Game: Aliens Versus Predator (2010)
Developer: Rebellion Developments
Genre: Single Player FPS Horror
When I first heard about a new AVP game (Aliens Versus Predator) I was giddy with excitement, and rushed to find every screenshot there was, and watch every trailer. What I first saw looked absolutely great to me, a graphically lush modern interpretation of the series that looked like it would do the series real justice. Back in 2002, I had played the second AVP game, AVP2, and it is a game I have played numerous times, mainly down to the mixture of fun gameplay, and a decent storyline that connected the species that are at the core of the game (and the title) along with human marines. So, with a bit of optimism, I was really thinking that AVP 2010 (or AVP3 as most fans will call it) would effectively be a graphical update of that great formula that made me enjoy AVP2 so much. How far from the truth that was....
What I received was a game that had some good gameplay, but my gut feeling about the game is that there is very little substance to it. At the time, I considered the story merely acceptable, something that connected A to B and B to C, but it effectively has been virtually forgotten now I have come back to this review, around six months after I first played the game. A story like the one in AVP2 was memorable, and although it too wasn't truly great, it was representative of the general FPS story quality of the time. These days, FPS story tends to take a back seat to the gameplay side of things during development. This can be good if the gameplay is brilliant and you love purely shooting at things, but for those of us with a bit more cranial capacity than a Neanderthal, shooting things isn't so funky. We need variation, and something engaging that will make us want to carry on playing.
In the end, I started to review this game, but was so disappointed, I couldn't finish it. So after six months, I present to you the wondrous thoughts of mine when I first played the game!!!
The story in AVP is pretty weak in general. It's a very basic background plot, but I found particularly in the marine campaign it was pretty poor, as events just happened with no real reason behind them. You end up going from one place to another without any real reason why it is all happening. Rather weirdly, it was the Predator and Alien campaigns that actually felt better story wise, if only because the 'characters' you played as had more of an identity and purpose. The predator is there on a hunt, and aims to remove the humans from 'sacred' grounds, so to speak, the Alien is the result of experiments, and is trying to return to its hive - up to a certain point anyway. But the marine.... is just there to shoot stuff. And save some woman who seems to suddenly end up in trouble, out of the blue. AVP2 was miles better overall.
The first thing I must mention is that there is some repetition in the levels between the species, a lot more than there was in AVP2, and probably a bit too much. It doesn’t harm the game too much, as the game feels and plays differently with each different species anyway, but it is something that is basically the result of a limited development time, although I guess it must have been planned like this from a relatively early stage. The marine bit at first seemed a bit so-so, with the primary weapon often running out of ammo for me, resulting in having to use a very weak pistol to fend off the aliens. This I suppose made it more challenging but it was also a bit more annoying at first, until I realised that the pistol actually had infinite ammo and I could just fire off as many shots as I liked without a care in the world if they were even on target or not. Later in the marine campaign, as you get better weapons and extra ammo(!), the gameplay feels a lot better.
The predator gameplay I found to be very enjoyable personally because I like the stealthy play that you can do with the predator - using the cloaking device to hide, and sneak up on people. The predator also has a cool trick from the movies, which is being able to throw a fake human voice in a certain location to make the unsuspecting marines go and search it out or go to another location - somewhere more isolated where you can perform a stealthy kill. The heat vision mode looks the coolest I've seen in any AVP related game so far, and felt very much like the original Predator film, so I really liked that. The kills can be pretty gory at times, and you are able to rip off the heads of either humans or aliens. The weapons of the predator are fun to use, although most of the time you'll find yourself just using the wrist blades when the going gets tough. The plasma caster device is pretty powerful, but it has a limited power which needs to be recharged, so you can't rely on it too much.
Some other weapons appear later in the game, like mines, the disc from Predator 2, and a spear that can be thrown. Of those three I just didn't find much use for the mines and the disc I only used to try it for something different. It has one advantage over the plasma caster in that it doesn't require any energy recharging, so you can use it as much as you want. The weapon I preferred most out of these later ones is the spear, which is great for getting an instant kill over a long distance - it's kind of like a predator sniper rifle in the effect it gives in that it's great for longer distance but no good in close combat.
The alien gameplay was a mixed bag, as it could be fun at times biting people’s heads off etc. and quickly outpacing fleeing enemies, but it could be at times frustrating due to feeling a bit disorientating, as the alien can easily swap over to other surfaces sending you in all directions. It also didn't seem all that easy to sneak up on enemies and play completely stealthy, as they often detected you as you jumped down from above and effectively alerted everyone else in the area of your presence, meaning a potentially quick death.
Overall, as the game has three very distinct gameplay types it ends up being naturally quite varied and the problems I encountered were still outweighed by the fact that it felt fun to play as each species. The length of the game was overall a solid, if pretty average 11 hours for me, but the l33t gamers seemed to be quite adept at completing it in half that time, so I guess they pretty much just ran straight through the levels, without really getting into the respective roles.
I must say, this really depends on whether you like the game or not obviously, but because I enjoyed the gameplay, I'd definitely give it another play through at some point. There are also some other modes including one called survival, which enables you to fend off wave after wave of aliens. I gave that a try and it seemed alright, although something I'd probably get bored of pretty quickly. I've not personally tried the MP side of things, but from what I can tell, it's a bit marmite, with people either loving or hating it.
The graphics look decent enough even on my ancient PC with the lowest settings enabled, so considering I thought it looked decent enough on lowest, it should easily look good enough on highest settings. It's not a game that is cutting edge, and definitely not the best, but the graphics are pretty much on par with the better games out at the moment.
As said, I was on lowest settings, so it should run well… but my PC is pretty old too; it is in its 4th year, so considering other titles released this year like Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2 won't even work on my PC due to dualcore requirements as minimum, that makes me pretty happy with this game regarding performance. I've heard a few people mention performance issues with DX11 mode, but even then they're still getting framerates better than what I'm getting on my card on lowest settings, so they're probably just a bit too l33t and snobbish.
The sound is fairly decent, but it can occasionally suddenly go a bit too loud in some sections, meaning I was turning my volume up and down quite a bit in these bits. The main thing I can think of is when there are Weyland Yutani adverts looping on the screens in the background, and all you can hear is Lance Henriksen’s booming voice.
The save system is a checkpoint based affair, which would normally get me annoyed and make be downrate it, but because the easy mode I played on was genuinely easy and the sections that do need to be replayed aren't all that long (depending on how you play), it seemed to work alright. I'd always prefer to save anywhere though, if only so I could just exit a game whenever I wanted.
The menu is pretty standard stuff overall, so average marks here, but what loses a bit more is the fact that some audio logs in the marine campaign require unnecessary extra clicks to get back to the main game after hearing them.
At first the game seemed to be a buggy mess, with the cinematic cutscenes failing miserably in that I couldn't get any of them to work properly, as they all had stuttering and looping sound issues. I found out that a lot of others had sound issues, although different to me, as they had no sound at all. Hopefully this will be fixed in the upcoming patch. Other than the FMV cutscenes though, the in-game rendered scenes and the game in general worked absolutely fine with no issues. I'd have preferred it if the only bugs in the game were of the Xenomorph variety though.
I did enjoy this game a lot, despite its flaws, but I suspect it's a game for the fans, and that average Joe won't really be all that impressed with it. The game has a solid base in that the core gameplay is pretty decent, it looks good, and is something that the fans will enjoy. The problem though is that the weak plot overall and other flaws will make it a less attractive proposition to the mass market. It also can feel like a pretty average shooter at times, and doesn't have the same 'thrill' that the previous game, AVP2, gave me.
Verdict: For fans, you don't really need a review; you'll buy it anyway and enjoy it. I did, for the most part. For everyone else, it's hard to say whether you'll love it or not, but it is a pretty average game overall, and I doubt it'll be long before it hits the bargain bins.
Is your chest bursting after reading the review? Want to bite my head off? Comment in the forums!