It started off as the brain child of Randy Stradley in 1990, thought up as a way to make use of the Aliens and Predator titles. And since that simple thought sparked in the mind of Stradley, Aliens vs Predator has sky-rocketed to popularity.
Over the 19 years since AvP’s creation it has grown to include novels, figures, games and finally in 2004, a movie franchise. But we’re looking back, way back to 1994 and the birth of AvP gaming as we know it.
Over the last 5 years or so companies have been breathing fresh air into Aliens and Predator, with Dark Horse set to revive Aliens vs Predator comics at the end of 2009. But Dark Horse isn’t the only company revisiting AvP. 2010 will see the release of a new Aliens vs Predator game for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. An AvP game from Rebellion.
So to celebrate the return of Rebellion, AvPGalaxy is taking a look at just how this innocuous British games developer has influenced the way we enjoy AvP gaming.
Aliens vs Predator Jaguar
Welcome to 1994, the era of 32-bit gaming. In a world dominated by Sega and Nintendo, Atari struggles with its own Jaguar system. Enter Rebellion. They set out to create a game the likes of which hadn’t ever been seen. October 20th 1994 saw the release of Aliens vs Predator for the Jaguar.
“What an absolute butt-kickin’ game AVP is! A couple of years ago (when I saw the movies) I would have never imagined playing a game this good. If this is now Atari treats a big license, than every big movie should go directly to the Jag! Great sound, great graphics, great control…great game!” said GameFan Magazine.
AvP was unlike any other Alien or Predator game. It let you play through the game as an Alien in desperate search of the Queen, a Predator seeking to regain its honour or a marine trapped on board the station. Each species came with its own individual arsenal and story. Different objects and weaponry allowed for different play styles which really set the game apart from others out there. The Aliens had this amazing ability to cocoon enemies which would act as lives and save points.
Spread throughout the missions where logbooks which you could read to reveal the events before the game (something Monolith used for their Aliens vs Predator 2). Also hinted at in the logs was another alien species that you unfortunately never encountered.
And importantly it had atmosphere. This wasn’t just your Wolfenstein or Doom. This was a game to be scared of. The sound effects (“…over here…”) and 32-bit graphics gave the gamer something to be frightened of. It wasn’t quite living through the movies, but it was step towards there.
Following the success of the first AvP, Rebellion was to bring Aliens vs Predator to the Atari Lynx in latter half of 1994 but the consoles demise made sure a complete game never saw the light of day. It wasn’t to be a direct port of it’s Jaguar brother but Rebellion was confident it could create a game just as challenging for the hand-held platform. Like its bigger brother, the Lynx version would have allowed the gamer to play as Aliens, Predator or Marine with a brand new storyline. Despite the Lynx demise, an incomplete demo of the game was circulated.
The demo let players try their hands at the Marine and the Predator with one simple objective: Get to the bomb and get out. Various websites got their hands on this hard to find demo. Atari HQ said: “Think of Jaguar AvP as a BMW M5 and the Lynx one as a BMW M3 — smaller, yes, but just as thrilling to play with.” But all that’s left of this game with so much potential is a glitchy demo that shows just what could have been. You can still play what was released via Rom and Emulator. If you’re lucky enough, copies of the cartridge do show up on Ebay from time-to-time.
Aliens vs Predator PC
And this is where the future begins… While previous games let you choose your side, 1999’s AvP for the PC took the gameplay to a whole new level. Aliens could walk on walls. They had the speed. The Predator had strength, a functional cloaking device and a grizzly array of weapons. The marines had to rely on their motion tracker and flares to navigate the abandoned colony of LV426.
This brought Aliens vs Predator to a whole new generation of gamers. The separate stories for each species gave it the sense of being three separate games. When the Gold Edition of the game was released in 2000, it added more bonus levels to the campaigns as well.
The game featured amazing reconstructions of Hadley’s Hope, of a Nostromo-like ship and even took you to the now Alien infested Fury 161. And to keep things fresh Rebellion threw in new locations such as the Temple of Unknown Origin and finally took us to Gateway station.
But where AvP truly shone was in the way that it made you feel like you were playing the movies. The Alien movies, at least. The Predator fans did indeed get left in the dark with AvP as the game mostly focused on Aliens, bringing the Predator into the Alien timeline much in the way the original Alien vs Predator comics did.
The tone and atmosphere the game created was always something that gave it an edge. The tentative steps the players would take, not knowing what was around the corner. It was amazing!
AvP also featured a skirmish system which proved to be very popular. Facing up against hordes of aliens was one way to get your blood pumping. Multiplayer was also in AvP. However, it used a more private method of online gaming where you had to know the server IP beforehand. GameSpy changed this offering up a server list. I could go on some more but I’ll save that all for the review. In short Aliens vs Predator (and the subsequent Gold Edition) was the game we’d been waiting for. It was atmospheric and accurate (to a degree). It’s something I hope Rebellion can build on to provide us with an even better next-gen experience.
Rebellion eventually made their return to the world of Aliens and Predator with the December 2007 release of AvP Requiem. It was a PSP exclusive title loosely based on the Strause’s movie. Film tie-ins aren’t particularly expected to of the best quality and Requiem certainly didn’t raise the bar as far as tie-ins are concerned. It wasn’t a terrible game by any standards. It was just very average. It just wasn’t the stellar return we’d all been hoping for.
Instead of the traditional choice of all three species, you had to play as only a Predator. The aliens come in two varieties: Your typical warrior and something that seems to resemble a young Queen. There are also cops and National Guard for your slaughtering pleasure. Variety really wasn’t a highlight for the game. There was a cool array of gadgets including the films iconic dual shoulder cannons and the shuriken. It did give the game some difference over previous entries and did bring a smile to the face. Requiem also saw the return of the skirmish mode following 2 AvP titles without it. But ultimately the game didn’t live up. It wasn’t Rebellion’s triumphant return to AvP gaming. But there’s still time…
Aliens vs Predator PC/360/PS3
Way back when, Greg and Colin Strause dropped the bombshell that a new AvP FPS was in the works so it’s safe to assume that Rebellion’s brand spanking new AvP game has been in development since at least November 2007. Although following this we heard nothing more until February of 2009 when Sega officially announced the new game.
Apparently the game was initially being developed by Rebellion under Vivendi’s banner. Following Vivendi’s merge with Activision (who funnily enough published Alien Trilogy, another staple game in for the franchise) AvP was ultimately dropped but then picked up again by Sega.
Simply called Aliens vs Predator this time around, the new game is an entirely separate entity with an original storyline that doesn’t follow on from the previous two AvP PC games. The story, set 30 years after Aliens, revolves around the colony of BG-386 where Weyland-Yutani is mining for a rare mineral. They uncover an ancient Predator training pyramid and accidentally awaken the Queen trapped there.
When the Predators in training are slaughtered, a group of “cleaner” Predators (aka Wolf-style Predators) are sent in to contain the mess and of course, the Colonial Marines are caught up in the mess. The game will also be delving into the origins of the Predators and exploring Weyland-Yutani’s motives, methods and just exactly where their interest lies.
A lot of emphasize is being put on how the species and their missions are represented. The Predator is going to be as he was in the films; An agile hunter who relies on stealth and his long ranged weapons. As the Predator you’ll have all the usual vision modes but they’ll be a brand new mode called “focus mode”.
This mode allows you to determine the mood and hostility of your prey, much like a similar mode in Concrete Jungle. This is a useful mode for when you’re trying to scare and divide the marines as you know which’ll be more likely to panic. Another useful tool the Predator will have – for the first time in AvP gaming history – is the voice recover which is actually used to spoof the marines, luring some away from their squad to be picked off.
The influence of the recent AvP films is evident in the new game. Not necessarily in a negative way, however. The alien vision mode is now the bright-green style seen in the films as opposed to the red in the previous games. The connection between Anderson’s first film and the pyramid in this game is obvious. But as well as that, the mines as used by Wolf in Requiem also make an appearance. You have an unlimited supply of these but you’re limited to deploying them 2 at a time. It could make for potentially interesting traps.
Interviews with Rebellion have revealed that they are putting special attention into making the marines special again. As Rebellion themselves have said, since AvP’s release in 1999, the style that made the marine campaign stand out has been emulated by numerous developers and countless games. And Rebellion plan on bringing it all back. How? That remains to be seen.
While the marine sections aren’t squad based (that’s why we’re waiting for Colonial Marines) there are numerous parts when you character with be fighting side by side with other USCM forces. The demo of the marine campaign showed this.
The demo shown at E3 had the player defending a location from a swarm of aliens. Sentry guns and fellow marines alongside the player, the aliens attacked. According to the various reports the deaths in the game – aside for a few key characters – are all non-scripted.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Aliens without the Pulse Rifle. Also showing up are M1014 assault shotguns (which are also being used in Colonial Marines), a shotgun used by today’s armed forces. We haven’t heard about any other weapons yet. That said, AvP is set 30 years after Aliens so we might be seeing some brand new high-tech toys. The Pulse Rifle actually seems to be an updated design over the one used in the film (and Colonial Marines).
The Alien campaign has only recently been unveiled at the GamesCon. As we expected, the Alien’s advantages rely on its speed. With only claws and a tail (and of course, headbite) you need to get to the enemies as fast as possible. To help aid you the lighting is also destroyable, meaning you can sneak about in the shadows. The twist here is you actually play a genetically modified alien known as Number #6. You were experimented on by humans and eventually escaped.
Like the previous incarnations, the Alien vision is minimal with only a streak to symbolize health. It also retains the pheromone style vision which highlights enemies in a glow. An extension in this game is that as an Alien you can also see enemies behind solid walls. In a similar manner to the Predator and the voice recorder, the Aliens can also hiss to frighten civilians or marines.
Making a welcome return is the ability to capture and infect civilians. In the original Jaguar version you could capture and cocoon enemies and upon your death, be birthed from one of those. In the 2010 release if you successfully capture someone, you get a beautiful visual of you holding them down as a face-hugger appears and gets cosy with the unfortunate soul’s face.
While the harvesting doesn’t seem to play the same function as in the Jaguar game, the more civilians that get harvested, the more AI Aliens you have running around on your team. A fantastic feature of chasing down civilians is that if you don’t get to them in time they pull out a pistol and end their life. I think this is a fabulous idea and can’t wait to see it in motion.
Also fresh off the press at GamesCon, multiplayer details have been announced. All three platforms will feature massive eighteen player online battles. But even sweeter is the new four player co-op skirmish mode they recently announced. It’s a bit of a drastic step-up from the AvP1 skirmish. Currently being called Survivor, the skirmish mode will apparently play out much in the same way as Horde (Gears of War 2) and Firefight (Halo ODST).
Technology wise the game is powered by the Asura engine, Rebellion’s home grown engine. Despite how impressive the game looks, the homegrown nature of the engine has some worried about whether mod-kits will be released. As fanmade content has kept AvP2 alive after all these years, this could be quite a concern and affect the longevity of the game.
With a February release, there’s plenty of time left for more info to come out. As of writing we’re still awaiting footage of the marine and alien campaigns. Eurogamer Expo is just around the corner (October) where Sega will be demoing the multiplayer aspect of the game. It has been revealed that a demo of the game will be out before release. No exact details though.
Keep an eye out for the latest news at AvPGalaxy. Also be sure to check out our recent Q/A with the kind folk over at Rebellion.