Aliens vs. Predator Hands-On Preview

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Alien, Predator, and Alien vs. Predator are some classic sci-fi/horror movies with a tradition of very mediocre videogame remakes. However, a demo released today for the upcoming Aliens vs. Predator game for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC hints at what may be the first really good game in the series.  I downloaded the demo on Xbox Live today to check it out, and here’s what I found.

The demo was just for online multiplayer, and all the games were 8-person team deathmatches in the same arena, a ship or base that has been infested by all kinds of Alien goo. In each game, 2 of the 8 players can choose to be the Predator, and the rest can be either a mix of 2 human and 4 Alien or vice versa. Each species has its own advantages and disadvantages, and plenty of awesome, just beautifully gruesome execution moves. I’ll start with the Predator.

Playing as the Predator is easily one of the most badass experiences I’ve had playing video games in a while. The Predator has the thermal vision, the shoulder rockets (which have to be picked up in the level), the sweet hand-daggers, the cloaking ability, the jumping across the stage ability, and the execution move where he rips off the head of a human marine, taking the spine with it, then quickly caressing the spine before tossing the head aside. WOW. I felt like Rebellion, the game’s developer, actually managed to do justice to the Predator from film. Most of the Predator’s lethality, however, doesn’t lie so much in the executions, as those take a while and leave you vulnerable to attack as they are carried out. He’s most deadly because of his swift and powerful attacks that can knock other players over, and the stealth mechanic that allows you to sneak up on enemies. Again, just a Schwarzeneggar full of fun playing as the Predator.

Now the Alien also has its fantastic elements, although they are decidedly more creepy and vicious than they are gruesome and powerful.  When you’re playing as the Alien, you clearly have a leg up in versatility, as you can climb on any surface, meaning walls and ceilings, and can sprint probably twice as fast as the other species. The Alien also has its fair share of executions, including one involving that little mouth inside its regular mouth, and it has a solid melee attack as well. But the key with the Alien is to sneak up on the enemy either by running up behind them super fast or by maneuvering through the environment to flank them and quickly execute them before they can react. Like the Predator, I felt like Rebellion really did justice to the Alien of film, which allows players to actually feel like they are stalking some unknowing human prey.

Speaking of human prey, that is exactly how playing as the marine feels. You might think this is sort of a let-down, but like the previous two species, it plays its role well. How does the game accomplish this, seeing as how marines are the only species with guns (including an assault rifle, shotgun, sniper rifle, chain gun, and flamethrower, all available as pick-ups throughout the level)? The component that really cranks up the horror factor is the marine’s radar, which, like in the movies, just shows a series of blinking blue dots where the enemy is, and beeps at a higher pitch the closer they get. When I played, this made for a number of "just kill me now" moments, where the radar starts beeping wildly and you know he’s right on top of you, but you can’t see him, and then all of a sudden you hear a screech and the marine looks down to see an Alien tail sticking through his stomach. Crazy freaky, and also crazy sweet.

This game isn’t without its flaws, of course. Some of the controls are mapped in weird ways that make it difficult to execute what should be basic moves, like melee, and the marine can’t sight with any of his weapons except the sniper rifle, so it’s all effectively hip fire. The mechanic that allows the Alien to transfer surfaces is cumbersome and difficult to use, and often takes you onto a wall or box you didn’t intend to mount. And probably the most basic issue is just that entering and exiting games takes a while, which in the day and age of multiplayer systems like that of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, is tough to excuse.

Overall, though, I was really pleasantly surprised by the ability of Rebellion to take three extremely different gameplay approaches, throw them all into one ring, and actually have the battles come out pretty balanced. Only time will tell how that really plays out once players get used to using the different species, but in its introductory stage, each species is empowering in its own way, and recognizably true to its roots. No further information about the campaign was gleaned from this demo, but if the gameplay elements are similar, it also has a lot of promise.

Aliens vs. Predator will be out on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC on February 16th, 2010.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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