Aliens vs. Predator Review

By Jason D'Aprile - Posted Feb 18, 2010

Aliens vs Predator returns and, while the game gets some elements right, it's too bogged down in ancient game mechanics to be a winner. With three short, flawed campaigns for single players and a variety of passable multiplayer games, it's a lopsided production that will disappoint even the most ardent fan.

The Pros
  • Excellent character models
  • Aliens are fun to use
  • Multiplayer is rather fun
The Cons
  • Looks like a 2010 game, plays like a 1999 one
  • Insanely frustrating control issues with targeting and kill moves.
  • Marine campaign is completely uninspired

Way back in 1999, developer Rebellion finally made the dreams of sci-fi-loving gamers everywhere come true. They managed to develop a game based on the Alien and Predator film franchises that lived up to expectations. The first-person shooter captured the elements of each race in an exceptional way, and provided PC gamers with a thrilling blend of horror and action. Sadly, what worked over a decade ago doesn’t necessarily work now, and after playing Rebellion’s Aliens vs Predator reboot, it appears that they’re still partying like it’s 1999.

Aliens vs. Predator
 
We’re Mincemeat, Man!
 
That’s not to say Aliens vs. Predator is without merit. It’s still fun to scamper across darkened ceilings as a Xenomorph (the technical name for the Aliens), drop down on unsuspecting, terrified Marines and eat their brains. As a Predator, there’s still a sense of menacing satisfaction when tracking prey through the jungle, then jumping down and ripping their spine and head out. Even the uninspired colonial marine campaign has its moments -- especially near the end when some epic firefights occur.
 
But all in all, it’s only in fleeting moments where the game really thrives. The story unfurls like a continuation of the god-awful movies, in which Lance Henrikson plays the head of the self-serving and vile Weyland-Yutani corporation. Weyland (now basically cloned over and over) is utterly obsessed with harnessing the Xenomorphs and using them as a bioweapon to make his corporation rich. To that end, he’s using an entire base as his personal science lab.
 
When Weyland discovers an ancient Predator ruin, a signal is inadvertently sent out to the hunters to come and do what they do best. Aliens escape and chaos ensues; there’s not a shred of originality in the set-up. The game’s dogged use of standards from the movies—right down to all the same sound effects--is partially understandable, yet, ultimately, it feels lazy in presentation.

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Three Sides to Every Story

 
As in previous games, AvP is broken up into three chapters. The human campaign is easily the worst. It has every tired, overused shooter cliché from the late ‘90s. You wake up alone, with only a useless pistol, while some faceless entity keeps barking orders at you. Worse, you don’t even get a name or a voice. Your character is just called “Rookie” and never speaks. He can only carry two other weapons, and his progress is completely linear. Humans always did seem extraneous in a war between the two ultimate sci-fi predators, but the developers seem determined to prove how weak and ineffective humans are here.
 
The Predator campaign is hardly an improvement in game design, and suffers from the same sort of linear pacing. What’s worse is that Rebellion has actually made the Predator feel wimpy. Although it’s hard to imagine, your Predator is weak, goes on the hunt barely equipped, and only gets new weapons as the story dictates. He also has to find energy sources to suck up to power his gear, which is a suspect game mechanic at best.
 
The Aliens are the most interesting species to play by far. The sheer joy of blazing across any surface is enough to give the Xenomorph campaign a leg up. Combat is problematic, but once you learn to properly hang to surfaces (hint: hold the button down all the time and you can move from surface to surface without hesitation), they’re just fun bugs to play as. It’s a shame the Alien campaign is the shortest at just about three hours, compared to four or five for the others.  All three species go over common ground as well, so expect to the see the same sights a lot.

Aliens vs. Predator
 
Kill Your Friends
 
The controls for both extraterrestrials are the biggest problem. Targeting in the game is simply sloppy. Since you’ll spend a lot of time in melee combat, the game ideally should have a targeting system that makes focusing on prey simple. Instead, you suffer through an impossibly twitchy targeting control that usually leaves you overshooting your enemies with your back exposed and no idea where they are.
 
Another severe issue is the use of fatalities. Both aliens can perform grisly death moves, but doing so locks you into an uncontrollable canned action for several seconds—more than enough time for any nearby enemies to kill you. While these moves are cool at first, there’s only a few of them and you’ll tire of them quickly.
 
Thankfully, there is multiplayer, and it’s entertaining in spots, but it won’t force you off any online shooters you might be currently playing. Pitting the three races in a variety of deathmatch and species-based games is generally fun. Each species has their own special game, such as Predator Hunt, a Juggernaut variant in which one player takes the role of a Predator seeking to hunt down opponents. If he gets killed, he’s replaced by his assassin. The Xenomorph version tasks a player with infecting all of the Marines on a map. Most of the multiplayer maps, much like the single player levels, are merely serviceable. There are two excellent co-op survivor maps, in which up to four marines battle endless waves of Xenomorphs, not unlike Horde mode in other shooters. The multiplayer is fun, but not deep enough to draw much lasting power for many players.

Aliens vs. Predator

In Space, No One Can Hear You Sigh
 
Aliens vs. Predator isn’t an awful game, but it is incredibly disappointing since Rebellion appears to have done so little with the source material . It’s a hard sell when there are significantly better shooters available, both online and offline. While the game isn’t a total loss, there’s just not enough here to make the game recommendable. As it is now, AvP is mostly a visually updated version of an eleven year-old game, and that’s not what fans of the franchises or first-person shooters deserve.