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Reviewed by the jaded critic
For years, Hollywood has kept us dreaming of a movie showdown between these two horror icons. In one corner, the quintessential alien beast, HR Giger's remorseless, murdering aliens. In the other corner, the quintessential alien hunter, the Predators, sans Arnold Schwarzenneger. The possibilities are endless. At a minimum, it has already spawned one of the best selling comic crossovers of all time. Unfortunately, the movie seems trapped in a red-tape swamp before it's even begun, but, in the mean time, Fox Interactive has stepped into the gap and provided us with a magnificent piece of craftsmanship in its own right.
Aliens vs Predator (AvP) is a first person shooter that actually consists of three games. Each one, even as a standalone, shows flashes of brilliance. The first, casts the player in the role of a colonial marine, ala doom. Stranded in the midst of Alien infested territory, you are presented with various mission objectives, but if you're anything like me, you'll be too busy trying to figure out how to stay alive. The Alien game casts you as an Alien, dashing about, climbing walls, and crawling about in air ducts with dizzying speed. The Predator game, quite simply, puts you on safari in the middle of all this. Lions, tigers & bears. Oh my!
Aliens versus Predator is the first major game adaptation of a movie concept that Iíve truly enjoyed, and itís easily the most atmosphere intensive first person game to come along in months. All three games are crafted beautifully, thereís always just the right amount of uncertainty about whatís around the next corner. Whateverís lurking behind there might just drop you before you can blink. Very rarely, if ever, does this game let you completely off the hook.
The marine play is seamless, shadows abound. Clever enemy placement and lightning quick attacks will have you on the edge of your seat. The alien game is beautifully rendered. The sheer speed of it, combined with your ability to climb walls and rip limbs off your victims in seconds FEELS alien. The predator game is beautifully done. Speaking as a long time fan of those movies I have to say the detail level is incredible. It might just as well be taken directly from Predator 3.
AvP is not without shortcomings. Regrettably, they are all self-inflicted. I can't even begin to fathom why Fox Interactive chose to release the game in a form that isn't compatible with the Riva chipsets. No game should ever be unplayable out of the box. I don't know which commandment of game design that is, but it is certainly one of the biggest. In theory, there are new drivers available that will support the game. In practice, I was unable to get it to run on at least one system that was well above its minimum requirements. A friend of mine pulled it off. It took several hours of web research and time spent on the phone with Fox Interactive's support. One can only imagine why the chose to punish such a large share of their potential customers.
In terms of gameplay, AvP's biggest shortcoming is its lack of a mid-game save feature. Considering the fact that sudden, abrupt death lurks around many a corner, (I wouldn't have it any other way), you may find yourself playing more than one level over and over again. This can often add up to enough frustration to seriously detract from the game. On the plus side, a patch is available that will enable you to save in mid-game.Multiplayer support is available through mplayer.com. However, it's spotty, buggy, and somewhat unreliable. Often, I found myself in games that didn't last as long as the wait for them to begin. Pity. There is massive potential here for some great free for alls.
You will almost never hear this from me. AvP earns its mature rating. To illustrate, in the alien game, you restore your strength by FEEDING. The results can be...less then pretty. I am no stranger to violent video games, but, to me, it is one thing to kill a marine that is trying to kill you. It is, another, entirely, to feed on an unarmed man who collapses into tears in front of you. Don't misinterpret, it's touches like that that give the Alien game its distinctiveness. The game's atmosphere (easily its strongest achievement) is the sum of small touches like this. However, that doesn't change the fact that AvP's atmosphere and tone is not for the faint of heart. If your sensibilities are easily bruised, you are probably better suited in looking elsewhere.
Overall, AvP is an exceptional piece of craftsmanship. It is not without its dings and scratches, but, if you enjoy an occasional walk on the dark side, I wholeheartedly recommend it. I have never seen anything like it. However, when you play, shut the lights off and close the door, it's just better that way.
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