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 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 is 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 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 much 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 demands the PredAlien designs have dreadlocks would 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 the 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 8 out of 10. This is Corporal Hicks of AvPGalaxy, signing off.
Read on for Part 3, my opinions a year later on >>