Eurogamer Expo: Aliens vs Predator


Unbalanced.  That’s the main feeling I got walking away from the AvP demo. 

The marine/alien/predator triangle really throws up some interesting possibilities.  Luckily for me, then, there was a hands-on multiplayer demo at the EG Expo.  Unfortunately, I left feeling slightly disappointed.

Game over, man!

In fairness to Rebellion, there remain a lot of reasons to be optimistic that this can become a stand-out title – but it needs a lot of work before its release.  Odd graphical glitches were frequent in what I can only hope is an early build: marines and predators would occasionally “slide” across the floor, animation totally absent.  There was alarming lag, too; I had assumed I was playing a LAN game, and – if so – then this is an ominous portent for the online side.

Graphically, it was solid but unremarkable.  It also suffered from the single issue that plagued Arkham Asylum: when playing as the Predator, you will want to use thermal vision all the time.  This time, however, it does at least serve to underscore the continuity of the inspiring fiction.

The biggest gameplay issue, though, was balance.  The marine is woefully underpowered.  S/he has a motion sensor in a fitting nod to the films, but it is exactly that: a motion sensor.  As aliens and predators alike can lurk in the shadows to good effect, it is somewhat irksome that your one way of redressing the balance is undone by the inclusion of one-button stealth kills.  Aliens and predators can pounce on unsuspecting victims for an instant kill, and – although the animations are slow and can leave players exposed when used gratuitously – it still means there is a lot of hiding in shadow.  All too often, I would be engaged in a firefight or about to spring a trap of my own, when I would simply be picked off in such a manner and sent packing to the respawn screen.  In fact, it is entirely too easy to believe that unlucky or impatient players will see a lot of the floor while waiting to rejoin the fray.  Alas, I didn’t get to play as an alien, and potentially they offer some of the most unique gameplay elements – certainly, their gravity-defying locomotion opens a vast array of tactics.

The more positive aspects of AvP were perhaps slightly trickier to qualify.  For one thing, seeing aliens scuttle around the claustrophobic levels and disappear into the shadows was superbly atmospheric, and left you with interesting choices: do you risk rushing in for a kill, or abandon what might be a trap?  On one occasion, my marine chased an alien up a stairwell, firing blindly into the darkness.  As I emerged from the darkness on to a walkway, a shape flitted off to the left.  I jumped back, seeing the alien dangling into the darkness, ready to pounce if I’d continued my pursuit.  I can’t imagine a more authentic experience – that one moment perfectly encapsulated everything about the films.

Newt's down here?  Screw that

Despite the reservations I have, there is huge potential here.  If Rebellion can nail the balance and fix the technical issues by release, then this could be a competitive FPS that breathes tension into an often-stale genre, rewarding cunning gameplay far beyond most shooters.

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  1. November 1st, 2009

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