Thursday, October 1, 2015

Alien Month: Aliens vs. Predator (2010)

The name Aliens vs. Predator carries two different meanings; it either refers to a pair of terrible live action movies, or a line of comics and video games.  There have been a number of different video games based off of this crossover concept, but the one I'm focusing on is Aliens vs. Predator, released in 2010.  The developer, Rebellion Studios, is no stranger to making games based off of this concept, as they also developed Aliens vs. Predator for the PC, which was released in 1999.  With that said, there is one question left that needs to be answered: is the game good?
The story is set sometime after the events of Alien 3, the sinister Weyland-Yutani Corporation is once again trying to raise xenomorphs for the purpose of advanced warfare, this time on the planet BG-386.  Additionally, the company is also investigating a giant pyramid created by the Predators, which turns out to be a bad idea as during the process of cracking open the pyramid, an energy blast is released that causes a power outage, allowing the xenomorphs to escape and cause havoc.  Later, marines show up on the planet to take care of the infestation, as well as a group of Predators who are trying to stop Weyland-Yutani from conducting any more research on their race and the xenomorphs.
The events that unfold on the planet are shown from three different perspectives: a marine, a predator, and a xenomorph.  Each one has their own goals and motivations, and their stories are set at different points in time.  Chronologically, the story events in the xenomorph campaign happen first, then the Predator's, and finally the Marine's.  Each of the three campaigns has a strong start and the endings of the Marine and Predator campaign have an interesting set-up for a possible sequel, but the events that happen in the main storyline aren't that interesting.  The Marine storyline suffers from bland characters, as most of the people you meet are your stereotypical soldier archetypes that are subsequently killed off after you meet them.  The only character that is mildly interesting is the power-hungry Karl Bishop Weyland, who is obsessed with researching both the Predators and the Aliens, even if he loses many of his own men in the process.
Each of the three campaigns has their own different playstyles and tone to their respective campaign.  The Marine campaign has a large focus on action, while the Predator and Alien campaigns focus more on stealth.  The Marine is the most familiar of the three characters, and there's nothing unique about him and how he controls.  A large portion of his campaign is spent going around, shooting xenomorphs and combat androids that show up later on, while occasionally activating terminals or re-activating generators in order to continue onwards through the current level.  One of the main problems that all three campaigns suffer form is a lack of variety.  All three characters end up accomplishing similar objectives over the course of their respective campaigns, and while the other characters such as the Predator or Alien may use their own interesting methods in order to complete an objective; it doesn't hide the fact that you're finding something in order to open a door.
Going back to the Marine campaign, the gunplay does feel satisfying as weapons such as the pulse rifle, shotgun, and the smartgun rip the xenomorphs to shreds.  You will want to be careful when killing xenomorphs as their acid will damage you and even if you shoot one of their legs off, they'll still come after you.  However, the lack of ironsights for most of the weapons does feel odd.  The only weapon you can actually zoom in on is the sniper rifle, and while picking off charging xenomorphs isn't hard to do, sometimes it can be tricky trying to aim at a far off xenomorph or small face hugger.
The next character, the Predator, is the most fun to play as of the three.  Playing as him is reminiscent of playing as Batman from the Batman Arkham games, in the sense that you're playing as someone who sticks to the shadows a lot and uses gadgets to take out enemies.  The Predator can jump high and reach treetops and cliffs to use as vantage points, and he also has four gadgets that he can acquire over the course of the campaign, including the shoulder cannon, proximity mines, smart disc, and the spear.  The shoulder cannon and proximity mines drain the Predator's energy meter quickly, meaning you can't use these particular devices freely, unlike the smart disc and spear, which take up no energy. 
If you sneak up on an enemy, the Predator can perform a brutal stealth attack that generally involves stabbing the person with his wrist blades or ripping out their skull.  Even though it's fun to get the drop on marines and wipe them out before they know what hit them, their AI could have been better.  They don't really react to your presence as much as they should have, and they never get concerned over the fact that their own men and women are suddenly disappearing or have turned up dead.
The last character, the Alien, is similar to the Predator in that its campaign has a strong focus on stealth.  Unlike the Predator, the Alien is able to crawl on walls and ceilings and travel through vents in order to get the drop on marines and innocent civilians.  It can also destroy lights to give itself an advantage when sneaking up on someone.  When the Alien sneaks up on a marine or combat android, it performs a stealth kill; however, if it sneaks up on a civilian it can grab the person and use them as a host for a facehugger that conveniently shows up when you initiate the action.  Unfortunately, the marine AI is just as lackluster as it is in the Predator campaign.  Even though the marines have motion trackers, which allows them to detect nearby threats, even when they're not visible; for some reason, most of these marines turned off their motion trackers when traveling through buildings and tunnels, allowing themselves to get easily killed by an xenomorph.
Each of the three characters also has their own boss fights, the Marine campaign has a total of four boss fights, one against the Queen Alien, another against a Predator, a fight with a Praetorian, an xenomorph that's on the verge of becoming a queen, and the last boss fight is against Karl Bishop Weyland.  The Predator campaign has two boss fights, one with a Predalien that shows up at the end of the first level, only to disappear and reappear during the end of the Predator campaign, and a fight against a Praetorian.  Lastly, the Alien campaign has two boss fights that occur during the last level.  The first fight is against two Predators, while the last fight is against an elite Predator that you must weaken first so you can attach a facehugger to him, resulting in the creation of the Predalien.  With the exception of the Queen boss fight, which isn't even a real boss fight, all of the other boss fights are decent conflicts.
Besides having their own boss fights, each character has their own special collectibles that can be found in each level of their own campaign.  The Marine can find audio logs, most of which aren't that interesting and are also rather short.  The Predator can find trophy belts, and the Alien can find specimen sample canisters to destroy.  Beating all three campaigns took about ten hours; the Marine and Predator campaign took about four hours to beat, while the Alien campaign only took about two hours.
The game's visuals are good; in particular, the Marine and Predator campaign manage to do a decent job at building up atmosphere in some of the levels.  My only complaint is that the human character models have a plastic look to them, making them look like action figures.  The voice acting is mostly average, with the only exception being Lance Henriksen's performance as Karl Bishop Weyland.  The music is also a mixed bag, some of the tracks are good but then there are some that are forgettable.
When taken for what it's worth, Aliens vs. Predator is a decent, but fun game.  All three characters are fun to play as, but the generic story and design problems of the campaigns hold back the game from being a truly good game.
Final Score: 6/10

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