Your grip tightens on the grip of your pulse rifle as you round the corner. The metal walkway is suspended from the outside of the research installation, many stories above the jungle floor. It is night, and the rain pours across you in slick rivulets. Lightning flashes, illuminating the building, the cliff, and… something else. A formless blackness, slithering down the face of the building toward you.
The motor pool roof is a mass of cables and vents. As you watch from the darkness you can see the glow from the marines’ torchlight. They stop to idly talk with one another, discussing the rumours of xenomorphs in their sector. One of them has a patrol route that carries him behind a bulkhead. You drop from the darkness and close your jaws around his throat before he can scream.
The gnarled treetop gives a full view of the swamp. Cloaked in quicksilver invisibility you patiently observe the marine patrol as it wends its way through the wetlands. You shift your sound modulation to mimic human speech and you transmit a distress call to the final man in the column. He moves away from the others to investigate, and you are waiting for him. His body falls, headless and soundless, to the ground as you reinitialise your cloaking and vanish into the tall grasses.
You’ve seen all the movies, and you’ve probably played all of the previous videogames – of which there have been a few. It’s the old story: Boy meets alien, alien meets different alien, and all get along famously in a hail of gunfire, decapitations, chest-bursting and screaming. Played in the traditional FPS and allowing play as Colonial Marine, Alien or Predator it’s a setup that’ll look familiar to fans.
The story is the usual sci-fi guff centred around the unwitting discovery of a Predator temple by a team of Weyland-Yutani boffins, and the inevitable hijinx that ensue when the Marines come to bail them out and the Predators arrive to secure their heritage. The three modes of play are individual and differ from one another in approach and also feel – as a Marine you’ll be fighting for your life every step of the way, running and crying like a child half the time. Aliens and Predators take a slower, more thoughtful and – I’m afraid I’m going to have to say it – predatory approach.
Some of the problems that exist unique to each character are actually very close to being features. As the marine, sometimes when you’re spraying a passageway with pulse rifle fire, your muzzle burst is so intense and the xenos so well camouflaged that you can’t always tell if the target is alive, dead or even still there at all. But like I say, this is really more of a feature. When the smoke clears and the alien isn’t even there any more it elicits a powerful emotional response followed by a quick death and a change of small clothes. Similarly, as the alien you can occasionally find yourself scampering away (usually from said wild pulse rifle fire) across walls and ceilings, and quite disorient yourself. But this is all part of the fun of stepping into the ichor-soaked shoes of the alien.
Criticism has been levelled at AvP for the brevity of the campaign mode. In each of the three species-specific mini-campaigns you’ll visit the same maps much of the time – pretty much all of the time, actually. It’s still fun to see how each character takes a different approach to the same environment and how the stories intertwine, but once you’ve finished one campaign the others aren’t going to hold a huge amount new to explore in terms of locations. They have a story to tell, though – albeit a pretty standard AvP plotline – and they do a good job at telling it.
Multiplayer offers a menu of traditional favourites and slightly more exotic alternatives, from species deathmatch (and mixed deathmatch if you’d rather just chuck the story out the window and have crazy fun) to infestation – one player starts as an alien, the others as marines, and every time a marine is killed he becomes an alien, until you’re all trying to kill the last few marines. It’s a great way of ramping up the tension for those who are doing well whilst keeping everybody involved even once they’ve been killed.
There are, unfortunately, enough flaws that my screams were as often frustration as terror. Trying to get the alien to go into any of the many, many air vents in the game can prove tricky, and sometimes they felt a little too fragile even in melee. The marine campaign was ‘just another FPS’ for the most part, Overall, though, I found a lot to enjoy here. Sure, there’s nothing really inherently new here; we have been playing games not a million miles removed from this sort of thing since last millennium. However, I don’t think they were really going for ‘ground-breaking’, so much as putting out a halfway-decent, massively gory shooter with a strong sense of its own fictional roots and some varied gameplay.
System requirements for Aliens vs. Predator are relatively forgiving by the standards of today’s FPS, coming in safely below the Crysis 2 requirements. The price has dropped off a fair bit since release, too, so it might be worth picking up for the SP campaign alone if you’re a real AvP fan.