I have always thought of the Aliens series of games to be sort of the black sheep of first-person shooters. The early versions deserved this reputation since they were rather lackluster in their execution but that all changed with Aliens vs. Predator. Besides being a tense thriller, this game offered you the unique opportunity to play as a Marine, Alien or Predator. The Rebellion-developed title hit the spot in capturing the atmosphere of the popular sci-fi films and providing a completely different spin on FPS characters by introducing a playable Alien and Predator.
This time around AvP2 has been developed by Monolith, using its own Lithtech engine. The graphics are more refined than Aliens vs. Predator but suffer from being a bit too bland. It’s not a major deal since this series is all about suspense and playing as a different character but it would be interesting to see graphics that really try to emulate the Giger inspired visuals of the films. The thing I can’t gripe about is the continued excellence with its gameplay. Once you get past the cartoon-like cutscenes and into playing the game, you’ll be hooked. I have never swung around to cover my backside this much in any game before when playing as a Marine. The Marine experience is incredibly intense and is probably the most difficult character to succeed with. Yeah, there’s a bevy of weapons at your disposal but the Aliens are quicker than all h** and the Predator has the use of killer stealth and packs some real firepower himself. These differences become even more apparent in the multiplayer games.
I’ve read a lot of criticism with the lag in online multiplayer which is still somewhat of a problem but if you’re able to find a solid connection, man you’re going to find a compelling game of deathmatch. Come to think of it, I can’t think of any other online game that epitomizes the principle of rock, scissors and paper. You know the routine – rock defeats scissors, scissors defeat paper, and paper defeats rocks. The strengths and weaknesses of the three character classes reflect this type of gameplay. It would be impossible to list the best weapons and tactics to use from one class against another but one thing is certain – you’ll try them all in your struggle to gain an upper hand in multiplayer.
In general, it’s pretty easy for one to master the mobility of an Alien so it becomes a real workout trying to combat these acid-dripping dogs as a Marine. Besides not being able to see Aliens all that well due to the dark environments and their overall quickness, they also have the ability to pounce (leaping attack) which is just flat-out brutal. As a Marine, you’ll quickly learn the ropes in terms of the most effective weapons plus the fact that it definitely helps to fight within a group. The urge to go at it alone during team deathmatch battles will kick in at times but just get ready to be eviscerated. It’s probably the challenging nature of playing the Marine that drives me to play this character online.
There is one p**er about the multiplayer game and that relates to same-team player killing during Team DM. The server has the option of allowing same team kills and unfortunately, some idiots (like the ones on your own team) take advantage of this. My suggestion is to just bail out of such games and find a server that doesn’t have imbeciles playing on it. I tried going after a few of these morons but it’s no fun to try to hunt them down while you’re also trying to shake off Aliens and Predators. The beauty of AvP2 online play is that because each team has distinct characters, there seems to be more of a unifying force at play than what your typical team deathmatch offers. That’s why the same team player killing irks the h** out of me. That’s enough of my ranting.
The single player game is just as fun as the online play as the suspense is unrelenting especially when playing as a Marine. It’s amazing how that little blip on your personal motion tracker can turn the terror factor up quite a few notches. Throw in the sound of Aliens scurrying around you (and yes even above you) and you end up with is a lesson in Terror 101. Since Aliens can also drop on top of you and now have the ability to pounce, we’ll excuse you for freaking out during gameplay!
On the other side of the terrain, playing as an Alien or the Predator leans more towards the sneak attack approach, which doesn’t produce such a terror ride. Stealth and quick attacks are the rule of thumb for both character classes. The Alien is a pretty simple character to play as the attacks consist of thrashing or a nice head bite (if you’re lined up properly). This seems to be the most popular character for online play since it’s not all that difficult to stack up a fair number of kills as you have a major speed advantage over your opponents. It’s true that you’re more susceptible to enemy artillery fire but evasive speed used the right can easily be used to your advantage. You can even play as a face-hugger, which is just plain weird since you scamper across the ground and leap at your opponents. Face-Huggers can be extremely annoying to Marines during online play.
The Predator is the most sophisticated of the three character classes since it can use cloaking (effective against Marines only) and has the ability to regenerate its health and energy. The Predator’s cloaking does not work with Aliens so you’re on the constant lookout for these critters. Add to this, the fact that Predators are much slower than Aliens are and you can end up being puppy chow for any pack of Aliens. Your chances improve as you master the Predator’s weapons and learn to quickly use the always available, self-healing medicomp tool. I should make mention of one cool Predator weapon, which is the Netgun. Fire it at an enemy and they become trapped in a net until they either cut themselves out or you put them out. It’s cool to see a Marine stuck to a wall because of your Netgun. Now, only if you could use a flamethrower to fry ‘em. Cruel!
The sound effects and music are excellent as both succeed in creating a film-like experience. The Marine’s weapons seem to be a tad on the muted side but if I can recall correctly, the weapons sounded the same way in the movies. No worries though since the Predator and Aliens’ sound effects should bring a nice smile to your face and a chill down your spine (especially the Predator’s howls). The suspenseful music does a great job of completing the audio package. This is how an action game should sound.
Oh, I almost forgot – there is now the benefit of an unlimited, in-mission save feature, which was notably absent from the first game (a limited save feature was provided in a subsequent patch). It’s encouraging to know that some developers listen to their customers.
AvP2 continues the excellence of the first game with its dynamic gameplay provided through the ability of playing as one of three characters in a terror-filled atmosphere. Throw in the added benefit of unlimited saves, better multiplayer capabilities and AvP2 proves to be a must-have for any red-blooded FPS fan.