Saturday, September 10, 2011

Aliens vs Predator vs Boring

Rebellion's 2010 version of Aliens vs Predator feels like a less innovative version of their 1999 Aliens Versus Predator, and like a lamer version of Monolith's Aliens Versus Predator 2. There's almost nothing new or interesting going on here, it's just a modernized re-hash of everything we've already seen and done before. There are only five missions for each species, most of the combat breaks down to mindless click-fests, the missions themselves aren't varied, and it's just not that interesting. It's a shame, really. More about how boring it is after the jump.

The Marine Campaign

The marine campaign is supposed to feel almost like dark, survival horror shooter. AVP2010 is definitely dark. So dark that you can't even see what you're doing in most of the levels. It almost feels like playing Doom 3, except that at least Doom 3 was kind of original back in 2004. Here it's just dark and annoying, especially since the flashlight doesn't feel as useful as it should be. 

As for the horror aspect, it's a little spooky at first, hearing the pings on the radar and frantically looking around trying to find the aliens, and it's even more unsettling when you first see their black forms slowly slinking along a shadowy wall. But even during the first level, the effect wears off because this happens so often. You start hearing the ping and you think "oh no big deal, I'll just wait for it pop out at me." Especially since they give you a lot of false alarms, where the pinging comes toward you and then suddenly vanishes. It's frightening the first two or three times, but you get used to it and it quickly becomes yawn-inducing.

Combat isn't all that fun. The aliens move around so sporadically that it's damn difficult to actually hit them at a distance greater than four feet. And even then it takes an unprecedented amount of body shots to kill it. Almost all of my early fights wound up with me just running back and forth across the maps, kiting aliens while I kept failing to do lethal damage. But then once I realized how over-powered the melee punch is, it became so much easier for me to just stand still, let them get close to me, punch them in the face, and then blast them at close-range. So it was tedious and annoying at first, and then it just became shallow and boring. 

The shooting mechanics in AVP2010 just feel archaic to me. You've only got a handful of basic weapons: pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, sniper rifle, flamethrower. None of these feel like they have a substantial "kick" to them; from the recoil animations to the sound effects, they just feel bland. The smartgun is the only thing that's remotely interesting, but even that doesn't feel as powerful as it actually is. The guns feel detrimentally accurate, like they're so precise that it's ironically harder to hit enemies because there's no spread at all.

As far as the actual campaign is concerned, 98% of it is walking through corridors or enclosed areas fighting endless swarms of aliens. There's literally one, single encounter with a single predator in the entire campaign. And even that was pretty boring because I had the smartgun at nearly full ammo, so I could see the cloaked predator and rely on its auto-aim to dump hundreds of rounds into him before he finally went down. I killed an alien queen in less time than it took to kill one predator. 

It also suffers from constantly having a voice in your ear, which drove me crazy. You're supposed to be isolated, by yourself, but there's always someone droning on and on in the comm link, telling you what to do or just whining about something. I got really tired of Corporal Tequila controlling every aspect of the colony from a remote location, telling me how she always needs power restored to some area. I would've preferred to just be by myself in a survival situation, relying on my own wits and guns.

But the story is also pretty weak because they tell it through audio logs. I've never cared much for audio logs, but they're implemented quite badly, here. Opening an audio log takes you into the main menu, which breaks the flow of the game experience and thus disrupts the immersion. Then to return to the gameplay you have to go back to the main menu and hit "resume." But most of the audio logs have little bearing on what's actually happening. A lot of it is just establishing the aliens/predators lore for anyone who's completely ignorant, or just random people talking about nothing. 

In general, the marine campaign is rote and uninteresting. You don't actually do a whole lot and everything gets to feel repetitive and boring, despite its short length.

The Alien Campaign

Instead of playing an ordinary xenomorph serving the hive, we play as "6," a special, intelligent alien that was captured by Weyland-Yutani and used for research and experimentation. We have a personal vendetta against Weyland. I don't know that I care much for this, because I'd think it's more interesting to be an ordinary alien, part of the swarm, but whatever.

The alien campaign is incredibly short. It's still only five missions, but the alien moves so fast and has no reason to explore the maps (as a marine you have to keep an eye out for ammo, health, and audio logs), but since as an alien your weapons are your claws and tail, and your health regenerates, you just go straight from objective to objective. Whereas it takes maybe 30-45 minutes to complete a marine mission, an alien mission takes maybe only 20 minutes, tops. 

Controlling the alien is as wonky as it's ever been. Perhaps even worse, now, because in the original AVP the environments were pretty simple to navigate. In AVP2010, however, the walls and ceilings have a bunch of crap all over them, from pipes, cables, suspensions, support beams, lighting fixtures, random cosmetic crap, and this stuff often trips you up as you're crawling over it. It either causes your camera to suddenly scale upward and disorient you, like going over a large speed bump at 45mph, or you stop in your tracks because you can't go over them. 

Transitioning from surface to surface is never smooth or easy. I tried playing with "auto-transition" on, which makes it so if you walk into a wall you'll automatically climb up it. But then I ran into all kinds of problems with transitioning onto surfaces that I didn't intend to, exposing myself to marine gun fire on several occasions, or missing stealth kill opportunities because I kept disorienting myself from constantly shifting around in a tight area. Then I turned the transitions to manual, where you hold down a button, but then that introduced other problems where I was suddenly fumbling for that key whenever I wanted to switch walls and not moving around as efficiently as I wanted.

For the most part, alien missions just want you to kill all humans. It's somewhat enjoyable to crawl along the ceiling, hissing and howling to scare enemies away, or to lure armed opponents a certain location, and then slink out of the darkness to perform a fatality. But I often feel that the human NPCs are so stupid that it takes most of the thrill out of it. You can be right in front of their faces in a dimly lit area and they still won't see you moving around. Even if you just charge straight at their faces, they don't react fast enough to make stealth a real necessity. As a result, it's often a lot easier to just claw a dude to death instead of taking the time to set up a stealth kill.

As an alien you end up fighting two predators in a single level, but I think that's about all. And even that's pretty boring, because the combat boils down to just running up to them and spamming claw attacks over and over again. It's just not exciting, and it doesn't require any strategy. Especially since alien vision outlines the cloaked predators. 

The Predator Campaign

As always, the Predator is the most fun to play because he actually has unique, interesting weapons. Unlike the marine who's a boring, standard gun-shooting thing that we've been playing for nearly two decades. And as always, he's so over-powered that it's not especially thrilling, either, because it's just not fair for the human enemies. The aliens fare a little better in competition, but these battles are the boring, repetitive ones. But at least as a predator you get an even dose of human battles and alien battles, unlike where the other two campaigns just have you fighting a human or an alien 95% of the time.

Fighting humans is especially fun because they can't see your cloak, which allows you to move about fairly freely, creeping up on unsuspecting victims, performing guerrilla executions. But you can also "distract" a human enemy with recorded audio playback, like what we'd hear in the original Predator film as he'd repeat the human dialogue in weird, distorted ways to trick and confuse targets. So it's kind of fun to jump up to a high perch, lure an enemy around a corner, and pounce down to rip his spine out. 

But doing this is time-consuming, even though it is fairly satisfying. So it'll get very tempting to use your ranged weapons to one-shot your enemies instead of waiting for them to slowly walk to their destination and repeating the cycle. Or to just cloak and run in to plant your wrist blades in their faces.

The ranged weapons are actually decent. The shoulder-mounted plasma cannon will kill a target instantly, even causing splash damage to nearby targets, and it feels satisfying to use. But it has a recharging, limited ammo supply that limits how often you can use it. The combi stick is the thrown javelin that explodes a target from the inside, and it's fun to use because you have to lead targets to actually hit with it. The disc is kind of lame, just because it's hard to control, and the mines aren't especially useful unless there's a cluster of enemies.

But most of the combat revolves around stabbing and slicing enemies with the wrist blades, and this is pretty straightforward and, ultimately, boring. It's basically just a click-fest, spamming left clicks to attack enemies, unless they're blocking, and then you right-click. This is basically how every fight against the aliens boils down to, because there are just so many of them that using your ranged weapons isn't very efficient. And since they're melee fighters, once they get close enough you kind of have to resort to fighting them with your fists. 

In Conclusion

Despite the awesome premise and how much we all love aliens and predators, this game just feels uninspired. It's rote, by the book, doesn't do anything new or interesting, and most of its mechanics are bland and unsatisfying. The whole game is very short with only five missions per species, and the missions themselves aren't varied enough to feel interesting. Playing as a marine is standard and boring, playing as an alien is interesting but it's too wonky to feel fluid and fully enjoyable, the alien campaign is especially short, and the predator is, as always, fun and over-powered, but his missions, too, aren't varied or particularly interesting. 

It's really just a disappointment. I'm glad I only paid $5 for this game, because it was at least worth that much, but I'd have been really pissed if I'd spent a full $50 on this. 


  1. I feel bad having spent $20 on this game years ago.

  2. I played AVP 2 from 90s after reading this review!

    1. I only played about 30 minutes of the marine campaign from AVP2, but I remember liking it a lot. It had good pacing and atmosphere. The first AVP was a little too fast-paced action-oriented for my tastes, and the 2010 reboot was just kind of bland all around.