you on a hunt for the Aliens on a human-colonized world, and the fight starts out in a jungle. The three campaigns overlap in places that aren’t always logical but still provide a lot of fun to traverse. The Human missions are especially creepy, and the other two species give you something very different to do. The Alien missions are almost all about puzzle solving and being creative, while the Predator missions are entirely stealth-based affairs. The plot of the story is completely derivative and often feels randomly associated, but chances are you will be enjoying the feel of so much power or so little chance to survive that you won’t mind.

On the multiplayer side of the house there is a lot to cheer for. One of the things that was criticized in the demo was that a standard deathmatch wasn’t that much fun. I agree. This isn’t a game for straight up deathmatch anyway. The two big gametypes are Species War and Last Man Standing. In the Species War the game matches up teams based on race. Last Man Standing puts a series of Aliens against the Marines. As the Marines die, they become Aliens. There is enough in here to keep you interested for a good long while.

Story/Modes: Good

2. Graphics
Let’s start with the quibbles. When Rebellion first made this game, back in 1999, I always felt that the Alien models were too thin in places. They still are, but that’s not worth ignoring the game over. Human models also belong firmly in the cookie-cutter category. Textures range towards the flat side and some of the animations are stiff and repetitive. Aside from that, this game is beautiful. There is some of the best shadow detail I’ve ever seen when you toss a flare. The Predators can switch vision modes as fast as you can hit the button and they all flow seamlessly. If the animation is a bit stiff, it is at least rapid. The Alien and the Predator species have melee-kill animations that you can do if you make a grab from behind or on a downed opponent, and they are beautiful and grotesque. The Predators actually rip spines out and clean off the viscera before finishing the kill.

Graphics: Very Good

3. Sound
The sound effects and creature effects for this game were taken straight out of the films. They are amazingly well used. I cannot overstate the feeling of paranoia and fear that you get as a marine while you walk the claustrophobic halls of the colony and your motion tracker pulses. That prickly little whine when something is moving close to you ups the tension and fear like you are in the game. The pulse rifle makes its coughing, firing sound just like you want it to, and the Aliens shriek and clatter apart just like they did for James Cameron all those years ago. This game is, if nothing else, a perfect example of how to take sound effects from films and implement them in games. As far as the voice acting goes for everyone else, it isn’t perfect, but it is far from bad. Rebellion made a pretty smart choice with the Predator and Alien voices as well. They are just a series of inhuman sounds and hissing, with subtitles on screen. I’m in favor of this as a shortcut instead of making up a language or just accenting English.

Sound: Amazing

4. Control and Gameplay:
Players who grab this game expecting a standard FPS experience are going to have some adjustments to make. Obviously, the Alien species doesn’t have any ranged attacks, so playing them turns the game into a first-person slasher. Predators have a weird mix of ranged and melee attacks, but ranged attacks take away their most powerful weapon: Stealth. Taking aim with a plasma bolt lets the Marines track you back to your firing point. Humans are painfully squishy up close, but have the most firepower at range and a motion tracker to help them keep things at range. It is a very interesting game of balances. Most of the core gameplay will be familiar to players though. You have to go to places, open doors, and avoid being killed while doing it.

Sadly, there are a few serious issues in the controls. Movement can become very difficult for both the Predator and the Alien. For the Predator, they lumber a bit more on the ground than I’d like, but make up for that with the ability to lunge around where the game indicates they can jump. The Aliens can run on any surface, but transitioning from wall to ceiling, especially if the ceiling is uneven, can become a pain. Worse than that are the scripted events that you cannot exit. Let’s say you sneak up behind a human and kill them as a Predator, online or in the campaign, it doesn’t’ matter. You go through one of several canned animations-all very cool, mind you-and cannot exit the animation even if five other people are attacking you. It gets worse if you have to hack a terminal or break into a room in the campaigns. I was killed several times because I couldn’t exit the animation and defend myself. Levels are painfully linear as well, even with the ability to run around on the ceiling. I was also expecting to be able to zoom in a bit more with my weapons and try for more headshots, but you can’t even sight down the barrel like in most FPS games these days. This, combined with the fact that the Aliens are designed to be able to be weakened by shooting off limbs, is practically inexcusable.

Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable


5. Replayability

The campaigns aren’t very long, and can probably be knocked out in a long weekend gaming session. However, Aliens vs Predator does have some legs when it comes to multiplayer. Last Man Standing puts a team of marines up against a growing number of aliens, and every time a marine falls he is replaced by an alien. It is a tense experience and demands teamwork. The other great gametype is Species Deathmatch, which puts you on teams based on, obviously, your species. The different styles of play really show up-as long as you have enough players. During my time with the game, finding a ranked match was pretty tough, and player matches were better populated but not always coherently. I don’t like seeing half a dozen types of the same game where just one player is in the lobby. The matchmaking needs a little work. Still, if you have enough friends playing to populate a game, you are in for some fun. Of all the good and bad here though, I have to ask-where the HELL is the co-op campaign? For any of the species it just makes sense to have another human buddy controlling some action. You can obviously justify the Alien swarm and the Marine wingman, and even the Predator could have a huntmaster or hunt trainee with them. Adding that would have pushed Aliens Vs Predator into a must-play game.

Replayability: Good

6. Balance
I spoke earlier about how each race plays a little different. The balance is mostly well done; with no one race really gaining the upper hand. However, once you get multiples of a race against others that changed. I played one game of species deathmatch that ended up with four Aliens against two Predators. The Predators have a couple of weapons that are one-hit kills against other species, like the plasma-caster and the smart disc. These take energy to fire, but can be recharged fairly quickly. When you have two people working in tandem to fire and cover while the other recharges, then the other species can be worked over pretty easily. Keeping that balanced gives the Predators less health than you might expect. The Aliens are faster than most other species can even track, and if they get close it is game over. Humans also tend to get caught holding the short end of the stick, as many players want to be Aliens or Predators, so in games like species deathmatch you don’t always see a lot of marines. The single-player AI isn’t too hot, unfortunately. I feel like the biggest problem is that there are a couple of sub-routines missing. After playing a game like Batman: Arkham Asylum, where an entire tactic is to leave a body somewhere that people can find it and freak out, the Aliens and Predator campaigns painfully lacked that. You can stack up a dozen corpses, and the next scientist or marine to come around the corner won’t even notice them.

Balance: Enjoyable

7. Originality
Aliens Vs Predator is the most derivative game I’ve played in a long time, for good or ill. If you’ve seen the movies, if you’ve read the comic books, then you know this game. Remember Vasquez, the tough Hispanic soldier? Well, she has been replaced by T. Aquila, who of course becomes known as Tequila. The phrase “Bug Hunt” is used in the first five or so minutes of the game. For the Alien campaign, you start off in a lab to be harvested by Weiland-Yutani and experimented upon. This is a game that, if you are a fan of the series, you are intimately familiar with before you even press start. That is part of the charm, but also part of the problem. Aside from learning that Predators that haven’t gone through training are called “young bloods” there is nothing new added to the mythos. Frankly, I could have lived without that, and with more explanation of the Predator culture or more insight into the hive mind.

Originality: Poor

8. Addictiveness

Aliens Vs Predator is a hard game to put down. The various campaigns really cry out for exploration. For the humans, there is a great feeling of fear and tension. For the other two, there is a great sense of murder-puzzling going on. The various ways you can sneak around and disembowel/behead/slash/rupture/lobotomize your prey without them even knowing about you is great fun. There are plenty of ways that you can recreate scenes from the movies for yourself. I found myself wishing there was button marked “drool uncontrollably” for the Aliens, just so you could do that before you launched the second set of jaws through a skull. The multiplayer is fast and fun also, but sometimes finding a game can take so long that it takes some joy out.

Addictiveness: Very Good


9. Appeal Factor

Let me be clear-while I enjoy this game very much, there are better FPS titles out there. Aliens Vs Predator is absolutely nothing more than a love letter to some of the best moments in science fiction of the last several decades. If you have ever dreamed of being a Predator, or had nightmares about being tracked by Aliens, this is your game. This is as close as you might ever come to being a Colonial Marine in the world dreamed up by H.R. Giger, Ridley Scott, and James Cameron. Personally, I was a big Aliens geek when I was younger. I’ve still got a few of the toys in the basement, the action figures that came packaged with neon face-huggers. So for me, this is a must-get game. If you want some soft sci-fi in your shooters, or a bit of a melee event as well as guns, this is a great game. If you just want to play the best FPS games around though, you will want to look elsewhere. The flaws with this game hint at a much better title but only a true love of the franchise can overcome them when you have other FPS titles like Modern Warfare 2 out there.

Appeal Factor: Good

10. Miscellaneous
One of my favorite things about this generation of gaming is Achievements. I love the self-referential nature of them, and the puns that often accompany them. Aliens Vs Predator grabs lines from all over the franchise and turns them into Achievements. You might as well have Sergeant Apone and Corporal Hicks shouting over your shoulder the entire time. That is the real charm of this game. It captures so consistently the feeling of the movies. I just wish more had been done with the world.

Miscellaneous: Good

The Scores
Story: Good
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Amazing
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Good
Balance: Good
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
Aliens Vs Predator is not the best FPS out there, but nothing else has come close to replicating the (good) movies in the series. The graphics are strong with some great lighting work, but the sound is flat out awesome. Unfortunately, some control choices and some difficulty in finding good multiplayer matches keeps the game from being an instant recommend. There is a lot of bloody sci-fi action here, and the three races play differently enough to keep your interest. If you are a fan of the series, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

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