First, James Cameron depicted stalwart space marines fending off ferocious Xenomorphs. Then Danny Glover opened the Predator trophy case that began a sci-fi rivalry. Since then fans have been longing for the ultimate showdown between the universe’s most feared aliens. A couple of movies and several video games later no one has completely captured the essence of what makes these two franchises so great. Aliens vs. Predator by SEGA comes very close.
BG-386 is a remote planet where the Weyland-Yutani Corporation has been conducting experiments on Xenomorphs. One of the subjects is the uniquely intelligent and independent “6” whose initial goals are to free the Matriarch and escape the labs. The opportunity presents itself when Weyland-Yutani discovers ancient alien structures that belong to the Predator race. The Company tries to breach the doors, causing an energy surge that knocks out the power to the base, allowing the Xenomorphs to run amok. As a security measure, Space Marines are called down to control the situation. One of those Marines is a Rookie who’s forced to land on the planet after the military vessel he’s assigned to is obliterated by an unknown alien craft. The Rookie becomes separated from his squad early on and must fight to survive against overwhelming numbers and better technology. Unfortunately for both Aliens and Humans, BG-386 is also a prime hunting ground for Predators who do not want Human interference or an Alien infestation.
The plot is pretty standard, but does its job to get players into the game. Once the player actually takes control, however, Aliens vs. Predator does a fantastic job in immersing players into each respective story. As the Marine, players will have access to all of the weapons and abilities made famous by the film Aliens, like the Pulse Rifle, Smartgun and flamethrower. Best of all, each weapon sounds identical to its film counterpart. The Marine can throw flares and thankfully never runs out of juice for his flashlight. Finally, he has a handy motion detector to alert him of any movement in the vicinity. Players will feel comforted by its steady rhythm and alarmed when it starts whining as enemies approach in the darkness.
The Alien is the ultimate stealth assassin. It can cling to most surfaces, including walls and ceilings, and can hide in vents to attack victims as they pass. The Alien can see in the dark as well as detect pheromones that virtually allow it to see victims through walls. The Alien also features a unique head-bite ability, which switches the camera position into the Alien’s mouth for cinematic kills. The best part about the Alien is its ability to finish off victims in brutal and disgusting ways, like impaling them or ripping off their head while their faces freeze in a horrified expression.
For pure brutality, nothing beats the Predator. Not only does he wield dual wristblades, but he also uses the more ubiquitous weapons in the Predator arsenal, like the Plasma Caster, Combi Stick and Smart Disc. He can also leap great distances and heights and cloak himself for stealth kills. He can even mimic the sounds of his prey to lure them away from their groups and then eviscerate them with one of his many trophy finishers.
In each case, the player will really feel like he or she is playing the respective species. The Marine is the standard FPS experience, but the Alien is smooth and agile. As a nice touch, the game developers left the player model visible to the player, so when he or she turns around as the Alien they’ll see the Alien’s tail arcing back. The Predator also offers a genuine experience and players will love bounding from tree to tree and standing toe-to-toe with Xenomorphs.
While Aliens vs. Predator is immersive, it does suffer from a few drawbacks. For one, the gameplay feels thin, which is to be expected when it’s split up over three different styles of play. After a while, however, the levels begin to feel like one long corridor that players will travel just to press a button so they can travel down another corridor. There are also a few punishing moments where death is a one-hit affair, resulting in monotonous trial and error, like when the player is almost dead with no health packs and he or she crosses a checkpoint before a major battle. Some players will also be frustrated by the controls, especially with the Alien. The creature is sometimes a little too sticky and climbs onto unintended surfaces or catches onto a beam instead of falling on top of an intended victim. Finally, there are a few irritating screen-tearing moments during the in-game cinematics.
For online gamers, there are several multiplayer modes to choose from, including various deathmatch modes, a point control game and a survivor mode that pits cooperative players against waves of progressively stronger Aliens. There are also two modes that pit one player as either the Predator or Alien against the rest for those that want to test their stealth abilities.
The online experience is entertaining, but a little lackluster. Marines also appear to be seriously underpowered since they’re the only species that’s clearly visible and has to aim precisely to score a hit. The other species, while mostly limited to melee attacks, have a charge ability that allows them to close the distance quickly simply by aiming in the target’s general direction. Furthermore, the Marine doesn’t have any one-hit-kill finisher moves, but he can certainly die to them which Alien and Predator players will use with impunity. There are 40 ranks to climb through and several skins to unlock, but it’s hard to imagine most players sticking with multiplayer for that long.
While it isn’t perfect, Aliens vs. Predator is one of the best presentations of this hybrid franchise that has been made in recent history. Fans and newcomers alike will definitely have a good time playing it.