Aliens Vs Predator Xbox 360 review

Aaron embarks on just another bug hunt with Rebellion’s latest take on Aliens Vs Predator…

When a developer gets the chance to work on a huge movie licence, it’s got to be like Christmas come early. Having a big name on your game’s box is tantamount to printing money these days.

So, if you happen to snag the rights to, not one, but two of the most iconic action sci-fi blockbusters ever made, getting a winning title is surely as easy as a heavyweight boxer stepping into the ring with a paraplegic.

Rebellion is hardly a newcomer when it comes to the worlds of both aliens and predators, having already released Aliens Vs Predator titles before, so with past experiences under its belt, can the British developer make the most of the current generation hardware and catapult our hopes and dreams of actually ‘being’ an alien or predator into orbit?

Following much the same direction as previous AvP games, you’re once again given the opportunity of stepping into the shoes of a Colonial Marine, Alien or Predator, each of whom has their own campaign. The Colonial Marine’s campaign is undoubtedly going to be the first destination for the majority of gamers, which is lucky, as it’s here where the game shines the brightest. The Marine’s campaign is fleshed out very well, indeed, and is suitably polished. It’s the longest of the three stories, and it’s clear to see this is where the majority of the developer’s time and attention has gone. As soon as you begin, it’s not long before you notice the game’s major ace in the hole – the presentation.

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Fans of the movies will be smiling with glee every step of the way through the series of missions, which are so full of fan-service to the subject matter it’s plain to see that Rebellion knows its onions. Visually, despite not looking as good as the majority of its current-gen peers, AvP is pretty good, especially when it comes to attention to detail when reproducing the movie sets. The initial outing in the human colony is lifted right out of Aliens, and subsequent locations, such as the refinery, with its Alien 3 stylings borrow from the rest of the universe.

Character models are a little bit behind the times when compared to recent titles, but few could complain about the excellent Alien reproductions, which are truly great – something you’ll see up close and personal soon enough…

However, even if the visuals don’t rock your boat, the audio direction most definitely will. The FX and ambient music are absolutely spot on, and while gingerly wandering down darkened corridors with nothing but a rather ineffective flashlight and the occasional short-lived flare, you’ll feel like you’re truly in the movies, along with the apprehension that brings. This is the best re-creation of the totally unnerving motion tracker beep I’ve heard so far, and finally we have the uniquely cool Pulse Rifle bark reproduced perfectly. The voice acting is, for the most part, okay, with Lance Henriksen doing his bit as Karl Bishop Weyland, and plenty of the more memorable movie dialogue is present.

All of this is woven into a really impressive atmosphere that is at its very best in the opening minutes. With only a handgun, and no backup, you have to make your way through a seemingly deserted, and pitch black outpost. As you mooch around looking for power switches to bring the lights back on, the tiny bit of light you have isn’t enough to quell the fear that begins to rise as you hear noises, and blips on the motion tracker begin to move. The fear of an Alien lunging at you from the darkness is ever-present, but doesn’t come – at least not right away… It’s a brilliantly paced introduction, and even once you get into the game proper, this kind of fear generating mechanic is always present.

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When you do come face to, erm… face with an Alien, you shift into a different fear – one that has you frantically trying to avoid quick and painful death as you haphazardly try to take down Hollywood’s meanest alien threat with a pea shooter. Even when you get to play with the better weapons like the Pulse Rifle, flamethrower and smart gun, you’ll still feel more than a little uneasy, as xenomorphs are fast, agile and can run along any surface. This is a gimmick that’s used brilliantly, too. Picture the scene: you’re walking through a dark, empty room and your motion tracker starts to show movement in front of you. It gets closer… and closer, but still, you see nothing. Then you look up…

It’s all excellent and atmospheric stuff, well worth the price of admission and, thankfully, the game underneath it all holds together, even if it all feels a little old school. AvP‘s control and overall feel are undeniably a little dated, with no extras like iron sight aiming or involved interaction with the environment (save a couple of switches to flick and panels to hack), and the smoothness of the controls isn’t as buttery as I’d have liked. With enemies as fast and agile as the aliens, controls as fluid as those seen in the likes of CoD are needed but, sadly, aren’t present. They’re not bad, by any means, but you can’t help feel they needed to be better.

Once you’re done with the Marine’s outing, you’ll no doubt wish to sample the Alien and Predator’s missions, and although you’d expect these to be even better than the Marine portion of the game, given the game’s title, you’ll, rather tragically, be a little disappointed.

The Alien campaign is perhaps the poorest of the three, mainly as writing a story about a creature that’s little more than an acid-filled weapon with claws and a bitey mouth was always going to be a challenge. Shoehorning in a kind of telepathic, hive mind link to the Queen, you play ‘6′, an Alien being experimented on by Weyland Yutani. Predictably, you escape and have to do the Queen’s bidding, which oddly includes a lot of hunting for switches, something that simply doesn’t fit with the Alien character.

As an Alien your main weapons are your razor sharp claws and tail, as well as the ability to hide in the dark and run along the walls and ceiling. The latter of these abilities is where AvP starts to unravel a little. While it’s cool to perch upside-down on the ceiling in the dark, waiting for a hapless soul to walk into range of your fury, using this ability in heated battle is both confusing and clunky.

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The melee combat, while passable, is also a bit stale and unwieldy. With a character that’s so focused on melee combat and quick, vicious attacks, Rebellion really needed to put in more time in order to get the feel and accessibility just right. This wasn’t done, and instead of a fast, efficient and downright brutal killing machine, you have a fast, clumsy and often inaccurate beast. Close up, fatality-style kills are always a laugh, though. That is, when you can manoeuvre into just the right spot to pull them off.

The Predator is one of the most tragic characters of gaming, in my opinion. Despite several tries, the games industry has never been able to truly capture the brilliance of the silver screen’s star, and while Rebellion has given it a damn good try (both here and previously), the same is true again.

As the Predator, you have access to all of the staple weapons of the hunter-killer species. Wrist blades, the plasma caster, throwing discs and spear gun are present and correct, and you can also use different vision modes and utilise the ‘yeah, I know it’s cheating, but it looks damn cool’ cloaking device. And, the Predator can also jump massive distances, able to find vantage points to ambush foes.

Another interesting ability is the distraction skill. By selecting a point in the area, you can project a ‘want some candy?’ vocal queue, causing your target to walk over to investigate, thus leaving them wide open to attack.

Given all of these tools and abilities, the Predator should be a blast to play, and for the most part, it is, but it also suffers from some of the limitations of the Alien. Melee combat isn’t good enough, and some of the abilities are a little hit and miss, with stealth being a little overly tricky at times, despite the cloaking field.

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It’s worth persevering, though, as the stealthy option is rewarded with some truly gruesome trophy kills (if you thought Sub-Zero’s controversial fatality was bad, just wait ‘till you see these), and when it does come together you get to feel like a truly elite hunter.

Sadly, the major problem with both the Alien and Predator campaigns is the size. Both are far shorter than the Marine outing, and the overall story and pacing just isn’t as smooth or as well realised as the human angle. It’s a notable flaw, and one that, given the title of the game, is a little unforgivable. Admittedly, The Marine is my favourite character, and I could happily play a game based solely on Colonial Marines (hmmmm, there’s a thought…), but this is Aliens Vs Predator, so what gives Rebellion?

As well as the single player story element AvP also has a couple of multiplayer tricks up its sleeve. Online modes include straight up deathmatch, which is about as well balanced as a politician’s expenses claim form, and modes that pit one Predator or Alien player against a group of Marines. These latter modes can be great fun, but when I jumped online, the matchmaking left a lot to be desired, with a few games quitting out unexpectedly.

The final mode is Survival, and this is where most AvP players will spend a lot of time. Either alone or with a group of friends you can see how long you can survive against wave after wave of aliens. AvP was made for this kind of challenge, and it works very well, especially when working together as a team. Okay, so it’s a bit of a hackneyed game mode these days, with many other games also packing it in, but it works well, and that’s all that matters.

Despite some control issues and lack of polish in the extra-terrestrial campaigns, not to mention the short-lived length, I really enjoyed Aliens Vs Predator. As I suggested in my recent Bioshock 2 review, however, to get the most out of this game you really should play it on hard. This tough and often daunting difficulty level really helps to re-create the tense atmosphere of the movies, and you’ll enjoy it a whole lot more.

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Fans of the films will undoubtedly enjoy the game too, and this is by far the closest anyone has come to reproducing them in game form, and even if the films aren’t your cup of tea, if you’re an FPS or action fan looking for a challenge you’ll find plenty to get to grips with.

It’s not the epic title I was hoping for, and there’s plenty of scope for improvement, but the combination of the dark, a motion tracker and aliens can’t fail to be cool, just don’t forget to look up once in a while.

Aliens Vs Predator is released today and available from the Den Of Geek Store.


3 out of 5