|Other than Jedi Knight, we havent really seen any real great
movie-to-first-person-shooter game translationsuntil now, that is. Aliens vs.
Predator doesnt disappoint, combining fidelity to the atmosphere of the Alien movies
with a unique approach that allows players to take the role of marine, alien, or predator.
Ever since the original Aliens vs Predator came out on the Atari Jaguar, we PC people have
been begging for a little of the same action. I still can remember playing as the marine,
walking through the levels and hearing the little phrase, "anytime." Oh man,
that would completely make you freak out, looking in all directions for a predator. And
Im happy to say that Fox Interactives PC version has the same atmosphere that
made the original the best game available on the Jaguar.
Since the game contains three different species, Ill start with the most familiar: the marine. For the most part the marine totes the standard machine gun with a trusty grenade launcher, but he also gets a cool sounding tracking gun right out of the movie Aliens. It has the same distinct sound that we know from the movie, and a nice addition is the auto-tracking that the gun provides. You just have to point in the general direction of your enemy and pull the trigger, and the gun does the rest. The tracking unit also does a decent job of scaring the crap out of you every time it beeps. You also get an unlimited supply of flares, but you can only throw about 4 down at a time. If that gets to be too much of a pain you can just turn on your image intensifier, which gives your surroundings a greenish look, but at least allows you to see almost everything. The only problem that I found with the image intensifier was that any light would almost block out portions of your view, so its not always the best choice for some areas. And when it comes to aliens attacking, you better have guns ready or youre gonna be in a world of hurt. You must watch for them at all times and at all angles since they can scale the walls and get behind you. Another nasty trick the aliens use is crawling through the air ducts, so watch for those nasty little holes or you might just get an alien smacking you in the back of the head.
You can also play the more powerful predator, with his cloaking shield, superior weaponry, and 5 modes of vision at his disposal. The most common vision modes are the infrared and night vision. If youre a fan of the Predator movies then youll have a good idea of whats going on with his weapons and gadgets. If you use the infrared with the shoulder cannon, anytime you encounter an enemy a targeting reticule will come up. You can also use a speargun and a nasty disc-of-death. The speargun will hurl your opponents into walls, killing them instantly. The disc-of-death, on the other hand, tracks opponents until it either kills them or grinds itself into a wall. But thats only a minor setback, since you can retrieve the disc with a push of a buttonits one nasty weapon, particularly when you combine it with the awesome cloaking technology that makes you virtually invisible. As long as you dont go dancing in front of your prey, you can pretty much take them out before they can do anything about you.
Besides these more technically advanced species, you can also play the poor little alien. It has no guns, no armor, and no medipacks--just two claws, a tail, and one nasty set of teeth. Of course, it also has super fast speed, awesome hunter vision, and amazing wall climbing ability that makes it one of the most unique creatures ever in a FPS. I really enjoyed playing the alien--not so much because of the brutally powerful claws, but because climbing upside down on walls and ceilings really made my day. Theres nothing like crawling on a dark ceiling then plummeting down to the floor and biting the head off of some poor marine. And since head biting is the only way to replenish your health youll be doing a whole lot of it. The sheer speed of the alien is awesome, its leaping ability makes matters even worse.
After playing all of the different types of characters youll find that the story for each is almost non-existent. The predator must kill everything he can and get back to his ship, the marine is just trying to escape with his life, and the alien is trying to save its species egg supply and take out every living marine or human it can find. Nothing original, but enough of an excuse for playing through each level.
I found that the graphic effects were decent but not all that awe-inspiring. The modeling of the aliens, predators, and marines were pretty average. The engine isnt anywhere near as pretty as Unreals or even the Quake 2 engine. But the game does use some good dynamic lighting effects. All of the lighting comes from some sort of device, and since the alien thrives on dark rooms it can destroy all of the lights in an area and then use its hunter vision mode to find its way around. Still, I wish that they would have used at least the Quake 2 engine and maybe made some improvements, a la Half-Life.
But Aliens vs Predators audio shines. Not only is the musical score worth every penny, but the sound effects of all three species are dead on! The marines guns and grenade launcher are lifted right out of the movies, the predator has the cool sounding vision modes and his teeth make cool little clicks, and the alien screams just like it did in Aliens. The game also supports EAX so make sure you got your surround setup ready to go. I used headphones and was blown away. Im glad to see that somebody besides LucasArts has made good on providing us with the movie sounds that made the movies what they are.
The level design isnt quite up to the same level as Jedi Knight, but I did find myself hunting through levels and getting lost in the process. The levels are decent and look like theyre right from the movies, but you get a claustrophobic feeling in most of them. I just happen like the more wide-open levels of Jedi Knight and Half-Life. Oh well, only a minor complaint.
The control setup was pretty straightforward, but did have a minor problem. If youve tried to remap a new function button, the old function will continue to use that button as well. However, I did like the fact that you didnt have 300 different functions to map to different keys. The predator had the most, and I found that it was very easy to map all of the needed keys in close proximity to my movement buttons.
The biggest problem with Aliens vs Predator is its difficulty level. Choices include Training, Realistic, and Directors Cut. But even on Training, I found myself getting blown away far too often. This isnt all that bad, but when you have no in-game save feature it really bites the big one. Thats right, there is no in-game save, you must start the level over if you die! This is a big problem, but the happy news is that Fox Interactive is going to release a patch that will include this much needed feature. I cant stand starting all the way over on levels when Ive already gone through half of it without a scratch then get wasted by some sneaky little enemy. Grrrr . . .
The multiplayer support is there with the software for Mplayer included. I cant say Im too fond of Mplayer, but it works. Unfortunately, there isnt a whole lot of character balance in multiplayer, so you might see a lot of predators out there. The alien and marine are just a bit outclassed by the awesome predator technology. You can not only cloak, but when you get the nasty disc-of-death its pretty much over. The alien can destroy the power-ups that the marines and predators use, but that still doesnt give the aliens an advantage. Frankly, when it comes to mulitplayer, Id rather just play some Quake 2 or Quake 3 Arena.
I really like this game; it has a lot to offer, particularly If youre a fan of the movies. When the upcoming save game patch from Fox Interactive is released, this is gonna be one of my favorite first-person shooters. And with titles like Jedi Knight and Half-Life around that is no minor feat!