|Aliens Vs. Predator
The heart-thumping intensity, the glowing oozing blood, the feeling you're being watched. All of these present in my mind whenever I think of the movie Predator. Arguably one of the best Arnold movies ever made, it pitted a group of elite marines against a sole Predator in the jungles of South America (*I think*). I remember watching this movie thinking "how dope AND original!" Yeah sure, we've seen liquid metal cops, ferocious T-Rex's, and high flying Mr. Smith's in "The Matrix" but are any of them truly original? No, of course not. But the Predator is.
So when I first heard that Fox was integrating two creative licenses into a single game, I had to get the demo. I must admit, the demo was extremely difficult and it turned me off. I didn't get a full sense that I was seeing through the eyes of a Predator, that I was a Predator. The weapons, the various view modes, the atmosphere - it all seemed pretty bland. Then the game went gold and I grabbed myself a copy. Boy, was I in for a surprise. Let's get into the heart of the matter.
Graphics [4 of 5 stars]
The engine for this game is extremely fast and accurate. I didn't detect the slightest hint of misdraws or jagged polygons whatsoever in the last 48 hours of continuous play. It features lens flares, which is a great effect many newer games now sport. Playing as the Predator truly shows how diverse and powerful the graphics of the game is. Switching from view to view without a hint of delay will immediately demonstrate the capabilities of the graphics engine. Lights change intensity depending on distance. Bodies fade away realistically instead of just disappearing. Even the textures on the walls and surrounding objects looked realistic. For example, if you look at a display screen it really looks like glass. Metal looks like metal, concrete looks like concrete, and the sky looks like...well, the sky. The only reason I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars is because I have seen better. Of course there isn't much in this game that would require the developers to dig deep into the features of the latest TNT2 or Voodoo3 graphics cards, but the opening was there. Also, the Marines looked extremely generic and bland. I normally am in Thermal Mode so I don't get to see facial expressions as I target them with my Shoulder Cannon, but the few times I have adds additional fun to the mix. The attention to details such as this, makes the gameplay very appealing to the eyes.
Sound [5 out of 5 stars]
The audio aspect in any game is just as important as the visual. What you hear while you are playing greatly affects the mood while providing crucial information about your surroundings. Playing primarily as the Predator, I must say that the audio in this game is superb. Each time you switch view modes it makes that "cheeew" sound that reminds you of the two movies. And when you cloak. Oh my Lord - now THAT is cool! You even get to hear yourself make that roaring sound whenever a marine's bullet makes contact. When you are walking around there are errie thumping sounds as well as as the occasional scream and cries of marines as they see you magically uncloak right before their eyes. Playing as a marine gets your blood really flowing as the white dots on your screen pumps closer and closer. Also, Fox has included a SECOND CD that is jam-packed of themed music. So you do a full install, pop in CD 2 and you are ready to roll. The game supports EAX (Environmental Audio Extensions) which is good news for SoundBlaster Live! users, but disappointing to Vortex-based enthusiasts. I heard they took out A3D because Creative was planning to bundle the game with it's Live! cards. Of course this doesn't really affect gameplay much. With a 4-speaker surround setup, I was able to play with no problems whatsoever. It would be nice, however, if a A3D patch was released in the future.
Gameplay [5 out of 5 stars]
Imagine getting three games in one. That's exactly what you get when you purchase this game. Each game is so different and varied that playing as a Marine is far different than playing as an Alien, for instance. Other games allow you to choose different characters, but it makes little or no difference whatsoever. In AVP, if you play as one character and switch to another you get a sort of mental block and you have to stop and think about it for a second. Each character is so true to it's on-screen counterpart that it's scary. Name a single element you've seen from the movies and trust me, it's in here. When you play as an Alien your view is kind of distorted. I've seen it described as a fish bowl effect. You can climb walls, claw and whip your tail. Playing as a Predator gives you access to all those cool futuristic weapons as well as three view modes (Thermal, Electric, and Pred-Tech). The marine leaves something to be desired. He is the typical FPS character sporting regular marine type weapons. Actually, I am glad they didn't throw in imaginary weapons like railguns or nuclear missile launchers into the marine's arsenal. They kept it realistic so that's an added bonus. Gameplay in AVP is so incredibly varied that you are definitely getting your money's worth.
Multiplayer [3 out of 5 stars]
This game is extremely fun. That's probably an understatement, but I'm pressed for time. Although I have not had the opportunity to test the multiplayer aspect of the game, I am sure it works just fine. But I'll tell you all I know about it so you can make a judgement for yourself. The game allows you to play via modem, serial, LAN, or on mplayer.com. Modem and serial play limits you to only one-on-one play while the others allow you to play up to 8 players. Apparently, Fox limited the game to 8 players per server so that it would maintain a constant game speed without the problems lag might cause. IMHO this is an excellent idea, one that other manufacturers should adopt. Mplayer.com is an extremely large online gaming community. Last night I installed and registered and found the process to be extremely easy and straightforward. Nobody should have any problems with multiplayer. The scenarios consist of those similar to the Half-Life mod Team Fortress Classic. Mostly it's all the players hunting a single guy, but AVP adds in their own twists such as the hunter who kills the hunted becomes the hunted. Kinda neat, eh? I only gave this a 3 star rating because of what I've seen and heard. Since it's a new game there aren't many people hosting games. This is a shame. When Starsiege first came out I was able to find servers galore. Also Starsiege's host configuration is like 3 different tabs. You can set anything from time limits to weight on the HERCS. AVP does offer similar settings such as limiting weapons, but no where as close to the configurability of Starsiege.
Replay Value [5 out of 5 stars]
If you've been reading this in a really dark cave or are just plain dense, let me repeat myself - I LOVE THIS GAME! It is perhaps one of the most innovative and captivating titles to grace my computer in a long time. Of course nothing can really beat Thief: The Dark Project when it comes to innovation. Those guys at Looking Glass Studios basically redefined the word. Anyway, this game possesses excellent replay value. Often when I get far on a level in a game and then lose I am almost disgusted and don't want to start over. I still get the same feeling playing this game but once I kill my first marine while a spear gun, I forget about everything and am once again, immersed in the game. The game sucks you in, it draws you in slowly like some kind of drug. It uses the latest technology and that insures that it won't be collecting dust anytime soon. This game is definitely a great buy.
Graphics - 4 stars
Sound - 5 stars
Gameplay - 5 stars
Multiplayer - 3 stars
Replay Value 5 stars
The Final Verdict - 4.4 stars
If I could I would have given it a bonus 0.6 points for just being so damned great but alas, I cannot. Don't let the scores fool you people, this game is worth your time and money.
ABIT BX6 Revision 2.0