I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to the discussion at Universal that lead to the formation of the Aliens Vs Predator movie. Here’s how I think it would have gone:
Ideas guy: ‘Dude, what about Aliens and Predators in one movie?’
Producer: ‘Man, that would be sick! But they’re not even in the same story universe’
ID: ‘Meh, so what? They did it in games in the 90s. Two of the best and biggest monsters in one movie, it would be epic!’
P: ‘Yeah but we can’t make a movie without a story can we?’
ID: ‘What about: Predators breed Xenomorph Aliens for sport hunting? Make it some sort of Right of Passage or something’
P: ‘Yep, that’d probably work. Game on, I’ll put a writing team together’
And so, the Aliens Vs Predator movie was born and a reboot to the series was initiated. Two of Universal’s biggest monster franchises, combined together into an all out action fest. Yeah, there was a story, well kind of, but the original AVP movie and it’s subsequent sequels have all been about glorious action. I think of them as the balance to all those period dramas and romcoms, which helps me come to terms with spending money to see a film with basically no narrative.
Of course, both Aliens and Predator have seen game-movie tie-ins that predictably have been a little weak. Probably the best of the lot was Alien 3 back in the 16bit era, but the latest in the long list of franchise game spin offs, Sega’s new Aliens Vs Predator (AvP) is attempting to change that and it’s multiplayer was on show at the Eurogamer Expo in London for hands on.
Given that the movie that the game is loosely based on was all action, you can rest assured that’s the aim of the game too. What could be better than Aliens, Predators and Marines in one game? How about Aliens, Predators and Marines all in one match you ask? Well if that’s something you’ve been craving for with this generation of consoles you can be at ease, because that’s exactly what’s available in AvP.
Each character type has it’s own unique abilities. The Marines for instance can fire their assault rifles, whilst the Predator can roam around practically invisible. The party piece of the Aliens has to be their ability to run up and down on pretty much any surface; walls, ceiling and floor, they’re all game. The each player can take charge of any of the three character types, but I can safely say, after my short hands on experience with the game, no one is going to want to be a Marine. In one match one player playing as a Marine literally died every 3 steps. It’s certainly the weakest character in the game and is often the prey for both Predator and Aliens. Ok, they have projectile weapons, but in all honesty it’s pretty difficult to hit something that’s either invisible or lightning quick.
The multiplayer certainly plays fast. It’s a frantic rush of stealth kills and melee attacks that invariably ends in all parties dying just as frequently as they kill. Thankfully however the controls are pretty simple and responsive. You basically get two types of attack, heavy or light and you can run and jump to different extents depending on your character. The Alien is probably the most difficult to control as it’s incredibly fast and jumps orientation rapidly as you transition from floors to walls to ceilings, however keeping the action simple it’s pretty easy to get into the game and we found after a little adjustment that the Alien was just as easy to control as any other character. That I think shows that the team behind AvP has put some real thought into the potentially difficult task of controlling one of the most agile monsters available. Simplicity is however where the multiplayer element of AvP may come short. In our brief brush with the game it was easily apparent that the death match battles became rapidly repetitive, with little variety in confrontations and kills. Ok, with two types of attacks and no changing of weapons what do you expect? However fast and gory the action is, if it’s boring after a few goes you’re unlikely to come back to it.
Graphically the game looked quite detailed but suffered from a flat looking textures that left something to be desired. Each of the characters were quite detailed, especially in the kill and death sequences. Sneaking up on someone from behind enabled a ‘stealth kill’ prompt which when executed launched you at your opponent and played a small in-game animation sequence of the kill. For the Alien it was the traditional, grab the guy and ram it’s tail through their back and out their stomach. For Predator it was the invisible force holding the character before an invisible spear was thrust through their bodies and outlined in their blood. The animations were both satisfying to watch as well as frustrating in the time they took. They are one hit kill type strikes but often in the time it takes to do the animation sequence some opportunistic player can come up behind you and do the same manoeuvre to you whilst you don’t have any control. So I guess it’s something to be savoured and only used when there’s no one around.
Having not had a chance to get any face time with the single player experience, which I understand has three separate story-driven campaigns that intertwine, I can’t say for sure what the whole game is going to turn out like and whether it will best previous offering in the franchise. What I can tell you, baring in mind that this is still a ‘work in progress’, is that the multiplayer has both good points and bad points. It’s obvious that the speed and frantic nature of the game play adds to an exciting multiplayer experience, but that highly repetitive kill sequences and limited combat options makes the multiplayer somewhat boring. If you were taking on some mates, I can see it being a really exciting and competitive experience with lots of trash talking and owning opportunities. Whether playing against randoms across the internet will keep you entertained for long remains to be seen.
[Photo credits to Ben Smith]