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Fun But Flawed Reboot of a Classic Gaming Franchise
on October 25, 2010
AvP was a smash hit comic book back in 1990, pitting the two most ruthless monsters in the universe against each other in a bloody battle to the death, with humans thrown in for good measure (and let's face it, a plot!). Inevitably, the idea was expanded to a toy line, then a video game franchise, then (shudder) a movie franchise. Frankly, of all the "Big 3" spin offs, the video game series proved to be the best. Starting ironically on the ill-fated Atari Jaguar, AvP was first created as a Doom-ish corridor shooter. It was much slower paced than Doom or other FPS games of the time, but it somehow successfully captured the feeling of playing as the Alien, the Predator and the Colonial Marines. Each species had its own unique play style, with arguably the Alien being the most unique of the three. It wasn't until 1999, some 5 years later, that the same team that developed the original (and probably only) Jaguar "killer app" would bring one of the most memorable and awesome FPS shooters since the genre was invented.
Fast forward 11 years, and you have 2010's Aliens vs. Predator for the PC, XBox 360 and PS3. So what's the verdict?
This review pertains solely to the 360 edition, as the PC edition has enough features to set it apart that it would warrant its own separate review. What it boils down to is a re-imagining of the franchise, bringing with it yet again more unique features and gameplay styles across the three separate playable species. Harkening back to its 1999 predecessor and drawing far less inspiration from the 2002 sequel, AvP is an ultra-violent and medium-paced FPS that combines corridor/wide area shooting battles, stealth and assassination techniques. Each species experiences the same story from their own perspective, with each campaign being continuous and not an "alternate outcome". Players piece together the story by playing through the 3 separate campaigns, particularly in the Marine campaign wherein the player learns the most about Weyland-Yutani director Karl Bishop Weyland's goal of unleashing the potential of an ancient Predator temple that was discovered buried deep within a Predator ancestral world, along with utilizing a new breed of controlled Alien.
Each scenario offers up a different play style that may not be accommodating to all players, as the three species are different enough that it requires some practice. Thankfully, each campaign begins with a tutorial mission (except the Marine mission, you simply learn as you go throughout the first mission). It is in the first two missions of the Alien and Predator campaigns that the player will learn the abilities of both species, as well as how to perform executions...ultra-gruesome instant-kill maneuvers that are vicious enough to possibly disturb some players. Once the tutorial ends, the player uses said abilities in a short stint of combat training as part of the plot, and then the actual campaign begins.
The Alien campaign is entirely stealth based...a true expert Alien player can get through most Alien missions without being detected, except for situations that call for direct combat. The stealth-based gameplay may seem slow-paced, as there is much navigational challenges, but the blinding speed of the alien and the sheer brutality of its instant kills make for an exciting experience.
The Predator campaign consists of stealth, maneuverability and occasionally situations with heavy fighting. Like the Alien, the Predator will rely heavily on stealth and ambush tactics (aided by his ability to Cloak and jump great distances), utilizing ghastly execution moves and sophisticated weaponry capable of widespread havoc with the occasional forced firefight.
The Marine campaign is your standard corridor/open area FPS with extra challenge thrown in...Aliens take a LOT of shots to bring down, and all it takes is one screw up to end your mission. It stands out as being the most frightening campaign, since you lack the superhuman abilities of your extraterrestrial enemies and spend a lot of time wandering dimly lit corridors with very little ammo...or none at all.
This game has seen its fair share of criticism, and I understand why. As a HUGE fan of the franchises (I shun the AvP movies however) it was an absolute thrill to play again as my favorite iconic movie monsters. The gameplay has evolved tremendously since the old 1999 predecessor and the game engine is smooth and sweet. However, many ugly problems rear their head early on in the game, but lets break it down:
This game is as close to experiencing the species as you will get. Everything about the Predator and Alien is represented faithfully. There is a coherent story attached to the game that, once you play through all 3 campaigns, comes together rather nicely. The graphics are outstanding, and the level of detail is truly amazing. The grace of leaping through trees as the Predator and the primal feeling of stalking prey as the Alien are both rewarding gameplay experiences. The violence is unlike anything I have ever seen, and frankly the execution maneuvers are among the most gruesome video game deaths I have ever borne witness to. How this game got past certain censors is amazing. The marine experience is difficult but rewarding for the sheer terror it invokes. Overall, the single player campaign is a fun, if short, experience.
What you've heard about the control is true...it's pretty awful. While I didn't experience vertigo as many endlessly complained about, I found that the controls for the Alien's wall crawling abilities were terrible. The Alien would get stuck on objects, endless spinning in circles when all you want to do is dismount. Sometimes it would even mount a wall you don't want it to. Predator controls are sensible but confusing in a fast paced fight, and frankly the difficulty and species balance is way off. Marines have superior firepower but the cruddy targeting system (even on the smartgun) results in countless needless deaths, ESPECIALLY in multiplayer. And that's where the game gets...
Multiplayer is a mess. On the 360, finding a game can take over ten minutes. There are no dedicated servers, and there is tremendous lag at times. What is worse, the game does not revert to a new host if the host player leaves...it simply ends the match. There goes your hard earned points and your progression towards new skins for your characters. It is plagued with untalented and cheap players who rely on Predator instant kill weapons such as the disc and shoulder cannon. These spammers make the game a chore to play, and it quickly loses its fun. From what I can gather there are only two multiplayer modes: Predator Instant Kill Avoidance or Marine vs. Alien. Apparently they have tried to patch this but these no-talent spammers always find an instant kill weapon to abuse. The executions are also extremely frustrating, taking you out of anything you are doing, even jumping in mid-air. They can sometimes become hysterical, as a chain of 5 or 6 players will all instant kill one another in sequence.
Furthermore, the lack of support this game has received is unbelievable. No Dedicated Servers or patch updates...multiplayer is a mess, and finding a match 8 months into this game's lifespan is now impossible as players have become frustrated with the flaws and moved on to other games. Let's not even get started on the atrocious DLC. $8 FOR TWO $*(#ING MAPS THAT NO ONE PLAYS?!
Also, the single player campaign draws influence from the AvP movies...I think I just threw up in my mouth.
Great but short single player experience. Fun but seriously flawed multiplayer that gets old quick. Poor support. Overpriced and useless DLC.
Franchise fans: Definitely pick it up
Genre fans: Worth a rent
Casual gamers: Barely worth a rent
Hardcore gamers/FPS gurus: Completely Avoid
Fun Factor: 3/5
DLC/Patch Support: ZERO
If you want a great AvP experience, go with the PC version. I regret taking the 360 over the PC version, which I did only because I had 8 friends who promised they'd play. They all got sick of it in less than a week. Sad but true.