Alien Vs Predator 2
|a game by||Monolith Productions|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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There's something out there, and it aint no man. I hear footsteps behind me, and heavy, laboured breathing. Sweat breaks out across my forehead and my lower lip quivers in panicked desperation. I wheel around in terror, shouting, "Die, you Alien bastard!" and mimic firing a gun while bellowing a war cry. A confused old woman with a wheely bag looks back at me and wets herself where she stands, while I throw myself at her feet and beg her not to rip out my spinal column. I think something might be wrong with me. What's more, I've recently acquired a strange phobia of curved black pipes, attacking them with the intensity of a rutting badger at every given opportunity, convinced they're about to jump out at me and carve out my throat.
And they are you know, mark my words. So I've been sealing myself into my room, welding the door shut every night with steel bolts. There I sit, rocking in the corner, iribbfing on my chest and flinching at the sound of the churnings of my own gastro fluids. Something's definitely not right. But given the circumstances, perhaps it's hardly surprising.
For five days before this all started, I'd been living a hermit's existence, devoid of human company, encamped in a darkened room playing Monolith's new FPS, AvP2. But this isn't just your average FPS, ooooh no. It slowly reduces you to a tearful hunchback with clawed hands and a stammer, fearful of the world outside your front door and almost as much of the one inside it, because this is the single most terrifying game you'll ever experience - so scary that it should be shipped with a packet of man-sized incontinence pads, and a listing of local psychotherapists. It worms itself into your psyche, reducing you to a gibbering, drooling wreck who gets frightened by bemused barely vertical pensioners with trolleys. And therein lies its true beauty.
AvP2 bases itself around one huge, convoluted and twist-ridden tale, in which a 'group of marines is sent to a deep-space outpost to investigate a loss of communications but, inevitably, things turn out to be a great deal more complicated than that. However, rather than offering just one perspective on a story, you're given three, one for each of the races: human, Predator and Alien. And with each new viewpoint, comes a totally different game. What will strike you most once you've ground your fingernails down to a fine dust waiting for each campaign to load, is the sheer depth, attention to detail and thought that has gone into every single mission, into the different pace, atmosphere and feel of each species and the angle that the story is approached from. And best of all, once you've played them all, these three massive segments merge to make a whole which will reveal the entirety of a conspiracy-fuelled plotline, and which will have you gripped from the first spilt drop of blood to the last epic confrontation. By far the best choice is to play the Marine missions first. Not that I'm trying to influence you or anything, but they're the best ones. Just trust me on this one, ok? You play a stereotypical^ square-jawed and idiotically brave soldier called Harrison with a nasty habit of volunteering for suicide missions which inevitably end up getting you your internal organs rearranged. You're all like, "Yes sir, I'd love to go in first, sir, and have my head ripped off, sir". You bloody little swot. Proper little Captain's pet. The type of person who'd wash the CO's arse if ordered to do so without complaint. With their tongue. You'll get yours. And you do. All of about 15 seconds after the intro sequence.
You're instantly thrown into a set of missions which will chill you to the marrow and unstopper your rectal passage faster than a greased-up poker. These include heroically charging into an Alien's nest to nobly save a comrade, before conducting a not-so-noble hasty retreat. During numerous pursuits reminiscent of James Cameron's stunning film Aliens, you'll fire off every last bullet into hordes of enemies, cack-handedly missing with 90 per cent of them as the superbly coded AI makes your pack-like enemies leap at you from all angles. If you shoot them on the floor, they'll run across a wall. Shoot at the wall and they'll be ripping at your skull from the ceiling. And just when you've got them in your sights you hear the soul-destroying click of your magazine running dry, choking in a pool of your own blood as you futilely try to reload.
The fear is so consuming that you have to train yourself to fire in short bursts, otherwise you'll be left with just a pathetic knife and inevitable death. However, rather than facing mission after countless mission of waves of Aliens charging mindlessly towards you, you'll also find yourself up against a variety of other opponents. Such as Predators. Nice chaps, really. Shame about the skinning, hanging upside down and their propensity for collecting skulls, though. Namely yours. Then there's face-huggers, chest-bursters and human guards (yup, you get to shoot humans too), each of which require a totally different tactic to defeat. Oh yes, and a few surprises which I won't spoil for you. The marine has a devastating array of weaponry, including perfectly reproduced pulse rifles with a grenade launcher, which produces a rasping firing sound that mingles harmoniously with the rasps from your sphincter, as well as smart guns which home in on the enemy before cutting them up into a thousand acid-stained lumps, which will damage you if you get too intimate with them. A flamethrower, rocket launcher and shotgun are amongst others in a well-thought-out collecbon.
See No Evil Hear The Evil
The pace is perfectly balanced, and in line with the better Alien and Predator films, fear is often built through that which you don't see rather than that which you do. The distant screams of victims being shredded, brief glimpses of enemy shadows down the other side of corridors and authentic sound effects lifted straight out of the films are just the start of it. The wind is eerily daunting, while your overly sensihve motion tracker will have you firing wildly at inanimate objects (like loose pipes) swinging in the breeze.
The context-sensitive soundtrack seamlessly blends itself into each situation and some masterfully erratic lighting and steam effects complete the most psychologically scarring, heart-condition-inducing gaming experience of ail time. And, if at the end you somehow manage to pick your shattered carcass-like body off the floor, you'll find there are two more totally different games to experience, and while they're not quite up to the standard of the Marine missions, they're a damn site more entertaining than the majority of stand-alone FPSs we've been forcably subjected to over the last few years since that game.
Maim Of The Game
The Predator campaign is very different, with missions best described as Thiel with dismemberment. In true hunter style, you must track your prey mseen, before parting them from their skulls. With the ability to leap huge distances, you can lump from tree to tree like a (deadlocked Tarzan and while this is somewhat fiddly at first, you'll soon find yourself prancing about like a homicidal ballet dancer. The Predator's weaponry and gadgetry is also pretty impressive stuff. Weapons include a sniper gun, spear and wrist blades, not forgetting the shoulder-mounted laser. Your mask lets you view the world in several different ways, including thermal imaging which is perfect for night-time raids, and a zoom option which is ideal for pre-planning ambushes. It takes some practice, but certain weapons need different view modes to lock on targets, but this does make the action very true to the films. You also have to be careful, as weapons which lock on cause you to de-cloak before you can fire them.
The cloaking device helps you move unseen (obviously), but drains your limited power supply quickly, while a medipack lets you inject mom energy into your green-blood-smattered body. In fact, most of these toys drain your power source, so it's just as well you can regenerate, but you are left prone for a few seconds. However, seeing as your healing powers are based on how much energy you have, it's sometimes all too easy to just keep powering yourself up and boosting your healtti if you can find a secluded enough hiding place, although if you find yourself surrounded, there's no avoiding a kicking.
If you're spotted or heard by a patrolling guard, he'll either voice his concern or actively start looking for you. But he won't stop there. He'll keep on searching until either he finds you, or until you pummel his skull into a carbon pulp. He'll follow you through water and track you by the plants you inadvertently brush as you move. However, it's a shame you don't leave trails ot blood, as this really would have been the clincher, and guards are occasionally prone to standing around like mannequins until they're triggered by your presence.
Laughing At Death
Now it may come as a surprise to you, but the Alien campaign is actually a bit of a laugh. Sounds a bit strange, right? Ripping open people's ribs, causing the mass-slaughter of innocent security guards, ha ha ha. Yes well done, that sounds totally hilarious, Martin. Rut just bear with me here. In a stroke of near-genius, you get to experience several angles of an Alien's life, starting off as a face-hugger, moving on to being a chest-burster, then a fully fledged Alien. And the execution is not only tense but, at times, incredibly amusing. Take the chest-burster mission, where you have to find and feed off small mammals to help you grow. Your only form of attack is an ineffectual ankle bite, which means sticking to the shadows, while you scavenge for food inside a complex guarded by hordes of paranoid security guards. As your eyes are inside your mouth, it's impossible not to break down in a child-like hysteria and giggle maniacally as you chase desperately retreating guards around the complex and watch your teeth snap shut while being baked by flame throwers.
Again, the AI is generally superb when it comes to hunting you down. Hide between some obligatory crates and they'll crouch down and find you. Run away and lose them in the shadows and they'll keep searching, muttering out loud that they should have put in for a transfer months ago. The authenticity of NPC actions, reactions and terrified babblings, as well as the conversations they hold to further the plotline (not only here, but in the other two campaigns as well), once again add a superb sense of authenticity to the proceedings. In the Alien missions, you actually feel as though these people are scared. Terrified. And it's all because of you. It's a complete reversal of the fear you experience as a marine. Now you're the one who can hide, walk on walls and hang off ceilings, although at first wallwalking is almost impossible to do with any effectiveness as you'll be totally disorientated. However, master it, and you'll be almost invincible. Almost. Other offensive options include tail, and claw attacks, and a pounce option which literally tears hapless humans to mince. But once it's sometimes a tad too easy to regenerate, by simply devouring dead bodies. And on one further negative note, the Alien missions are more limited when compared to the other two, and it's a shame you don't really get to work as part of a team of drones. You're sort of a vigilante Alien hero, really. But that's not to say these missions aren't highly playable.
Think The Unthinkable?
The more observant among you should have noticed a certain enthusiasm running through this review. And you'd be spot on. But there's still one thing I know you all want to know. Is it better than...? Could it be...? Surely not. For those of you who have no idea what I'm on about, I'll explain.
About three years ago. a game called Half-Life toddled on to the scene and has been unsurpassed since. What strikes me as incredible is that for years no developer learnt from that masterpiece of game programming. Never tried to better it (or if they did it was so pathetic none of us noticed). Until now. Whether AvP2 is better than Half-Life will, in the end, come down to personal choice. And for me that choice is this. If I had to play one, I'd play AvP2-but it's a bloody close call. It's scarier, has more atmosphere, the multiplayer is far more varied and exciting (see the Multiple (Un)friendly Targets panel) and it looks a damn sight better, despite the slightly quirky character models thrown up by the Lithtech engine. It offers you three games, one superb thriller, one sneak 'em up and a hugely entertaining morphing Alien romp for the price of one.
But it only achieves all this by copying the blueprint laid down by Valve all those years ago. The pace, the atmosphere, the constant in-game development of the storyline, the twists, the turns, the superb Al, having to always think your way out of a situation rather than being shepherded to the next room, have all been influenced massively by that king of shooters. AvP2 may lack the wide variety of enemies of H-L, and yes, Half-Life did do all this first, and in some departments, better. Three years ago. But we mustn't be afraid to move on, especially when a game this good comes along, and as games journalists and gamers we must have the courage to overcome the fear of saying so when something appears that can stack up to what has now become a virtually untouchable game.
A new age of FPSs is upon us, and while Half-Life will live on forever, more so maybe than Doom or Quake and long after AvP2, it will have to move aside one day. For some (me included), that day is now. Many of you may disagree (especially if you've played the demo which does this game zero justice), but I'm confident you'll love every minute of this essential masterpiece anyway. I've seen fear like never before and it's all down to a piece of software. I ain't afraid of any game, but AvP2 ain't just any game.
Multiple (Un) Friendly Targets
Ever wanted to gut a friend like a fish? You sicko... oh, go on then... No bots, but you'll still get a runny one when playing in multiplayer, because once again it'll have you firing at imaginary enemies before you get killed by an unseen one. Probably by your mate Keith or someone. The bastard. There's a choice of four characters (Predator, Alien, marine and Corporates - similar to marines) all of which have four slightly varied classes. And you probably won't be too surprised to hear that playing as each one of the races is a hugely different experience. Deathmatch games are generally mid-paced, with tactics playing a major role, especially when taking on a couple of opponents, and two marines against one Predator provides a superb game of cat and mouse, especially on the larger levels. Hunt places one or more Predator against a pre-defined ratio of marines. Only hunters can accumulate frags, but should the Predator be gunned down at any point, their executioner swaps places with them. Survivor is a bit of a last-manstanding affair, while Overrun (a round-based team annihilation game) and Evac (a race to get your group of marines to a designated extraction point before they're butchered by the opposition team of Aliens), have more than a passing resemblance to Counter-Strike. Both modes are incredibly tense affairs and, with enough players, can result in plenty of carnage and wild firing which will end up killing more of your team-mates than the enemy. The levels vary in size, but from what we've played of them so far, are hardly groundbreaking. But we'll cast our final judgement in a couple of months' time when we review the multiplayer options in our Online section. By then there should be plenty of servers up and running for us to sink our claws into.
Download Alien Vs Predator 2
The first AvP, coded by UK-based Rebellion was one of the scariest games ever to surface on the PC. Having finally got a chance to play around with the sequel at E3, I'm happy to be able to report that it's going to stay pretty close to the ethos of the original, but with the stunning LithTech 2.5 engine adding to the visual splendour.
As before, there'll be a campaign for each of the three sides - alien, predator and marine - with seven missions in each, but the focus this time round is narrative. Set shortly after the events in Aliens, the action revolves around the planet LV-1201, where a 10,000 year old Alien hive has been discovered. An extremely smart scientist called Eisenberg sets up a research unit, which promptly gets dismembered by the Aliens. This is where you come in, as a group of marines are sent in to sort the mess out and find out what happened to Eisenberg. The Predators? Well they've obviously heard there's a rumble going down and soon arrive to join in the mayhem.
Aside from the emphasis on story, changes from the original include increased firepower for all three sides. Predators get blades, shoulder cannons, net guns and spears to play around with; marines get to choose from the combat knife, up through the standard-issue pistol, pulse rifle, shotgun, to the more satisfying flame-thrower, smart gun, railgun (with scope), the new Spider Minebots (mobile explosives) and EMP grenades.
Marines also get to play around with gadgets (think No One Lives Forever) like the Motion Tracker, a shoulder lamp, electronic picklock, portable hand-welder (for accessing new areas as well as sealing Aliens in) and phosphorus flares.
Information regarding the Aliens is sketchy at the moment, but as well as the claw-and-tail attack, you'll be able to utilise the fatal jaw attack, but you won't be able to spit acid. To compensate, news is coming through that the game is going to feature a full complement of Alien life forms, including the Facehuggers (which will hatch from eggs), Chestbursters, Runners, Drones, Warriors, PredAliens and even a rumoured appearance from royalty.
The original AvP was critically acclaimed and sold well, but it never made it into the realms of the big three: Unreal, Quake and Half-Life. Monolith is hoping it can make the breakthrough this time, with 12 special multiplayer maps shipping in the box and level editing tools to enable you to create your own levels and mods. There's no doubting the fan base is there - if the game delivers then Monolith should be onto a winner. It's heading for a release in October. Watch this space.