After a night of no sleep and a long drive, my friend and I arrived at the Major League Gaming event in Orlando. The event was massive. Hundreds upon hundreds of consoles and HDTVs, massive projection screens, and of course, free Dr. Pepper. Most were participating in Halo 3 or Gears of War 2 competitions, but I was here for something much grander. Tucked away in a corner was the SEGA booth, giving a preview of Rebellion’s upcoming game Alien versus Predator. The booth had already gathered quite a crowd, and the stations were surrounded by gamers all anxiously waiting their turn to play. I was blown away watching this game, it looked great, and there was an awesome attention given to details. But how did it play?
Eventually I got my hands on the controller. I was finally going to play AvP. Just wanting to dip my toe in and get a feel for the water before I dive in, I chose to start off as the Marine. With my trusty pulse rifle I set out on the hunt in a free-for-all death match. It wasn’t long before beep… beep… beep; my motion tracker was going off, and I was closing in on the target (or, perhaps, he was closing in on me). Suddenly I was dropped upon by a cloaked predator, who promptly knocked me around, it was all over for me as he moved in for the kill.
Suddenly he was attacked by an alien player who dropped from the wall and skewered the predator with his tail. Taking advantage I unloaded my pulse rifle into the xenomorph that just saved my life until my barrel was glowing red. There is no room for heroics here. All of this happened within a few seconds. I was always on the lookout, and it was nerve racking to take the time to use a medical syringe to heal, or even reload (which take about three seconds, and one second respectively). I was hooked. The game is fantastic, and scenarios like this are not unusual. You never know what to expect, or where to look. Danger can come from any direction, literally.
The Marine is the easiest one to pick up, but certainly not the easiest one to play as. What I mean is that Humans are definitely the underdogs of this story. Underdog, but certainly not underpowered. Marines start off with a Pulse Rifle and a pistol. The pistol can not be dropped, but has unlimited ammo (use in case of emergency ONLY!). The Marine can then acquire one of the many guns scattered around the map. I spent most of my time with a Pulse Rifle and Shotty, for close encounters. The awesome firepower of the Ultimate Badass makes the USCM something to be feared. A good team could dominate any situation.
In addition to the Pusle Rifle and Shotgun, there is also a flamethrower, scoped rifle and the infamous smartgun. The smartgun places an transparent blue overlay on the screen that will highlight and track targets, and, as you’d imagine, packs one hell of a punch. Unfortunately, I had only just acquired mine when I was flanked by an alien and decapitated. The scoped rifle provides you with what I’d estimate to be a x4 or x6 zoom when the alt. fire is used. This semi auto rifle is great for taking out targets from afar, but don’t get tunnel vision and carry a close range back up. The flame thrower? A great mid range weapon in enclosed spaces, but be wary when using it in larger areas, and your prey can slip away much easier. Choose your weapons wisely!
I would say I spent more time in the boots of the USCM more than any other species. Once you get into the groove, you shouldn’t have any trouble racking up the kills.
A tip: Remember to use your stim packs! I saw many Marines die as a result of failing to heal.
I arrived early for the second day, soon after the event started. I swaggered over to the booth after a long night of exploring the Orlando night life. I wasn’t ready to be doing anything, but I stepped up to the screen and started playing. Ready for something new, but thinking that the fast pace of the alien might not be a good call feeling like I did, I opted for the greatest hunter in the universe: the predator. This intergalactic sportsman is an absolute thrill. No longer does it feel like an extra strong marine with some fun gadgets; this ain’t no man. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of the predators general play style. The focus jump mechanic is very easy to use. The Predator starts off with the wrist blades and acquires weapons scattered across the map (many times in high places) and can carry four weapons at a time (in addition to the wrist blades, of course). Once you get the feel for this beast, you will feel like a true huntsman. Set your cloak and head for the hills, scan for enemies and rain death from above.
I became very acquainted with the plasma caster, and a solid hit is a deathblow. Though, don’t think that you can easily take someone down with it anytime. You have to pick the right moment to shoot, because you don’t want to expose yourself. After a matter of time using it, you will surely have to recharge your energy. The recharge stations are arranged in various places around the map. Find one and be sure to look around, because you’re vulnerable while you take the few seconds to recharge. The Predator is also quite the brawler, able to hold his own in any close quarters match.
Live long enough and you can become a veritable armory, and you can have a tool for any situation. The spear can prove to be quite the ace in the hole in a pinch, as a quick throw at your enemy can mean the difference between life and death. After being thrown, the spear will return to you after a brief cool down period when you recall it. There is also the predators infamous disk. Both of these weapons are operated energy free, which was a big plus in my book. This was probably one of the most fun things to use in the game. You guide your disk to your target by tracking them with you laser sight. The disk will automatically return to you after a few moments, ready for another toss. I was very happy with the way the predator played. The predator mines are also available for use, at the cost of energy. These buggers can make your hunting spot feel quite a bit more secure.
Like any good hunter though, you should have a plan and know what you’re going up against. You are not a invulnerable powerhouse of strength and health, and can quickly be cut down. When its time to heal, you turn tail, flee and heal yourself. This is a tactic I relied upon many times. Hopefully, if all goes well, you’re enemy should be trying to relocate you, and be prime for flanking.
A tip: Be sure to rotate your vision modes regularly, as the enemy not covered by that vision is nearly completely invisible.
Finally we’ve come to it; the perfect organism. The alien offers the most unique gameplay of the bunch. What is a bit disorientating at first, will soon feel natural as you drop on your prey. The alien is a wreaking ball. There was concern that the alien would be given the shaft in terms of balance; nothing could be further from the truth. The alien deals a lot of damage, and can absorb a lot as well. More than once I found myself as a marine trying to take down an alien with a shotgun and needing to fire two or even three blasts, where it never took more than two to drop a predator at the same range(though, this may have just been luck on my part where the predator was already injured). The aliens acid blood also proves helpful in a fight, but its not something to count on. It will weaken you enemy yes, but its not strong enough to take them out with you like some sort of alien martyrdom. The alien is not invulnerable, and when you need to heal find a safe spot to regenerate. If you’re in the right situation, or feeling lucky, you can always gain some extra health with a good ‘ol fashioned headbite!
As far as attacks go, there isn’t much to say. You have your claws and your tail. While it doesn’t sound like much, it is more than enough. Stalk your enemy, and execute them. I pulled more trophy kills with the xeno than any other species. Pure, in its simplicity. Between this monsters durability, speed and strength, aliens really are something to be admired.
The alien moves with blinding speed, and is able to go into a focus mode of its own. In this focus mode, the edges of the screen become slightly blurred and an opaque green circle will appear around an enemy. When this occurs you can target pounce and knock the enemy down, setting up for a quick trophy kill. The aliens ability to see enemies through walls (via a red outline of the enemy) is very helpful. In Infestation mode, this ability is key. Wall-walking is made less dizzying by way of a non intrusive arrow that shows which way is down, and will darken to show which surfaces can be transitioned to. Transitioning is done manually by the player.
A tip: Use your wall-walking to its fullest! Most players tend to keep their eyes on the ground, so sticking to the ceilings is the way to go.
As far as trophy kills go, they are gruesome and plentiful! Not only is it rewarding to earn one, but to see what kill you executed also brings new and twisted excitement to the table. These trophy kills garnered a huge reactions at the event, from sick laughs to groups winces of pain; and they always brought a smirk to my face.
The game modes I played at the event were the free-for-all team deatmatch, Hunter, and Infestation. AvP’s free for all is really interesting as there are 3 different types of enemies to watch for at all times. Quite often I would find myself in three or even four-way battles. Getting a killstreak going is quite the challenge in this mode, and I only made it to a seven killstreak myself (actually… I was fairly pleased with that!).
Hunter mode places you in a group of Marines facing one predator (or if you’re lucky, you’re the predator at the start). The predator must hunt and eliminate as many marines as it can. The marines job is to stick together and live. The predator bleeds, and its your job to kill it. The marine who slays the predator is rewarded with new life; only now as the predator. This mode really captures the feeling of Predator . You have to be cleaver and careful as the predator, and your really have to work as a team with the Marines.
As the hunter mode captures the feeling of the predator movies, the Infestation mode captures the feeling of Aliens. Here you have a group of marines pitted against one alien player. The marines must work together in order to keep the aliens at bay. As each Marine dies, he is reborn as an alien. So, when playing on the Marine team, as your number dwindle, the aliens grow. When I played the marines would always try and stick together to start, but would eventually be broken apart most of the time. Check those corners! The last marine standing is victorious.
As a reward for your kills, you will unlock new skins with XP. With a five killstreak, the XP you earn for each kill will increase. Punish the same foe five times in a row and you will see “Persecutor” appear on your screen. In addition to skins, XP will unlock two trophies/achievements. The only way to earn XP is by jumping into a ranked match and doing what these three fiends do best; kill, kill kill.
Want to have a match with just aliens versus predators? You can set up “friendly” matches where you’re able to set all the game rules to your liking. You choose the map, available species, species ratios, team balancing, time limit, score limit, or even turn friendly fire on or off. Its up to you to build better worlds… for mayhem.
I played four maps in Orlando. The maps each offer a feel of their own, and all have aspects that each species can use to its advantage. Ruins, for example, features tall pillars that predators could use as an eagles nest to watch for prey (and avoid the water on the ground), while the aliens could navigate tunnels and corridors to get the drop on their prey. While the marines.. well, keep an eye on that motion tracker and watch your back! I also had some limited play time on a map named Refinery. This map has plenty of nooks for the aliens to use, and well as plenty of closed corridors for the marines to keep secure. The predator seemed to have the hardest time in this map, but don’t think that they got a raw deal here. There were plenty of places to be found that gave the predator a fantastic vantage point for tracking and subsequently eliminating its prey.
There will be eight maps at the release, and four available for DLC (or, with a pre-order from GameStop).
I was excited about this game before, but after getting a taste, I’m addicted. It doesn’t take long to pick up and is very welcoming to new players; however, it will take time and practice to master, making it more rewarding for veteran players. Learning when to use what will take some getting used to. This is especially true for the block, heavy and light attacks.
To sum up I have been jonesing for more since I put down the controller. February 16th can not come soon enough.
Special thanks to Julian Mehlfeld.