The idea of “Aliens Versus Predator” isn’t something terribly new, hell, it’s been done in comics since 1979. On the video game side of things gamers have been treated to a slew of sub-par or terrible first person shooters (with the exception of the excellent PC game) and side scrolling beat-em-ups, but this time the AvP license is used for something new, a Real-time strategy game. Being unable to play the excellent Capcom brawler, I decided to give this game a whirl, couldn’t be as bad as that crappy Atari Jaguar game, could it? Actually, to this day I blame that game for the death of the console…
The game opens up with a cool FMV of the USMC Marines entering an alien Hive, getting attacked by Predators, and blasting the shit out of stuff. If you saw it you’d be thinking something along the lines of “Damn this is cool. I’m gonna love this game!” But then the title screen comes up. you make your profile, set your options, pick a species, start campaign mode, yadda yadda. Then, even if you play as the two races that don’t speak english, your briefed via narration on what your expected to do for the level. this is where it all goes downhill.
Upon opening up the instruction manual and reading the controls it immediately becomes apparent that your gonna have a hard time doing much of anything. Buttons are assigned to do weird things and inconvenient combinations of them must be pressed to issue the simplest of commands. I spent more time in my first mission pausing the game to read the controls than I did commanding my troops to victory. This becomes even more frustrating when you have to micromanage or make split decisions during combat. The game tries to help out by letting you create individual groups and issue separate commands and even give your troops routs to patrol, but in the end it’s more hassle than it’s worth. This is very evident in the Alien campaign, where you constantly have to move eggs, drag hosts around, build hive nodes, and hatch eggs.
It’s also very easy to lose your troops on the map, and it’s very hard to get back to where the action is before it’s too late. this is a major problem considering you have to split up your units quite frequently.
To make matters worse, sometimes your units just decide to wander off on their own or ignore your commands completely. This seems to mostly happen to the marines, but it’s still a real problem when your Comtech gets murdered because he strayed too far, or when your Mobile Infantry are systematically mauled because half of them decide to just stand around like dumbasses, or how about when half of them decide they want to go all the way around the mountain instead of through the path you told them to, so that your numbers are split in half and easily picked apart? You will constantly be screaming at the screen “What the fuck are you doing? Where are you going?”
The game is also incredibly short, with only seven levels for each species, no unlockables, and no multiplayer or online support. You’ll find yourself back to playing Starcraft in no time. The three races play very differently, but I find them unbalanced. The Marines (my personal favorite) easily have the firepower to take down Aliens without breaking a sweat, but are slaughtered by Predators. this makes for some very frustrating and one sided gameplay. The Predator game is very slow paced and boring most of the time, and playing as the Aliens is a real chore, as you constantly have to maintain a “base” of sorts, right down to physically moving each egg and creating the hive space.
Fuck, the Aliens are the only guys that get a base. I guess EA just forgot to include things like vehicles and buildings. In my opinion the marine game is where it’s at. it feels a lot like the good ole days of Command and Conquer: Red Alert. Plus there’s nothing funnier than hundreds of aliens throwing themselves at your invincible wall of smartgunners and being mowed down before they get close to you.
What I can positively say for the game, however, is that it’s pretty and it sounds good. Just like in the movies, the music gives you a constant feeling of uncertainty, and it elevates with the onscreen action. The Alien hisses and screams, and the whirr of the Marine smartgun and beep of the motion tracker are dead on. I just wonder why custom soundtracks weren’t included.
Long gone are the days of a little blue man taking turns firing a machine gun at a little red man. You can expect to see LOTS of pretty projectiles flying across the screen. Grenades, Acid blood, Predator discs, it’s all here, and it looks NICE.
This definitely isn’t a game that is meant to be played on a console and with a controller. As a guy who practically grew up playing Real Time Strategy games, I can tell you that given a little more attention, AVP: Extinction could have been a game worth it’s collector’s value. It still fetches an above average price for a game of it’s era, but spending $50 on this title is a crime, trust me, you’ll hate yourself for it later. If you can find it used for under $20, then give it a shot. I borrowed my copy.