Game Console recently got the chance check out a preview PC version of Sega’s upcoming Aliens vs. Predator. The game reunites the franchise with veteran British developers, Rebellion. Responsible for both the lauded 1994 Atari Jaguar AvP and the fondly remembered 1999 AvP on the PC, Rebellion has now given the movie monsters the next-gen treatment.
AvP presents the player with the choice of three campaigns, one for each of the franchise’s factions (Aliens, Predators and Colonial Marines). The campaign play style is so different for each race that they could almost be separate games in themselves, if it wasn’t for the cleverly interwoven narrative that binds them together.
As usual the catastrophically irresponsible Weyland-Yutani Corporation has been up to mischief again, this time trying to domesticate aliens on one of its mining colonies, Freya’s Prospect. When communication with the colony is lost, the hapless Colonial Marines are sent in to find out what has happened (and you thought your job was tough!). At the same time, the Predators turn up, answering a distress call of their own. The scene is set, the ultimate alien killing machines together with the ultimate alien hunters and stuck in the middle, the Colonial Marines – locked, loaded and ready to kick alien butt no matter the flavour.
As an Alien, you are one of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s test subjects and apparently smarter than the average xenomorph. Initially in chains, it’s not long before you are chewing on marines and scientists alike. As with the 1999 game, the Alien campaign has the most unconventional gameplay. With no long-range attacks, you need to get up close and personal. You have your tail and claws, but also the ability to lock onto a target and leap across onto them. This is no substitute for ballistic weaponry, as if you are not careful you can easily find yourself in the sight of your victim’s buddy. The shadows, wall and ceilings are an Alien’s friend. If you suffer from motion sickness you may need a bag handy when playing as an Alien. Your freedom of movement has no limits, as the xenomorph can climb walls and walk along the ceiling. While this is a very cool ability, in the heat of battle it is easy to get disorientated and find yourself sneaking along the floor and into a marine’s line of sight when you thought you were on the ceiling. It takes some getting used to.
My personal favourite is the Predator campaign. The gameplay is less visceral than that of the Alien, allowing you to set up carefully planned ambushes. Armed with the cloaking device, you can get quite close to your victims, although they will spot you if you get too close. The wrist blades are great for close-up attacks, but you also have the shoulder-mounted laser cannon for taking pot shots from a distance.
The marine campaign is the most generic; a first-person shooter that could easily be ho-hum if it wasn’t for the moody dark corridors and the pants-wetting beep of the damn motion sensor. When that movement is right above you, you’d better not play the game late at night on your own in a darkened room, that’s all I’m saying. Atmospheric, scary and great fun.
A next-gen AvP has been a long time coming and I think we are in for a treat. Graphically, the game is top-class. It makes good use of dimly lit, shadowy corridors and also features impressive, wide-open spaces and jungle. Although I was testing the game on a PC rig that was well in excess of the system requirements, I did experience the occasional annoying stutter. This could be something that the developers will iron out in the final game, but worth noting if you have an older system. The campaign games look and play great. With the promised inclusion of three-species multiplayer, I’m betting that we’ll have a winner on our hands.