Don't mistake Aliens vs. Predator for just another licensed shooter. And certainly don't confuse it with the goddawful recent movies. Rebellion Developments' original 1999 AvP game was, and still is, one of the finest games ever to be based upon phallic, rib-troubling monsters and dreadlocked space hunters. And Rebellion is making this one too.
Aliens, Predators and humans all get their own separate stories in campaign mode, so to properly settle the fight, we recently took it to the game's multiplayer and tried out all three factions against each other. Who's the best? Read on.
Playing as the Alien is one hell of a fast-moving experience. Seriously. We’re talking Quake III fast here. And it needs to be. With no long-range death-making facilities at its disposal, AvP multiplayer might just as easily be called Aliens on Toast if the Xenomorph wasn’t so finely-tuned for hit-and-run tactics.
As fast and fluid as greased-up mercury, the Alien can assail almost any surface, wall, tree or ceiling at lightning speed to attack from any angle. While this manoeuvrability takes some definite concentration to stay on top of at first – even after mastering it, we feel the Alien could do with the option of switching to 3rd person, or at least a wider viewing angle for easier orientation – with some practice it becomes one hell of a combat tool. Able to descend upon prey, hit, and then scarper away again within just a few seconds, the Alien is a dangerously kinetic threat that can happily rove the map, killing at will like the unseen demon from the Evil Dead series.
It’s remarkably easy to score fast kills, particularly given that the Alien (and Predator for that matter) can stun an opponent with melee hits before triggering a context-sensitive, one-button insta-kill. Sneaking up behind an enemy can set one up as well, and given the Alien’s speed, sneaking up can be a gleefully spur-of-the-moment, opportunistic action.
That said though, we found the Alien most effective when using a ‘hide-and-strike’ approach. Given the multitude of obscurely angled nooks and crannies it can reach, it’s both easy and satisfying to crawl into a shadow or piece of cover way up at the top of the level and wait for quarry to pass nearby. A swift plummet later and the effect is like dropping a bomb on your unsuspecting opponents. A bomb filled with teeth and claws and acid.
It wasn’t until we started putting this approach into action that we really started to score big with the Alien. The “find shadow, leap from shadow, kill, scuttle away to next shadow” tactic helped us rack up a massive kill streak, augmented in no small way by the Alien’s severely powerful melee attacks. If anything, things can perhaps become a little too easy, and certainly a tad repetitive, once this method comes into play, stationary Aliens seemingly impossible for other players to spot, and their speed and ‘go anywhere’ agility making escape and evasion a pretty simple process should things go wrong. Being the only class with regenerative health only compounds the Alien’s hidey-stalky prowess.
Admittedly, the issue could just be that we were playing against inexperienced fellow journos, who hadn’t yet trained themselves into the obsessive “check every corner” mentality needed when fighting these things. But at the same time, we can imagine that a couple of Xeno players working together could be a pretty unstoppable force.
It’s also currently a bit of a worry that the Alien’s speed and manoeuvrability make it a little easy to score by combining circle-strafing claw-spam with the insta-kill button. Here’s hoping this is tweaked out in the coming months.