To be honest, giving Sega's new run at the Aliens vs Predator license a good shoeing is like blasting fish in a barrel. You'll discover nearly everything that's bad about the game within the first half hour of the Marine campaign. In style, it's a dated, corridor-heavy shooter of the sort that was dying out just as the current crop of consoles arrived. The levels are clichéd and predictable, and not exactly packed with memorable moments.
Alien AI is somewhere between non-existent and atrocious, with none of the low animal cunning we saw from the toothy xenomorphs of the movies. Environments are mostly bland and utterly forgettable. The visuals on the console version we reviewed are on a par with those of Quake 4; not bad for the time, provided that the time you mean was nearly 5 long years ago. AvP is not a total disaster, but it just looks and feels so old.
To be fair, however, this first half hour should also give you a taste of what's good about the game. If you're a fan of the Alien, Aliens and Predator movies or - even more so - the crossover films and comics, then you'll be delighted with how well Aliens vs Predator captures the creatures, the sounds, the weapons and the tech that have made these stories and characters so iconic. And at its best, the marine campaign is genuinely tense and scary.
Nervously listening to the clicks and beeps of a motion sensor, hearing the beeps raise in pitch and frequency, desperately looking left and right, up and down to get a visual on your foe; all this stuff can still give you the chills. The audio effects are true to the film and consistently excellent, and the urgent music definitely helps build atmosphere. When it works, Aliens vs Predator is the scariest slice of sci-fi gaming since Dead Space.
More importantly, the marine campaign is one of only three that make up the main single-player mode. As fans of earlier AvP games might expect, we also get a turn as an Alien and as a Predator. The former gives you the chance to race around on floors, walls and ceilings, pouncing on your (mostly) human prey, and using claws, tail and teeth to tear them apart. The movement mechanic is a little clunky at times, but the more stealth-focused combat is more fun than the Marine's second-rate shooter action, and there's a sense of ferocious speed that reflects the original creature concept pretty well.
The same goes for the Predator campaign. Not only does it kick off in a more attractive jungle landscape, it also wastes no time in giving you access to the Predator's superior abilities and toys. Again, the control system used to leap from ground to branch to clifftop can be clumsy, but the combination of melee-heavy stealth attacks and sneaky tactics helps make up for the dated presentation and the poor AI of your human opponents. Avoid taking on multiple opponents at once, and these guys don't take much out-thinking.
All the same, we can't help coming back to the problems. Aliens vs Predator only features a handful of environments, recycled across the three campaigns, and while you'll see different areas/vents/ledges with each protagonist, there's no denying that a little more variety would have kept things more interesting. As a whole, this isn't a game running heavy on new ideas. The old "let's turn out the lights and send in a pack of xenomorphs" routine recurs regularly in the marine campaign and "let's ask you to carve up a squad of marines in the dark" becomes an over-used motif by the end of the alien adventure. The levels are incredibly linear, with little room to experiment or improvise, and there's an awful lot of hand-holding going on. Aliens vs Predator can be sort-of fun, but it can also be dull, claustrophobic and repetitive.
Add to that another negative: frustrating. Both the human and predator protagonists rely on old-school health packs to revive, and there are sections where you'll find yourself stuck on low health without one as you cross a checkpoint, and face a hellish time getting to the next checkpoint intact. And why do humans take such a battering from the predator's claws before they go down? It's not like everyone can be a Dutch Schaefer, after all.
The biggest issue, however, is the feeling that all the game's best concepts were present in 2001's Aliens vs Predator 2, and that this franchise reboot doesn't really bring anything new to the table. In fact, from what we remember the earlier game had more interesting levels and a more compelling storyline. Isn't it time to try something new?
The best reason to give Aliens vs Predator a second look is the multiplayer mode. Alien vs Marine vs Predator matches give straight deathmatch an interesting twist, while the more alien-specific Predator Hunt (one Predator vs several humans) and Infestation (alien vs multiple marines, but killing marines converts them to aliens) modes are tenser and more enjoyable than anything you'll find in the single-player campaign.
Sadly, it takes more than a half-decent multiplayer mode to make a game worth buying. Aliens vs Predator isn't a bad game, but it's nowhere near good enough to stand up proud with the likes of Gears of War, Killzone 2 or Modern Warfare, and the dated graphics and game mechanics don't exactly help. Fans of the material may just about be able to convince themselves that they're playing a great FPS, but if the quality of the game matters more to you than how well it handles the license, then give this one a miss.
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