PC vs Consoles
Looking at the game from a wider perspective it’s hard to deny that there has been a lot of tinkering with the series to help make it more playable with a controller, but it’s nice to see that these ‘concessions’ (as console-hating gamers will dub them) actually help to improve the game as a whole, regardless of platform.
Most of these tweaks are most noticeable when playing with the Alien, partly because it’s so deliciously different from the rest of the game and partly because it’s the mode that so heavily forces players to use their unique abilities. As the Alien players have to make use of moves such as wall-climbing, but most importantly they also have to do it from the low-height and high-speed of the typical Alien.
Navigating the grungy, pipe-riddled environs that make up Aliens vs Predator
can be pretty difficult for this creepiest of crawlies, so Rebellion has slowed things down a little and made it so you no longer immediately run straight up walls. Instead you have to press a key to change your grip and scale a new surface, tapping it again to release and fall back to the floor. It’s a simple and effective solution that elitist Alien players have no right to complain about and which also helps cutdown on the stomach-emptying disorientation that sometimes marred the older game. It also fits neatly into the rest of the game.
Slightly more incongruous with the fluidity of the rest of the design though is the Aliens’ new focus jump ability, which has been introduced to help make getting in and out of air vents less of a problem. It basically involves automatically highlighting jump points that the Alien will want to make use of, which you can then target and automatically leap to with a quick button press. It’s a system that’ll be greeted with relief by anyone who, like us, spent far too long running up, over and past their intended targets in the first game, but it does stand out as feeling oddly stiff compared to the rest of the Alien design. The fact that a similar system is replicated in the Predator, who can pounce to the higher ground with ease, doesn’t exactly help.
Balancing out this odd little snag though is the fact that the Alien appears to be almost perfectly captured in every other nuance of animation and appearance – something Rebellion has only achieved through a lot of hard work if our extensive discussion of how the tail movements were captured is anything to go by. The Alien stands out as a chillingly realised foe in the four-player co-op Survival mode, often attacking from the sides or being briefly glimpsed as they dart past and disorient you. It’s supremely atmospheric to be dodging backwards as you fire into the shadows only to have an Alien drone whip left-to-right across your screen, grabbing your attention and opening you to attack from another angle.
Unfortunately though, while the Survivor mode itself is an excellent distraction from the multiplayer and campaign options, it isn’t one that looks like it will be particularly long-lasting. There’s only two levels to play with – a corridor inspired by the smartgun scene from Aliens and an underground tomb – and neither of them is all that big. The replay value is mostly to be had from highscore one-upping admittedly and the actual décor doesn’t matter all that much, but limiting it to just two levels does feel a tad stingy and like prep for later DLC profiteering.
Kill Aliens at a distance to avoid acidic blood
Still, it’s important not to get bogged down in petty whinging about the value of a mode that’s probably mainly aimed at those who don’t have a decent internet connection and are therefore missing out on the multiplayer portion of the game. We’ve not yet had a tinker with the multiplayer side of things and we’re definitely very eager to see exactly how the Alien/Predator/Marine balancing is going to work when AI is taken out of the equation, but if the singleplayer is anything to go by then it’s worth getting excited for.
In many ways Aliens vs Predator
looks like it might be a very different style of game to the 1999 classic, especially in how it has traded the constant threat of insta-death for a more sophisticated tension that’s drawn from the atmosphere. At the same time though, it’s mostly unchanged. There are still three campaigns and three very-different styles of play, each one superbly captured except for a few little grievances and just because the type of horror has changed doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be left needing a spare pair of pants. Just like old times.
Aliens vs Predator is set for a February 19th release on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. You can check our interview with Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley for more information on the game, or let us know your thoughts in the forums.