The list of games based on the Alien and Predator film franchises is extensive, but the first of what could be referred to as a modern FPS title hit the shelves back in 1999. Titled Aliens versus Predator, and released for the Windows and Mac platforms, this intense, terrifying title followed three distinct story paths laid down by Alien, Predator and Colonial Marine characters.
Naturally, a sequel followed shortly afterwards, and for the next few years we were varyingly treated and subjected to ports, crossovers and all manner of mobile versions until arriving in 2010, whereupon we can now expect an entirely new title from the same developers as the original, Rebellion Developments. At a press event today at PlayTech on Auckland's North Shore, we caught up with Paul Mackman from this UK-based studio and played a few rounds on the PlayStation 3 version.
The game features several multiplayer modes, with some yet to be announced. We got our hands on four of them, some genre standards, others inspired by the source material, and one under embargo which we won't be telling you about. We are glad to report however that all were punctuated with cheers, shouts of surprise and hollering.
In the classic death match, players pick one of the three playable factions, Marines, Aliens or Predators, and go head to head in an arena-based free for all. Each faction has distinct advantages and disadvantages. It’s in this format that Rebellion’s efforts to balance each type will be tested. This mode is all good and well – entertaining and apparently robust, but also something that most gamers are familiar with. Where the Aliens vs. Predator multiplayer shines is in the modes that recreate the experience of the movies.
A kind of tower defence with attrition, Infestation places all players on the map and then selects one at random to play as an alien. As soon as this alien player has picked off one of the marines, that dead player respawns on the alien faction, and so on, until one desperate marine is left to fend against the overwhelming alien horde.
Predator Hunt is a spin on the same concept. Again, all players are cast as marines and one is selected at random to play as the Predator. The predator has an allotted time in which he must kill the marines to earn points. Each marine killed continues his allotted time. Any player who kills the Predator becomes the Predator in turn.
As for the character classes, in a return to form the title of the game is actually misleading, as while you do have Aliens vs Predators, they are also vs Marines. We have to hand it to Rebellion for their continued efforts with the difficult task of balancing three unique races within a shooter game.
Anyone who played the originals will feel fairly familiar with how things work here. The Predator is your hunter. He has a lot of gadgets, and is quite difficult to master. Cloaking will be your best friend, as once cloaked you can jump around the level into the trees or onto structures. It is important to get to high ground so you may survey the area and use your various vision modes to spot enemies. It's a much more controlled game when playing a Predator as you have you take your time and wait for the right moment to go in for your kill. Most of the time your kills will be up close and personal using the game's melee system, which is more complex this time around as it features a light attack, heavy attack, block and stealth moves. The stealth kills for Predators in particular are very cool and gruesome, and they do a wonderful job of showing off the excellent animation crafted for the Marines.
Most of these animations are of terrified faces and this is with good reason. Playing as the Marine is a much scarier experience than the other two races, as you really do feel like you are being hunted. The maps we played on were quite dark, and all you have to see the enemies are a flash flight and your motion detector. When you are alone and you here the ominous "beep" indicating that something is moving - and even worse it appears to be right next to you, it's every bit as scary as we've come to expect from this franchise. More than once we found ourselves turning and spraying bullets blindly hoping that they'd find a target nearby. It's a lot of fun, because even though you feel hunted you still have some very impressive ranged firepower to even things out.
This will come in handy if you have an Alien on your tail because these bastards are quick. Playing as an Alien was so much fun because you can go almost anywhere you like. Running up surfaces in any direction becomes extremely disorientating quite quickly, however once you get used to it and learn how to control your movement the Alien becomes deadly. Key to finding the right aerial vantage point is the glowing HUD indicator that advises you if a ledge, or tree is within jumping range.
You are certainly the quickest thing on the battlefield, therefore making a rapid escape can be pretty easy, and sometimes necessary considering you have quite low health. However once you crawl down a wall behind a scared Marine, grab him and shove your spiked tail through his chest... you will feel satisfied. Well, satisfied if that's your kind of thing, horrified if it's not.
The races are all a lot of fun to play and definitely feel different. We didn't have a chance to see the single-player campaign this time around, but if it's anything like the previous AvP titles you can expect three different stories full of pretty intense action. Of most interest however will be to see how balanced these three factions will be once the game releases, especially considering how many different multiplayer modes the game will have.
Our thanks to SEGA NZ and Rebellion for the hands-on time with Aliens vs. Predator.