Aliens vs Predator is a good shooter with great visuals, but the gameplay just doesn't have what it takes to stand up to modern first-person shoot-'em-up
We were playing BioShock 2 just prior to Aliens vs Predator. Bear with us, we're about to go off on a tangent - but it's all in the name of context. So in BioShock 2 we were at a point in the game where we needed to get the Little Sister to suck the Adam out of a dead Splicer.
If this sounds a bit weird then wait till you hear the description: basically you get a five-year-old girl armed with a syringe to suck the blood out of a dead guy while you stand guard. The problem is that the minute you do this countless waves of enemies swarm you. More than you can possibly fend off by regular fighting.
So you need to prepare. You can hack nearby security systems and lay traps. In our case we'd just picked up some disposable gun turrets and noticed that above the dead corpse was a walkway. We sneaked up the walkway and dropped the turrets where they'd have a clear view of the impending herd, but be safely up out of reach. Then we set the Little Sister to work.
The splicers arrived and the gun turrets made mincemeat of them, leaving us with a big 'We thought of something clever' grin on our face. Add to this a narrative that includes a heady mixture of Randian objectivism and Marxist philosophy, combined with a 1930's art deco style and you get a truly intelligent and unique experience. So that's BioShock 2. Go out and buy it.
Why are we blathering about this? Well the problem with Aliens vs Predator is that for all its visual sheen - and make no mistake it looks great - it just feels old. It's like somebody got a game from five or even ten years ago and ran it through the best 3D graphics engine they could afford.
The single player mode in Aliens vs Predator enables you to play through three separate campaigns, either as Marine, Alien, or Predator.
The humans are fairly straightforward, the Aliens are stealthy, and can move extremely fast and can climb up walls and along ceilings (making for some confusing mechanics), but they only have hand-to-hand combat. The Predators can leap from one pre-determined spot to another, and use mostly hand-to-hand with the odd laser-targetted shot.
For all the attempt at invention, the experience of Aliens vs Predator just felt basic to us. We spent most of the marine levels back-peddling while trying to remember the layout of the maze behind is so we could continue to run backwards and avoid the advancing Aliens. The first thought that went through our head was: 'didn't we first do this in Doom?' The second thought was 'We'd rather be playing BioShock 2'.
The Alien and Predator levels are somewhat more interesting, but the level of ingenuity simply isn't enough to clear the bar set by other games on the market. Even the online mode is standard fare with the usual deathmatch modes. The co-op game mode turns out to be a two-player versus waves of enemies affair. And for some reason it eschews its own game lobby and uses Mplayer to find matches instead.
Let's put it this way: you won't be putting down Modern Warfare 2 in a hurry. After almost 20 years of first-person shooters it's just not enough to do run-and-shoot gaming.
And that's our problem with Aliens vs Predator. It's just not interesting enough. Oh sure it's pretty looking, and the different styles of play on offer with the three character types show some attempt at invention (well, at least the Alien and Predator modes do, the Marine mode is the aforementioned back-pedal frenzy first seen 20 years ago), so there's plenty here to look at. But whether you'll be bothered to see the whole of it is another matter.
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