Aliens vs. Predator Preview
26th Oct 2009 | 15:00
Playing Aliens vs. Predator 2010's multiplayer mode fills us with 1999 nostalgia. And yet, in some respects, this update of the old PC classic feels like a very different beast entirely.
In our recent hands-on we got to try out the real meat of the game's multiplayer modes; the three-way deathmatch. This is just one the scenarios set for AvP 2010's online roster, the others include a Horde/Firefight-style 'Infestation' mode, which has you holding off against endless waves of aliens, 'Infestation', a last man standing assault in which killed marines join the alien horde and 'Predator Hunt', which is similar to Infestation only with marines up against a single Predator.
As in the previous AvP games, playing deathmatch as the marine is a tense and at times trouser-fluttering experience. Hearing the blips of a xenomorph creeping closer will have you on the edge of your seat.
As a human you're down to bare bones in terms of gadgets; you've got a flashlight and a gun. We're told your pick-ups and firepower are well above that of the other species, but the shotgun and pulse rifle we were limited to in the demo wasn't exactly nailing Predators to the walls.
So when the space-hailing nasties of the universe come screaming towards our mortal frame, the marine's best friend is his new block move.
When timed correctly you can use this to avoid leap attacks from both aliens and predators, and then follow it up with a quick counter to put them on the floor and in your sights. Considering aliens can murder you with a killer jump from what seems like miles away, this is a very, very useful manoeuvre for the lowly human and learning to anticipate other player's attacks is essential.
Most of our time with the man with the gun was spent shooting at shadows and trying to track the alien players running above our heads. Developer Rebellion is a cheeky outfit and it's decided to shape much of the game's shrubbery suspiciously similar to xenomorphs - there's even a giant statue of an alien in the jungle map we played - and until you learn the maps properly you'll likely spend most of your time looking in the wrong direction.
On the flip-side, the alien is perhaps the easiest to play of the three species and also the most disorientating. A claw attack, tail whip and wall-hug button are all you need to navigate the deathmatch arena efficiently with the big black critter, though this time xenos navigate the world with such visceral head bobs and movements that it can be a quite nauseating ordeal.
Stealth, as always, is the alien's most devastating weapon. Catch an enemy from behind and you'll have a clear window to initiate your leap attack, which can be activated from a fair distance and will instantly kill Predators and marines caught with their pants down.
When your reticule glows you can initiate a leap to the targeted surface, making navigating the world an effortless task. And while the alien doesn't have any special vision modes, your default view highlights enemies - even through walls - enabling you to plan and come at opposing players from behind.
Last but not least the Predator is a far more acrobatic and melee-driven vehicle than the other two. Core to the Pred' experience is his new leap ability; holding down L2 (we played the PS3 version) displays a HUD item which you can use to aim your jump onto nearby tree branches or ledges.
And this - in the jungle map we tested, at least - is how you'll play with the Predator; leaping from tree branch to tree branch whilst cloaked, flicking on your vision modes to search for prey, before jumping in to stab him/it in the face.
There's still a lot of cloak and dagger method behind playing as the big dreadlocked lad; stealth kills from behind are instant (and very violent - heads attached to spines are his favourite) and the clearer view of the action gifted by both vision modes and the ability to jump up trees means you can plan your moves more strategically.
This is where the melee bit comes in; Rebellion's put a fair bit of attention into physical combat and it's a bit more in-depth than a Halo-style gun smack. The Predator has two moves; a heavy attack and a light one. Light attacks are quicker but can be blocked by marines, while the heavy attack will stun an alien or marine making way for a violent finishing move.
In our hands-on we were engaged in numerous wrestling bouts with marines and Predators and it's an overall visceral experience; through the eyes of your character you'll be knocked to the ground, smacked in the face and - if you're unlucky loser of that particular bout - grabbed round the throat and dismembered in a gruesome fashion.
The rock-paper-scissors air around the blocking and counter attack moves too means it's all a bit more interesting than simple mashing a melee button. That said, in the version of the game we played there were still some issues involving not being able to attack two foes locked in an animation - be it counter or killing move - and we hope this gets addressed down the line.
But of course the Predator doesn't just have to rely on his hand blades to get the job done; he's also got an arsenal of futuristic weaponry at his fingertips. In our demo we had most of the Predator's weapons from the get-go, but we're told in the final game they'll be pick-ups. The shoulder cannon - selected with the d-pad - is as devastating and easy to use as ever.
One last thing we'll add about the Predator - and this is a point that's annoyed us to tears - is that somehow Rebellion has managed to bugger up his iconic visor sounds completely. The once violent 'whoosh' of flicking through your visor modes has been replaced with a Happy Shopper imitation and other Predator noises are unfamiliar too.
We're firmly donning our nitpicking hat with this one, but the iconic Predator sound effects for us - and many fans of the 80s action flick - count much towards the immersion. As Phil Mitchel might say, 'Sawt it ahhhht!'
Overall 2010's Aliens vs. Predator is a more acrobatic, easier to play, up-close and brutal multiplayer encounter, while inciting real feelings of nostalgia for those who encountered the '99 version.
The focus on rock-paper-scissor gameplay and counter moves means it's going to need some serious testing if the three species are going to be balanced in time for the full game - and from what we've played they stack up pretty evenly already - but we're looking forward to a meatier play session with our favourite deathmatch threesome before then.