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Eurogamer Expo 2009 Hands-on: Aliens vs Predator

As USPs go, having two of cinema’s most recognisable slobbery monsters headlining is a pretty darn good one. But, as any long-time fan of each of these iconic extraterrestrials will tell you, pitting them head-to-head is not necessarily a guarantee of success. After two cinematic outings which could generously be described as “disappointing”, can the latest AvPgame halt the franchise’ slide into a quality black-hole? Based on the evidence on show here, the answer is a resounding…maybe.

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After some fine outings on PC, as well as Atari’s ill-fated Jaguar console way back when, it’s not just fanboys who have set their hopes high for this space-based smackdown. But with an already over-saturated market for FPSs, it’s going to take more than previous form to stop AvPfrom becoming less noticeable than a stealth-cloaked Predator.

Five months on from our first viewing of AvPat E3, we’ve finally managed to get our hands on the acid-bloody thing, and from what we’ve played these fine old foes may just have what it takes to stand banana-head and spiky shoulders above the rest. Though we were unable to play the single-player mode just yet, we have had several rounds of multiplayer action, and although it seemed fairly non-descript initially, it’s clear the game has a few tricks up it’s slimy sleeves.

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As in previous games, players can take control of the Predator (tall, dreadlocks, face like a particularly unkempt vagina) and the Alien (bit less tall, prickly, slightly phallic head), as well as a soft and squishy human Colonial Marine. There is noticeable differentiation between each of the three playable characters, and mastering all three is going to be trickier than you may think.

Predators are probably the easiest choice for new players to use, as they have a good mix of strength, speed and stealth, as well as a pretty fearsome arsenal. It’s going to take a while to make the most of all these tricks though, as using weapons removes your invisibility cloak, making the timing of your lock-on laser crucial. These mandibled monsters also have a nice line in throat-slitting wrist blades, and do enjoy yanking toothy xenomorphic tongues from heads.

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Aliens are faster and more agile, as well as having the handy ability to climb walls and ceilings, making them predominantly useful for launching sneak attacks. Lack of ranged weapons means that you’re going to have to get in close to do the wet-work, and dispatch enemies with a range of pleasingly crunchy executions.

Perhaps surprisingly for a multiplayer FPS, a lot of emphasis is placed on one-hit stealth kills, which makes sense given the context. This is less applicable to the human characters, as they tend to do a lot more running around with poop in their pants than their intergalactic chums. At first glance picking the Marine seems to be the equivalent of drawing the short straw, but further play reveals them to be more useful than they look. On the map we played, the only weapons available were the standard Pulse Rifle (with added grenade launcher, albeit with very scarce ammo) and a shotgun, each being moderately effective in a straight fire-fight. The Marine’s strength in depth only really becomes apparent when you get to grips with the melee and block buttons. It was soon clear that the best tactic to use against an in-your-face Alien was to block their initial attack, then club them to the floor using a mixture of hard and light melee attacks (L1 and R1 respectively on the PS3 version). Once prone on the floor there is a very short window for a speedy Marine to blast them to sulphuric bits, and discovering this tactic soon helps to even what at first seem insurmountable odds. The classic beeping motion sensor is very helpful too, as well as providing a bit of nostalgia for fans.

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Graphically, everything is nice enough in a ho-hum, seen it before kind of way, but there is still plenty of time for polish to be added yet. Fingers crossed thing will look sharper by launch day. Most of the landscape was familiar space-shooter fare, but the addition of an Alien-shaped waterfall is a nice touch, and hopefully we’ll see more like it in the finished game.

With a strong single-player storyline and plenty of claustrophobic atmosphere, we’re happy to report that AvP has the potential to be a very decent game indeed, and (if it fulfils that potential) should please fans and standard gamers alike. And hopefully banish memories of those abysmal films altogether.

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in January 2009.

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