Sunday, February 21, 2010

Aliens vs Predator

The Aliens vs Predator games have always had mixed appeal for me. The original had wonderful atmosphere but I never enjoyed the game-play, nominally because it had poor story but in truth because it so cheerfully kicked my ass. The 2001 sequel had a stronger (if somewhat convoluted) story and I appreciated the game-play more (read: it was easier) but -aside from a precious few moments- lacked the terrifying atmosphere that made the franchise so memorable. And what of the 2010 reboot?

Like the previous games, the series divides itself into three campaigns; one for each species (Human, Predator and Alien). The human campaign was suitably terrifying; I was vulnerable prey running from deadly and hungry non-terrestrial life. Unfortunately, my deadly array of weaponry even the odds somewhat, minimizing the fear... at least until ammo started to run low. But it was by far the best of the three campaigns.

The Alien and Predator campaigns were less satisfying; they were just too deadly to provide much of a challenge.  All three of the campaigns also suffered from very linear levels, although this was less obvious with the Aliens and Predators, who could leap across wide areas with ease, which opened up the maps somewhat; the Humans were limited to tight corridors. The AI was largely disappointing too, especially with regards to the "charge directly into my gun-sights" Aliens. It cheated too; the AI always seemed to know exactly where I was. It didn't make the monsters anymore effective in combat, but it was disconcerting that -even playing as a cloaked Predator and hidden behind walls - the AI still directed fire in my direction. The story was improved over the 1999 game but was poorly paced and ended predictably. And the game was incredibly short; about two hours per campaign.

But for all its shortcomings, the old-school game-play of Aliens vs Predator was a welcome change of pace. It might not have "wowed" me, but neither did it entirely disappoint. It may have been run-of-the-mill as far as design, but it used the iconic franchise well and it was entertaining to boot.

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