Aliens versus Predator Extinction is a 2003 real-time strategy video game developed by Zono and published by Electronic Arts and Fox Interactive for Playstation 2 and X-Box consoles. It received a mixed reaction from the press, praising how well they’ve transferred the license to an RTS genre but criticised the lack of content once you’d finished the campaigns.
For the first time on the next-generation console systems, play as Aliens, Predators, or Colonial Marines in this tactical squad-based strategy game based on the Aliens versus Predator universe. On a cold, distant planet, the war against extinction is on and your command skills will determine its outcome. Control an Alien hive, direct a Predator clan, or lead an elite squad of Colonial Marines and fight for the survival of your race. Experience the Aliens versus Predator universe from the perspective of the Aliens, the Predators, or the Colonial Marines in 7 unique missions customized for each race. Control never-before-seen Aliens, Predators, or Marines and upgrade your weapons and abilities to gain a tactical advantage. Do you have what it takes to win this ultimate battle of the species?
- There are 21 single player missions: seven Marine, seven Alien, and seven Predator.
- The game is played as one of three different races and each race comes with its own characteristics and abilities.
- You can control and upgrade up to 10 different unit types of various races including new and never before seen units such as the Predator Hydra or the Alien Ravager.
- There are 21 unique maps across environments spanning from jungles to deserts.
- Dozens of weapons including Pulse Rifles, Spearguns, Blazer Cannons, and the Exosuit.
- Also there are many upgrades such as the Marine Commtech’s orbit launched air-strike.
Aliens versus Predator Extinction is a real-time strategy that is focused on unit management instead of base-building. You can play as one of three species: Marines, Aliens and Predators and you have a campaign for each one consisting of seven missions. Each faction has a single resource that can be used to summon or upgrade units. You can only have a limited number of units for each faction. In each mission, you have some specific objectives as well as some optional objectives such as killing certain enemies or repairing an object.
The Colonial Marines species can receive credits by killing enemies and repairing atmospheric processors. Credits can then be spent on upgrading existing units or calling in new ones via a dropship. You have a range of different units with different weapons as well as a Commtech unit for calling in more units and a Medic for healing units.
Predators gain resources by killing enemies via an honor system. As more honor is gained, more units can be deployed via drop pods. Predators can heal themselves as well as a cloak but decreases their energy level. You have a Predator shrine which improves the rate of energy regeneration.
Aliens gain ‘Infestation points’ by killing or capturing enemies which can be used to upgrade existing units. Aliens can’t summon units directly and instead, must bring the host species to their hive. Aliens have a Queen which can generate eggs which produces Facehuggers which can be used to infect hosts.
[Editor’s Note: All the information below has come from a 2023 interview we did with producer Mike Arkin, designer Jason Hough and artist Brian Collins.]
Mike Arkin was the producer of AvP Extinction at Zono but didn’t enter the project until near the end of development. Arkin originally worked at Fox Interactive in the mid 90’s when 1999’s Aliens versus Predator was very early in development. He later left Fox and handed the project over to Dave Stalker but he had revealed that there were frequent conversations at Fox that they wanted to make an AvP real-time strategy game.
The team at Zono had just finished their previous game Metal Fatigue and had heard that Fox was looking for a developer for an AvP RTS. Some members of the team had told the two Zono co-founders about this who then arranged a meeting with Fox to pitch for the project. They only had a week or two to prepare for the meeting. They basically took Metal Fatigue and stripped out all the robot concepts. Artist Brian Collins created some models for the Aliens, Predators and Marines and the team had found some sound effects from the film.
They quickly produced a 5-10 minute demo which was very much inspired by Aliens. It was a team of Colonial Marines who were going into this cavern to investigate what was causing the issue. Zono used fog of war and added motion trackers so it would mark where things were outside of your view. The demo sold what Zono was wanting to do. It wasn’t a Starcraft game where you were moving vehicles around. Zono wanted to get close up, almost like a real-time tactical game rather than a real-time strategy game. The two Fox producers in the room were very impressed with what they had done and hired Zono to do the game.
Development on AvP Extinction began in early 2000 and took about three years. At the start of the project, the game was known as Aliens versus Predator: Natural Selection. The vision for the project was very different at the start. The game was going to be a series of scenarios that you would play tactically and a story would unfold. There was going to be inventory management and you could switch out the character’s armor, helmet and weapons. One early idea was that ammunition was going to run out and you would have to set up a supply line to refill your ammo.
What caused issues very early on was multiplayer which Zono and Fox had both wanted to do. Development started on the multiplayer aspect and designing the units where all three sides could be fighting at the same time and it had to be fair. Resource management was included and where you had to go and take over certain spots – that’s where the Micro Atmosphere Processors came from.
The idea for multiplayer is that Aliens and Marines would be fighting it out but Predator players would see all the games going on and jump into them and go after the person on the map and get out without getting killed. There were going to be skirmish maps where you could play against the AI and there were different maps for multiplayer. The original plan was to have AvP Extinction come out on PC and consoles.
As development continued, the original vision for the game had become diluted and in the end, the whole multiplayer aspect of the game was scrapped. The multiplayer on PC wouldn’t have been an issue – Zono had already done it with Metal Fatigue but it was unclear if complications with the consoles’ online abilities factored into Fox’s decision to abandon multiplayer. Designer Jason Hough remarked that the singleplayer never felt satisfying as it was more of a tutorial for multiplayer.
At one point, you could drive the APC around on the map but it proved too big and there were pathfinding issues due to its shape. The dropship was also user-controllable but again it was too big. There was a bigger Predator shrine that the Predators could sit on but it was scrapped. Another idea that was scrapped is the team were going to allow the player to send their Marines into tunnels on the map and send a motion tracker down there to see if it’s safe.
Fox Interactive were responsible for the opening cinematic cutscene which was done by a third-party company called Bluedream Studios. The idea was to have more cinematics before each mission but it soon became clear Fox wasn’t going to provide anymore so static artwork was instead provided for the mission loading screens.
A few years after Mike Arkin had left Fox, Arkin had lunch with Zono co-founder William Novak and Novak had asked him to join the studio with business development. After a month of pitching for projects, Arkin said that AvP Extinction needed to get finished because if it didn’t, he wouldn’t have a team to do the projects he was pitching for. Arkin asked to help with AvP. Novak agreed but the other co-founder wanted him to continue pitching for projects. A couple of weeks passed and the co-founders phoned him to tell him that they were going to fire everybody as things weren’t working out with Fox Interactive and they had no money left.
The co-founders agreed to let Arkin become a producer of AvP Extinction and told them not to fire anybody just yet. There was an ongoing legal dispute with an agent who hadn’t been paid for the previous two years. Arkin worked out a deal with the agent and settled the dispute. Arkin then met with Fox Interactive and worked out a budget for AvP Extinction. Fox agreed to give them a further $300,000.
Initially, Fox didn’t agree to pay Arkin anything. Arkin then asked the Zono co-founders to be a partner in the company. They said if they manage to ship AvP Extinction, they’ll give him a third of the company. A year or so later, the other two co-founders left the company and Arkin owned the entire company.
The total budget for the game was around $2 million and there were only about 10-12 people on the team. About $1 million of the budget was wasted on creating things that didn’t need to be created. On Fox’s side, it was made up of quality assurance testers and they would ask Zono to create things, only for them to say afterwards that they didn’t like it and to take it out.
Co-founder Novak told Fox they were thinking of adding female Predators in the game but the QA testers didn’t agree to it. At the time, there was nothing written down for the lore of Alien and Predator – what things you could and couldn’t do. So a lot of time was spent on making things that Fox didn’t agree to and there wasn’t any way for Zono to know what Fox would approve or not approve. When Arkin joined the project, he wanted to push the game to completion and he stopped listening to Fox’s suggestions.
The team mostly played AvP Extinction on a PC with a mouse and keyboard and the first half of development was PC only. When the team got some dev kits for the consoles, the game was running incredibly slowly and Zono were worried they would have to strip the game back even further. Fortunately, this was just an optimisation issue. Fox hired another team to do this but they just made it worse so it was given to a member of Zono – David Eaton who did an amazing job at optimising the code.
Arkin suggested that they ship the game to PC. They just need to sort a sound license out and create an installer for the game. Arkin asked Fox for a further $100,000-$200,000 who told him they had done a deal with EA and EA wouldn’t ship it if it didn’t have multiplayer. Arkin remarked that they had done multiplayer but had been told by Fox to strip it out. Around this time, Vivendi Universal had bought Fox Interactive but not AvP Extinction so Vivendi and Fox didn’t own the game anymore – it was EA. EA were co-publishing the title but they didn’t own Zono and didn’t want to put any money into the game as it was a third-party title so minimal marketing was done for it.
When AvP Extinction was released, it received a mixed reaction from critics. Positives were aimed at how the developed managed to transfer the Alien vs Predator license to an RTS genre as well as the differences between the three races. Some reviewers mentioned the poor AI, graphics and control scheme and the fact there wasn’t enough content in the game once you had done the campaigns. IGN scored the game 6.1/10 saying “For fans of the Alien and Predator franchises, however, there could be enough appeal via presentation and curiosity-factor to warrant a likely weekend rental or perhaps even a hesitant purchase.”
Gamespot scored it 7.2/10 saying “Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot to AVP Extinction beyond the three single-player campaigns. That’s a shame, because there was clearly enough thought put into the mechanics of the gameplay that the replay value would have been extended considerably by a skirmish mode or perhaps even multiplayer online support.”
Darkness reviewed AvP Extinction for AvPGalaxy giving it 6/10: “AvP Extinction overall seems a little rushed. The gameplay mechanics are well thought out but it suffers because there’s a lack of a skirmish mode or even online multiplayer support.”
This is an amusing advert where the Xenomorph is having a shower when the Predator appears and flushes the chain.
This is the pretty impressive CGI trailer at the beginning of the game.