Rebellion is back! These guys are the Father of Aliens vs. Predator gaming as we know it today. They brought the franchise to the first person genre with their AvP title for the Atari Jaguar. They created a terrifying experience on the PC with their 1999 title and now, for the first time in 10 years, they’re back to bring AvP first person shooters to a new generation of gamers and gaming as we know it.
I’m a console gamer and I’m proud of it. Ever since that S-controller for the original X-Box came out I’ve never had a more comfortable way to play FPS games. Way back when, there was supposed to be an AvP FPS game coming out for the X-Box and PS2. It was called Natural Selection. Somewhere along the line that game evolved (devolved?) into AvP Extinction. So for me, the chance to play AvP on a console has been a long time coming.
Sega was kind enough to provide me with a review copy for my beloved X-Box 360. Coming into this review, I’d like to say I’m looking at this game from the perspective of a casual gamer and an Aliens vs. Predator fan. Let’s see how Rebellion’s latest entry into the franchise holds up against those eyes.
I opted to start with the Aliens campaign since it came first chronologically. We open on the sight of our character, Number 6, birthing into captivity. Our escape attempt catches the attention of Mr. Weyland who takes quite a liking to us. Story wise the Alien’s initial goal is free the Queen and from that point onwards, it seems to get lost in shades of grey. A lot of the campaign is basically removing threats to the hive.
While I understand it is difficult to mold an effective story around the Alien character, I feel that the first person format of the game, may have made it less ridiculous to try and create a more personal story. There are elements from the Aliens franchise, such as the genetic memory established in Alien Resurrection, that could have made it easier to provide backstory and add more depth. I had initially been expecting a revenge story, similar to the Alien’s pursual of Dr Eisenberg in AvP2. Except here I had been expecting us to be chasing William Hope’s character, Dr Groves. The final result is much less substantial.
At times, I did often find myself wondering where it was all leading to, where my road was going and this lack of direction in the story does pull the campaign down somewhat. I did manage to form some sort of emotional bond with Number 6, however, as during the closing cutscene I felt empathy and sadness initially and then during the very end, I felt pride. If Rebellion had crafted a story around these basic emotions, I feel they would have made a much more effective story.
The gameplay style is what helps the Alien campaign shine. There is a steep learning curve initially but once you’re able to grasp the controls, it plays like a charm. Rebellion has done a fantastic job melding the Alien mechanics to the controllers. I soon found myself able to zip around the map, I could lure hapless marines away from their squads using the hiss button.
The Alien relies heavily on his agility and ability to see in the dark. With these key features we’re able to move around unseen. With no ranged attacks, getting close to your enemy unseen is of grand importance. Actually, I tell a lie. The tail attack has a good bit of range on it which I found to be extremely useful during the encounters with the Predators. That section is the only part during single player where you are required to get into the actual rock-paper-scissors melee action. The Predator will only use its ranged weapons if you try and escape.
However, not so much for the marines you spend the majority of the game playing against. If you put yourself in front of the marines, you’ll find yourself struggling to survive. The moment they see you, they’ll open fire.
It’s the ability to move on the walls, to get to all the light sources, which helps the Alien to level the playing field. Stealth is key and the shorter stealth kills are vital to you when you do manage to draw a marine away from his squad. Normal trophy kills leave you vulnerable too long.
One thing I was extremely disappointed with was the lack of hive levels for the Alien. In the opening marine level, the hive texture looks so amazing and the Aliens look fantastic as they crawl down and camouflage themselves within the resin. I would have loved to have been able to do that. For me, it would have added a whole new realm of depth to the immersion effect of the game.
I did find the lack of phrases for the marine AI to be irritating at times. One particular section, during the Refinery level, you’re in a massive generator room. The marines would often continually say the same one or two phrases. While not being a game breaking complaint, I do wish there would have been more variety there.
In terms of replayability, the Alien campaign has numerous achievements based around completion. Find and destroy all the Royal Jelly Canisters and find and harvest all the civilians. I intend to attempt both of these.
I did enjoy the campaign and I find the Aliens gameplay mechanics to be extremely fun. I was just really disappointed at the lack of a real story and the exclusion of hive based levels. The Alien campaign took me 2 hours, 15 minutes to complete on the Normal difficulty.
Second up was my baby, the Colonial Marines. I’m going to lay it out bare naked for you. This campaign has been one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had since Rebellion’s original Alien vs. Predator. Exhilarating is the only word I can think of to describe the experience.
We play the character of the Rookie. He’s the quiet type of guy but he’s a marine to the core. Our squad is responding to a distress signal but the appearance of the Predators leaves us without a mothership and nothing to do but help out whoever sent the signal. The first mission takes place in the colony of Freya’s Prospect. While not exactly the same as Hadley’s Hope, the colony does come across as what pre-fabricated colonies would look like 30 years after Alien3.
The first level is just packed with atmosphere and tension. The steady pulse of the motion tracker, the sounds in the distance, it all adds to the dread. More than that, I think it contains one of the most memorable fights I’ve ever experienced in an Aliens vs. Predator game: The strip club fight. Seeing those Xenomorphs crawl through the resin, trying to use the darkness to get around me. It was exciting.
But I’d already played that at Rebellion once. It didn’t stop the replay on my own being any less amazing. The Refinery level just took things up a notch. We’re thrown into the Alien’s territory, into the depths of their hive. It’s filled with eggs and it’s filled to the brim with the warriors. “They’re coming out of the Goddamn walls!” They literally were. Just as we’d seen in the Alien announcement trailer, the warriors crawl from the resined walls and attack you. It felt so authentic and it certainly made a refreshing change from the hive battles in Monolith’s AvP2.
After these levels, the game seems to wind down as you move from the enclosed corridors into the open space of the jungle where we find ourselves encountering the Runner. What I liked was that the Runner variant (or Jungle Alien, as I believe the game calls it) would actually stalk me, sticking to the trees and walls, using its ranged acid attack. While it was a nice change of pace from the heart-stopping tension of the first two, the levels out in the jungle just weren’t as enjoyable for me and I feel that if the game had kept a constant drive of that tension and adrenaline, it may have been even better.
The game kicked into over-drive when we finally got to the pyramid levels. The tension is back, the brilliant locations are back. It pulls nicely from Paul Anderson’s lore from Alien vs. Predator the movie and gives us some new locations that have never graced our gaming screens before (Open Pyramid Project for AvP2, aside). The action doesn’t let up during these later levels and you’re constantly on the move, playing through a particularly beautiful hive within the pyramid.
I particularly enjoyed the Lab levels of the game where we get to fight our way through the location you started in as Number 6. I enjoyed the experience as I got to understand the location from a different perspective and understand the layout some more, adding to immersion of the story.
The marine campaign does make use of boss fights. They’re old school and everyone loves old school. I found them to be a love/hate gameplay mechanic. The early boss fights I really enjoyed but the end ones, in particular the very last level, I found could only be solved with the Smartgun. Attempting to use any other weapon would guarantee death. It was especially disappointing in the final fight; I found I couldn’t move anywhere. I’d be dead if I tried to move away or use anything other than the Smartgun. It made for an underwhelming fight.
Despite coming down as part of a squad, you find yourself alone for majority of the game. The only constant companionship you have is through Tequila and her voice through your radio. As I progressed through the game, I found she had a similar likeability to her that many of the marines in Aliens had. They (and she) may have only been cookie-cut but I was certainly happy to finally meet up with her and help her out towards the end of the game. The bond was there and I felt gratified during the Lab levels.
There are up to 15 audio diaries throughout the levels for you to collect. Unlike the jelly canisters or the trophy belts of the Alien and Predator campaigns, the diaries added some background to the story. In particular, the diaries of Weyland and Dr Groves. Weyland’s diaries go into the “mystery” of his character, teasing us to his backstory and reveal more about him so we can understand our antagonist.
Rebellion could have fallen into the trap of just letting the campaign be another generic shooter but if there’s one thing these guys know, it’s how to make you crap your pants. The tension and atmosphere that Rebellion injects into the marine campaign make it something special. It’s the updated Colonial Marine experience I’ve been waiting for and it delivers. Oh boy, does it deliver.
Last but not least, I played through the Predator campaign. While starting concurrently to the Marine campaign, it’s harder to specifically nail when the events take place. The story for this campaign is significantly better than for the Predator’s extraterrestrials counterpart. The story starts off with us heading to BG-386 to investigate the disappearance of some Young Bloods who are hunting.
Along the line we discover ancient ruins that seem to indicate that the planet is the location of the first time the Predators ever hunted the Aliens and the burial location of the first Predator to defeat an Alien in battle. It becomes a revenge story, of the Predator attempting to remove the sacred artifacts from the hands of the humans and to stop them from defiling the honored location.
And I won’t lie, from a fan’s perspective the way they handled the history and the property was lovely. We had references to the Yautja culture with “Young Bloods” and referring to shoulder cannon as the Plasma Caster. It shows that they took the different corners of the franchise into account to create something for the fans. I really enjoyed the story and it shows they are capable of weaving a story around something not from this Earth.
Level wise, I think the Predator campaign was the only one whose gameplay style went well with all the locations you played through. They all made great use of the Predator’s agility and the ability to focus jump. I never felt out of place or bored in the levels.
The gameplay mechanics are a mixture of the melee driven Aliens campaign and the ranged weaponry of the marine campaign. The melee system does take some getting used to, recognizing the animations for the different attacks. To be honest, I think the multiplayer is where you will gain most of your experience for the melee, potentially making re-plays of the campaign more fluid when you’ve had the time to master the controls against human controlled enemies.
I felt the mixture of combat styles melded quite nicely, although for the majority of the earlier missions you only have the energy dependent Plasma Caster and mines. It can feel like the game is sometimes forcing you into melee combat as to lock onto enemies, you need to charge the Plasma Caster and your energy will only supply about 5 charged shots. A charged shot won’t always take an enemy down either.
However when you gain access to the disk towards the middle of the campaign and the spear towards the end, it provides some fun moments. Both are ranged weapons, the disk controllable in mid-flight which can lead to some fun moments sending your disk through a crowd. While the spear appeared as melee weapons in Monolith’s AvP2, it is a ranged weapon in this. Which I prefer actually, since you’re wrist-blades provide all the melee you need. With good accuracy the spear can take an enemy down in one. It is also has greater range than the disk and is incredibly fun. Both weapons don’t run off your energy but have a small cool down time.
Something that did irritate me was that despite you fighting Aliens from the very first map, you don’t actually gain the Alien vision until half-way through the game. The reason behind why you’re mask isn’t enabled with the vision also seems to go against the lore established in the AvP movies.
The collectibles for the Predator campaign are trophy belts. They hold no purpose other than to be collected. Given how Rebellion handled some of the visual methods of telling the backstory of the Predator’s, I would have preferred to have seen some collectibles that maybe told the story of one specific Predator from millennia before who hunted on the planet, provided more depth to the story and the experience.
Like the marine campaign, the Predator campaign also utilizes boss fights. I think over all, this aspect of all the campaigns weren’t best handled. Sometimes there is only one specific method to defeating the bosses which can become repetitive (the final Predator fight for example).
I was able to complete the game in 9 hours, and 35 minutes on the Normal difficulty. With recent triple A titles such as Call of Duty have 6-8 hour long single player campaigns, AvP offers a respectably lengthier single player component.
The AI of the enemies varies somewhat. Sometimes the Aliens demonstrate amazing intelligence, using the darkness and the environment to their advantage; they will try to flank you. If you get surrounded while playing as a marine, you’re pretty screwed – which is why it’s so important to keep your distance and to use the melee to drive them back. Other times, however, they really take their time, almost as if inviting you to get in a free hit.
Following the tradition of recent games where you limit the amount of weapons, the game only allows the marine and Predator to carry up to four weapons each. Not that the limit makes much of a difference since the marine only has 5 weapons (when carrying the Smartgun, you only carry that and the pistol due to the size of the Smartgun) and the Predator only has 4. Some might complain that isn’t enough but I found that those weapons provided everything that was needed. The only one I missed was the netgun for the Predator.
Also the much criticized lack of crouch mode. Only once during the game did I found the lack of crouch a hinder; during the sections of the marine campaign where I faced off against combat synthetics. They would often to be using cover and it felt like I was being denied that protection. It certainly wasn’t the game breaking issue that many insisted it was, just a inconvenience that might have been solved with some sort of cover system.
For me, the over-all arcing story of the single player (and complete lack of in the Alien campaign) was a disappointment. I think this stemmed from the way that no set story was down as the game was being made. From what I understand, the story constantly changed and as a result seems to have lost some coherency. For example, the Predators you play as an Alien. Where did they come from and as you investigate that area as a Predator, where have they gone?
With Rebellion setting up a sequel, I’d love to see them sit down and come up with a complete story before hand and stick to it. One of the aspects that Monolith’s AvP2 was superior to Rebellion’s was that the storyline for AvP2 was consistent and understandable with a timeline. It all felt into place properly. I want that same single player experience from a Rebellion game.
Multiplayer is key to a game’s lifespan and what AvP offers is an experience that no other current games can. Multiplayer is where the three unique gameplay styles come into their own and where some people can be turned off by the game. Due to being pitted against other human controlled characters, mastering the combat system and gameplay styles here can either make or break your experience. You need to be willing to learn how to control each species and how to effectively use the melee system. If you’re not willing to learn, you simply won’t like the game.
You can’t just jump into this; it has a steep learning curve. I’ve still not come to grips with it completely, but nothing beats that feeling of a being an Alien, rushing around the ceiling towards your prey. The games are often intense and carry the same atmosphere as in the single player. As a marine you have to rely on being a team, as an Alien it is all about the darkness and of course, the Predator is about finding that perfect moment to throw that spear or leap into the action.
Also new in this game is the inclusion of trophy kills and stealth kills. Trophy kills are initiated from the front by pressing X when the prompt appears. Depending on the health of your target, you may activate a gruesome kill animation that leaves you vulnerable to attack but shows off a brilliantly detailed and gory death. Stealth kills are activated from behind, dispatching your enemy silently.
That’s why it’s key to keep yourself moving, to ensure you’re always looking behind you. It also leaves the player performing the finishing kill vulnerable to attack so you have to be sure you’re alone. They are pretty cool. The detail put into the gruesome cutscenes are fantastic! Nothing beats seeing the blood drip and spray as you draw your blades along the enemy’s neck! A minor concern could be that there may not be enough different animations but that’s for you to decide. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to get sick of head-biting a hapless Predator who let his guard down.
There are both ranked and player (social) games, with the ranked system operating on a matchmaking system much like the Call of Duty and Halo games. As you earn XP and increase rank, you can unlock different multiplayer skins. Player games come with a server browsing option which makes it much easier to find a server you want to get into. There are 6 different game modes with the traditional Deathmatch, Species Deathmatch (read Team Deathmatch) and Domination (CTF).
Unique to the AvP franchise are Mixed Species Deathmatch, Infestation and Predator Hunt. Infestation has all the players starting out as marines with one randomly selected to be an alien. The alien then has to take out the marines who upon dying respawn as the xenomorph. Predator Hunt operates in a similar fashion where one player is the Predator and only kills made as a Predator count towards your score. In order to become the Predator, you have to kill the existing one.
The standard edition ships with 6 maps, the Hunter with 8. Most of the maps are based around similar environmental designs – Jungle, Caves and Ruins with Pyramid and Refinery being the standout maps for me. Pyramid is based directly on the shifting pyramid theme from the first AvP movie. It’s a huge map with many different levels and walls that shift, altering the map. It’s huge and it’s epic. Refinery is the demo map, but it’s the only one to take place inside an industrial location and to feature hived up section. The two additional maps in the Hunter edition, which will also be released as DLC soon, are also both industrial/hive themed maps so once they’re released there will be a nice balance between the ruins and jungles and the hive and industrial.
There are some issues with multiplayer, however. In the ranked matches, you can’t go into Predator Hunt or Infestation as a party which can ruin the sociability of the game. You are unable to join player matches that have already started which can restrict the servers you can join. The inability to change team mid-match can also cause problems when players leave the game, leaving the sides uneven.
Some of the ranked matches are too strict as well. You are unable to choose your species for some of the game modes which may force you to play with a species you’re not very good with. And of course, host migration. When the host quits the game, everyone else is booted. This can really ruin the experience. These are definitely things that Rebellion need to look at patching.
My second issue is with the distance of the finishing moves. You can perform a finishing move on an enemy who is some distance away from you, teleporting you to them instantly. It can ruin the immersion effect of the game and is one of the things I do need think needs to be fixed, a shorter activation distance.
Survivor mode pits you or/and up to 3 friends against waves of AI controlled Aliens. The Skirmish mode which really helped Rebellion’s Alien vs. Predator Classic stand out is back for this generation of gamers as the Survivor mode (nothing to do with the Survivor multiplayer mode from Monolith’s AvP2). It is playable as single player or with up to four friends. And believe me; you’ll need those four friends.
The retail edition only ships with 2 Survivor maps: C-Block and Mausoleum. The Hunter Edition contains 2 more, Hive and Machine. The 2 excluded from the Hunter Edition will be released as downloadable content at some point in the near future so this review will only be talking about C-Block and Mausoleum. Like the majority of the multiplayer maps, the Survivor maps are based on locations from the films. C-Block is based on the barricade segment of the Colony (from the Marine campaign) and Mausoleum is based on the temple/ruin levels. Both rely heavily on darkness to create that tense atmosphere with so love about the marine levels.
The Aliens are really intelligent during this mode. They’re constantly using the shadows, walls and ceilings to surround your team. It makes for some truly intense moments. I do wish we’d have had the ability to throw flares or more beefed up shoulder lamps but I imagine the strain it must put on the engine with the amount of enemies that are thrown at you would be too much.
It’s a simple game mode that’s made insanely fun by the fact you’re just trying to survive against an onslaught of unfriendly E.Ts. To keep the people playing, there are numerous Survivor only achievements. The only issue I can see with this would be map variety. 2 (4 when the other two maps are released) may get old soon. It is important that both Rebellion and Sega support the game and the Survivor mode with more maps to keep the game fresh.
The detail that Rebellion put into the character models and skins is amazing. The Aliens are highly detailed and it shows, with the marines it’s the things like the tattoos. Even the armor is incredibly authentic, some even taking queues to replicate the customization that the Colonial Marines from Aliens had, most noticeably Hudson and Hicks. I was extremely impressed by the environments. The care and attention put into re-creating the resin of the Hives made me smile. Even the detail put into the ruin and pyramid locations; it looks exactly like the architecture in the movie. It really shows as a labour of love for Rebellion. It looks and feels so right.
I feel the need to give praise for some of the character design in the game as well. In particular, the combat synthetics are amazing. You can only really appreciate their facial designs when playing as an Alien or Predator and performing the finishing moves but the synthetics look incredibly detailed and creepy. The PredAlien in the game is also one of the best designs I’ve seen. Somewhat a mixture of Chet and an old fan design, the PredAlien is pretty impressive. I do wish Fox or Sega or whoever it is that demand the PredAlien designs have dreadlocks do stop it. They continually spoil all designs. We get it, it’s from a Predator. You don’t need floppy dreadlocks for your consumers to understand that.
The lighting effects in particular need a big shout out. Some of the sections of the game are so beautiful, especially when the shadows come into play. It’s impossible for me to effectively describe how well the Asura engine renders these lighting effects, instead I shall just show you how beautiful the game looks.
The sound effects in the game are just perfect. There is no other way to describe it. Most of the sounds are taken directly from the movies, from the bleep of the motion tracker, to the gunfire of the pulse rifle, the wounded screams of the Aliens and the whip-crack of the Predator changing vision modes. It really helps immerse yourself in the universe when it feels this authentic. Some sound effects have been created from scratch, the Smartgun for example. The new sound gives it a more powerful feeling which while not entirely accurate to the source material, doesn’t detract from the authentic feeling of the overall game.
This is the first mainstream AvP game to not have Rich Ragsdale behind the music. Stepping up for the task is Mark Rutherford who delivers some great tracks that feel right at home with the franchise. They really help the game move forward, adding more layers of a tension to make the player want to crap his pants even more. I certainly wouldn’t complain if he returned to do future Alien or Predator projects.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Aliens without Lance Henriksen. He is back to reprise his surprise role and introduce many new elements to Weyland as we know him in the Alien timeline. Also along for the ride is an underused William Hope who plays the character of Groves who unfortunately disappears after his introduction.
One complaint I do have is the variety of sayings that the AI marines have. Not that much. The amount of times I hear the marines say “Don’t relax yet marines!” It soon becomes annoying. I don’t know what happened there but it is the only drawback I have for the sound department. I think for any future games, they might just do a few more sayings to ensure every encounter you have doesn’t become repetitive audibly.
In terms of replayability we have the aforementioned collectibles which unlock achievements upon their collection. I think that once mastering the controls via multiplayer, people may want to go back to the single player to replay the campaigns. I imagine they’d play a lot better and game would be more fluid.
The game has a total of 50 achievements, offering 1000 gamer points. 29 of these are related to actually completing the campaigns and doing them on various difficulties. 10 are multiplayer only achievements. The rest are all to do with using specific weapons to do specific things. Those are the fun ones as far as I’m concerned. So there is quite a bit there for the completists.
I think the game was immensely fun. The experience as a Marine is something I’ve been waiting for and Rebellion are the masters at creating that kind of tension. The Predator campaign delved nicely into the shallow end of the species’ history. I was glad to see not too much was revealed but enough information was given out to make a brilliant story out of the perspective. The Alien campaign was the weakest.
I think that for future games, Rebellion need to sit down and create a coherent and structured story for all three species that fit nicely into the overall arc. Rebellion made the different gameplay styles feel natural on the controller and for those are willing to actually get their head around the controls and the melee system; the game will be a great experience, differentiating itself from the previous incarnations.
There are some issues with the game, the campaigns being short and the trophy kills having too great an activation distance but I loved every moment of the game. I do see variety being an issue with the games lifespan and it is vital that Sega and Rebellion continue to support the game with additional content, in particular Survivor and Multiplayer maps.
Rebellion is back baby and I certainly hope to see them follow up from this with the sequel. I’m happily awarding Rebellion’s Aliens vs Predator a 7 out of 10. This is Corporal Hicks of AvPGalaxy, signing off.
Read on for Part 3, my opinions a year later on >>
It’s almost been a year since Sega and Rebellion released their Aliens vs Predator. And how has it fared? Not very well. At all. After the release it we discovered the multiplayer was imbalanced which created some frustration while playing online. This was slightly improved by the first patch but the console players never saw anymore patches due to Sega dropping console support. Rebellion did, however, continue to develop patches for the PC platform eventually balancing it out.
But the balancing issues drove players away early on. Add onto this the awful ranked matchmaking system and you will find it hard to keep a player base. When the demo initially came out the PS3 format had issues finding games within a short period of time. For X-Box it was fine, as was the final release. At least while there were still plenty of players. Now it can be incredibly difficult to find a game. Not at all the time but compare this to other games out at the moment. Why would players keep on the game when they can just jump onto Halo Reach and get a game within minutes.
I find this extremely irritating considering how enjoyable the game is when you’re able to get into a match with a large number of players. This incarnation of AvP is, in my opinion, the best for gameplay due to the in-your-face nature and the way it feels like I’m actually playing in the movies. But what good is that feeling if I’m playing in a player match with 2 other guys.
Which also leads me onto another disappointment: How to get XP? On the console versions it’s only possible to get XP from the ranked matches. XP is needed to rank up, obtain new skins and for the obtaining of 2 achievements. The PC patches fixed this by having player matches also award XP but that doesn’t help me: The console player. The player system also had server browsing. Why the ranked system wasn’t allowed this, I don’t know. It’s all confusing to me.
After market support was also poor. We had only 2 DLC packs, one of which was available from launch for those who brought the Hunter and Survivor packs. The second DLC pack, Bughunt, was absolutely fantastic. I can’t get over how amazing the maps in it are. But that was it. No more support, no more players returning.
I only hope Sega and Rebellion learn from this release. It had the potential to be such a good game. Fair enough, Rebellion fixed the PC platform but what use is that when many players have left. And what use is that to the console players when the publisher will not support the game and allow those fixes to come to them?