"They're coming out of the walls! They're coming out of the goddamn walls!"
A quick shot of tooth and claw cuts the face of the hapless victim. The inner jaws go flying. The skull cracks open. The brains come out. A blur in the distance triggers a thermal view of the unsuspecting target. Red lines extend to form a triangle. A flash, the man falls to the ground, his chest a smoking, cauterized hole. Hmmm... a tense, slow moving, Colonial Marine. A bleep on the motion sensor, another, and another, closer and closer. A screech, a trigger pulled. Bullets fly. Grenades fly. Alien and Predator chunks bounce wildly. The Marine steps forward to examine the smoking holes in the ground, kicking aside steaming pieces of black carapace and extraterrestrial dreadlocks.
Such is the essence of Aliens vs. Predator, a game which pits three of the coolest creations in Science Fiction - the Alien Xenomorph, the Predator, and the United States Colonial Marine - against one another in a fight to the death. This is one of the most startlingly good movie-to-PC game adaptations ever fabricated by silicon means.
I won't bother explaining who the Alien, Predator, Marines are. I won't bother telling you who H.R. Geiger is and I certainly won't explain to you how to use a Pulse Rifle or what regulations are violated by strapping one to a flame-thrower to get that extra 'exterminator joy-buzzer warm fuzzy' feeling.
If you've seen the Alien and Predator movies then you are quite normal and not in need of a purgative. If not, get the bloody hell out from under whatever repugnant, dank rock you've been living and get thee to the video store, and quickly thereafter to a respectable pharmacy.
I'll just say this right off the bat: Aliens vs. Predator is the most atmospheric game I have ever played. Both the Aliens and Predator licenses are used to great effect to create an almost palpable feeling of terror and tension that raises the bar considerably for the level of immersion in gaming.
Aliens vs. Predator is played from a first person perspective as either an Alien, Predator, or a United States Colonial Marine. The three combatants are thrown into settings taken from the Alien movies and made to kill each other.
Gameplay is distinctly different for each race, making Aliens vs. Predator essentially three highly compelling games in one.
As the Alien, you scale walls, tear off limbs, impale hapless humans on your tail, and bite off their heads to gain a health boost. You are the ultimate horror, and all creatures are your prey. However, because of the lack of ranged attacks you are incredibly vulnerable and must use stealth, high speed, and fantastic maneuverability to get the drop on your opponents and tear them to pieces.
As the Predator you deal with you prey much in the same way as an assassin. You can cloak, track your targets with your special viewing modes, blast things to pieces with the auto-tracking shoulder cannon, nail body parts to walls with your spear gun, slice torsos in half with your auto-tracking throwing disk, electrocute with your plasma pistol, slice with your wrist-blades, and heal yourself with your medicomp. Playing with the Predator gives a great ego boost. You are a high-tech, incredibly tough, stealthy game hunter. The Aliens and humans are there for your amusement, although one wrong step and you could find yourself as an inner-jaws-entree.
As the Marine you are equipped with a Motion Tracker, Image Intensifier, Pulse Rifle, Smart-gun, Grenade Launcher, SADAR rocket launcher, Flame-thrower, and an all-powerful Mini-gun. You are the hunted, and are easily killed. Your only saving grace is your superior weaponry and the precautionary advantage of the motion tracker.
Because of the incredible lethality of these three well-balanced combatants, Aliens vs. Predator is a hard edged, tense, life and death action horror blast. The use of lighting and appropriate textures in the levels adds greatly to the thick atmosphere of the game. Combine this with high difficulty and incredible speed, and you'll see why Aliens vs. Predator is the only gaming experience I have ever had where I was actually afraid, sweating, tense, nervous, and completely engrossed. You actually fear for your life.
Much of the reason you'll fear is that there is no in-level save function. This helps to raise the stakes, albeit mildly irritating at times.
The sound and music are also used to draw you in. Aliens vs. Predator features most of the effects from the Alien and Predator movies. The Predator has his particular chirps and clicks, the Alien sounds like a screeching cockroach, and the Humans cry out in panic and pain. The sounds of the weapons are also taken from the films, adding to the authenticity of the gameplay. The music is appropriately chilling, based on, but not lifted from, the scores of the films.
The graphics are terrific. The lighting effects, character modeling, polygon count, and texturing are all at the very top of the pack. The character models are all fully destructible, allowing you to tear off heads, fragment aliens, or remove the Predator's arm that contains his self-destruct device ;). Once you kill something, there is an advanced particle system in place that handles blood and explosions beautifully. The 3D water ripple effect is great, and there is also an adept physics model in place. Explosions realistically travel down confined spaces, debris floats in the water, and alien bits go bouncing off the walls. It's all very remarkable.
The best thing, though, is how the graphics are used to create a believable locale. The textures are all taken from the films and the lighting is appropriately dark and creepy (even using strobe effects to evoke feelings of panic). This game really complements the films, right down to the inner set of jaws the Aliens use to bite open your trachea.
Multi-player is fantastic. The use of the three balanced species makes multi-player a varied, enthralling gaming experience. The use of several new multi-player modes like Predator Tag (in which everyone is a human except for one Predator; if you kill him, you get to be him) makes the multi-player experience absolutely revolutionary. It's a pity that Gamespy support is not available yet, because using Mplayer is a major drag.
I simply cannot spit out enough kind words for Aliens vs. Predator. Not since Jedi Knight have I seen the look, feel, and endearing qualities of a movie (or series of films) so adeptly transmuted into a computer game. Aliens vs. Predatoris amazing in its single player use of tension and atmosphere to draw you in, its incredible balance of three very memorable opponents, and the sheer terrifying effect that the game has on you.
Despite all the good, there is always some bad. For one thing, the single player game is somewhat short. While this unfortunate occurrence is happening more and more to games in this genre, hopefully by mentioning it we can stop the trend. Also, the interface takes getting used to. When playing as the Alien, it gets hard to remember which direction is down, and being disoriented can prove to be fatal. Some gamers might even have to take a break from playing every now and then in order to combat the motion sickness.
Aliens vs. Predator is an excellent First Person Shooter, but that's all that it is. With great graphics and an excellent mood, this game rises to the top of the pile, but it still doesn't offer anything truly revolutionary. What we have here is a fantastic game that fans of the genre should buy immediately . . . so what are you waiting for?