E3 2009: Aliens vs. Predator
A small group of journalists laughed when I asked Tim Jones, project lead of Aliens vs. Predator, what he thought of the two movies. He also chuckled a bit, but he gave a politically correct answer of saying how he appreciates that the two films have brought in more fans to the series. Then he told us what we all wanted to hear.
“We’re more in the timeline and style of the James Cameron film,” he said, referring to the classic Aliens.
Jones had worked for Rebellion when they released Alien versus Predator on the PC back in 1999. Even before that, Rebellion put out the Atari Jaguar version, which was one of the few games worth playing on the ill-fated system. The company has a long history with the franchise, but it’s been a decade since their last AVP game was released. The genre has advanced exponentially since then, and has time passed them by?
Judging from the presentation at E3, things seem to be on the right track. Taking place after Aliens 3, some marines unwittingly stumble upon some unfriendly xenomorphs after responding to a distress call on another ill-fated colony. Some predators also end up joining the fray, and like in past games, each race is playable, whether in the single-player campaign or in multiplayer.
The game was apparently playable at E3, but Sega reps were hogging the controllers and refused to let me play on two different occasions. It’s too bad, because the predator level looked like a lot of run. Scurrying aliens could be easily found with thermal vision and then dispatched, while weak humans could be clawed, complete with fancy death animations.
Behind closed doors, the guys from Rebellion demonstrated a marine level. For anyone who’s played AVP or its sequel on PC, things will look familiar here. A motion tracker on the bottom lets you know if there are any aliens hanging around. The marine that you play as is a rookie, and once the squad enters the colony, he’s pretty much ordered around. Not only is he on the bottom of the ladder, but he’s at the bottom of the food chain.
Since this takes place after the third Alien movie, the developers were keen to point at that armor and weapons are slightly upgraded from what they used to be. The changes are subtle, but the developers look like they have an eye for detail.
Things don’t look good for the hero from the get go. Acidic holes have burned through the metal floors, and signs of a battle are everywhere. A turret guards one of the entrances, but it has been programmed not to shoot the rookie. As things often go, the shit hits the fan quickly and several of the squadmates are eliminated. There’s a cool mist-like effect when the aliens are killed, and since their blood causes damage, it’s best to watch it from a distance.
The rookie and a generic soldier survive and try to get an escape point, but the hallway has been blocked off by random debris and furniture. Some marines try to pass through the opposite side, but they’re dispatched quickly. Things look helpless for the rookie and his colleague. As he tries to backtrack through the door he entered, it shuts before he can get out. That’s where the brief presentation ended.
Right now, multiplayer details are scant aside from the fact that all three races will be playable. Aliens vs. Predator 2, released in 2001 for the PC, was an intense, memorable game that could be regarded as a minor classic. The people at Rebellion have been absent from the series for a while, but it looks like they can bring it back to its former glory. We’ll find out in 2010.