Here’s a surefire sign the game you’re playing isn’t very good: While you play it, you’re constantly thinking of other games you should be playing. My mind was running in circles thinking about how my brother and my roommate were booth going to finish Final Fantasy XIII before me, how I still need to finish Yakuza 2 before I can crack open Yakuza 3, how I could be actually having fun while playing a shooter with Battlefield: Bad Company 2, how I haven’t beat Dragon Age: Origins yet, how I haven’t even installed Supreme Commander 2 yet, or how I could be laughing hysterically while playing Deadly Premonition.
These are just a few of the deep thoughts I had while playing Aliens vs. Predator, which was developed by Rebellion, who were responsible for the first AvP game on PC as well as the 1994 Jaguar AvP game. I can see how this may excite long time fans of the series, but it’s been over a decade since they’ve had anything to do with the franchise, and a developer can change a lot in eleven years. Sure they made AvP, but since then they’ve also made Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death, Shellshock 2, and their crowning achievement: Rogue Warrior. It’s kind of like the Chicago Bulls letting Michael Jordan come back and play basketball, only now MJ is 47 years old, isn’t in the shape he once was in, and he’s lost a step or twelve. Besides, they didn’t even make the best game in the series, as AvP2 was developed by Monolith.
That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a chance, as they implemented many of the features that made the series a hit, such as the single-player campaign being split up into three separate campaigns, and this template is used here as well. The meatiest campaign is the colonial marines which involves the player assuming the role of “the rookie” and his ragtag team of ethnic stereotypes (anyone else here sick of the tough talking Hispanic woman archetype? She’s even named tequila.) crash landing on a overrun colony full of moving targets after a scientific expedition goes very wrong.
It’s about as vanilla a first-person shooter you’re going to find. It doesn’t do anything bad, but it is thoroughly average in every regard and brings absolutely nothing new to the table. With its Mars-like setting as well as plenty of dark industrial corridors with monsters jumping from out of nowhere in an attempt to scare you, anyone who played Doom 3 in particular is going to be experiencing major déjà vu. My biggest problem with this campaign is how decidedly un-scary it is. AvP2 was one of the most terrifying games ever made because of its ability to create a sense of helplessness. The game took its time building itself up to the point where you were on edge the entire time knowing that at any given point something was about to eviscerate you and your entire squad, and because of that, when you actually fought something, it felt like a big deal. Your foes in this game are generally pretty easy to dispose of even on your own, so the combat never reaches the level of tension that made its predecessors stand out.
While the marine campaign involves lots of shooting, both the Aliens and the Predator campaigns focus more on melee combat. They’re both pretty quick and nimble and both use stealth to sneak up on whatever poor sap is guarding whatever random hallway you’re in at any given time. I actually ended up having some fun with the Predator campaign due to its ability to make you feel like a Predator. These guys are supposed to be the most hardcore and elite killing machines in the known universe, so ripping apart marines and skinning them with ease felt right for the character. The aliens are another story, as their campaign is by far the worst of the three. You, like any good xenomorph should, have the ability to crawl on walls and attack your foes from all directions. However the movement controls are extremely twitchy and unwieldy, so it’s very easy to get discombobulated. Imagine crawling up a wall when you didn’t want to because you were running kind of close to a wall and the game decided to put you on the wall while some guy is shooting at you for no reason.
Also, another funny thing happened to me about 75 or so minutes into the Alien campaign: I finished it. If I were to eliminate the cheap deaths, I could’ve easily finished it in under a hour. The Predator campaign took around two hours while the marine campaign was over in less than four. So even with three campaigns, there’s at best only around eight hours of single-player content here. There is a competitive multiplayer component, and it’s clear that this is where Rebellion spent most of their time. There’s support for up to 18 players and there’s some good fun to be had here. Each character plays somewhat differently from their single-player counterparts for the sake of balance, and the rock paper scissors aspect of the combat gives the game a unique feel from most multiplayer shooters. It’s not going to keep you from going back to Modern Warfare 2 or Bad Company 2 anytime soon, but its above average.
Aliens vs. Predator’s greatest fault isn’t even of its own doing. We are currently in the middle of what has been maybe the busiest first quarter in videogame history, and there are quite a few games that have come out in the past three months that deserve your time and money far more than AvP. It’s not the worst game of all time, and if you’re a fan of the fiction, this wouldn’t be a terrible pick up if you find it for under $20 in the middle of the annual summer drought, but given the current videogame landscape, there’s a big pile of new releases you should be diving into before you even consider Aliens vs. Predator.
+ It’s appropriately gory
+ The Predator campaign isn’t half bad
+ There is some fun to be had in the multiplayer
– There isn’t a original bone in its entire body
– Even with three campaigns, it’s still pretty short
– There are too many better games to be playing right now