Game over man! Game over! Wish it was game over, too…
2010 is off to an interesting start with lots of interesting games up for review. Bioshock 2 got off to a shaky start but despite that it’s a solid, even enjoyable experience. Battlefield 2: Bad Company is breaking a bit of the stigma associated with the BF series. Mass Effect 2 is simply awesome. Aliens vs Predator… it seems like a no brainer. AvP before it was good, and AvP2 after it was also good. So can Rebellion strike it lucky 3rd time around?
Unfortunately, no, they can’t. They couldn’t strike it lucky with a +6 Staff of Luck. AvP, to put it bluntly, is a fairly standard shooter hyped to oblivion which barely keeps its head above the water line. Actually, you know what I’m going to throw around a lot in this review? Starship Troopers. As in THAT Starship Troopers game, the FPS game from ages ago which I keep bringing up again and again. Yeah, that lackluster Starship Troopers game that had everything bumpmapped to Hell and back, and was far too true to the movie in that you’d stand there holding down M1 while things ran at you.
Playing the Marine campaign in AvP is much like that; I don’t really know what the hell is going on with the storyline, and really I just don’t care either. Some guy look like he’s in the ruins in Doom 3, and then some glowing portal opens up… and then a human spaceship is shot up by a Predator ship… and you’re like… going to the surface or something, who knows or cares. The voice acting is fairly cringeworthy, but then again after listening to Mass Effect 2 I think everything will sound shit in comparison.
Gameplay as the Marine is fairly stable but it’s fairly boring. You walk through dark hallways with a pissant flashlight that makes Doom 3’s lighting look generous while listening to this latina marine talk about dumb shit. There are voice diaries to pick up, but the voice acting is so bad and they only last for about 10 seconds each that it’s not worth it. Also they’re fairly illogical; Marines that supposedly just landed and have been fighting aliens are leaving remarks as if they’ve been there for days. I can see it now; they’re walking along on patrol, and Dizzy is making a log about it like Peter Griffin narrating his life. What the HELL? Did they even think about this one before writing it?
You shoot your pulse rifle at the aliens and throw your single flare around to try to see 5 feet in front of you while occasionally looking at the motion tracker. Well… what else is there to it? The suspense and scare factor from AvP2 is completely lost here. The alien noises are stupid and there are no sting moments. YAWN, YAWN. YAWN. Every so often you have to press MOUSE 3 to do a blocking move… but if you’re aiming well you’ll never let them get that close. Just keep blasting away like a tool and nothing ever goes wrong.
The alien campaign hasn’t received anywhere near as much polish. You have two attacks; a “fast” attack, and a “heavy” attack. Real original, guys. Like the previous games you can crawl all over the roof and walls, but this time you have to press MOUSE3 to allow for a “transition” to a different surface. Jumping will let you leap up to the ceiling and stick to it. You also have to use spacebar to leap through vents. It’s clunky, non-responsive, and melee combat is bad. It’s difficult to control and ugly. Not much polish went into this one at all. And because of the visual effects used for the alien’s vision, colours are all washed out so it makes the game look pretty damn ugly as well. The only new trick they introduced for the alien is a hiss action which attracts the attention of an enemy. Otherwise it’s the same as you’ve seen before… except infinitely more boring.
The predator campaign is the worst of the lot. Firstly the HUD is ugly; it takes up an absurd amount of screen space, and yet only 3 elements are actually worth keeping; the health bar, the energy bar, and currently selected weapon. The rest of it consists of a giant red border which burns your eyes and gets in the way. What the hell were they thinking with this one? Christ, what a load of shit. The vision mode for humans is pointless and just makes it move difficult to see what the target is actually doing, and they stick out enough from the environment as it is. Does jack shit on aliens, who also ignore your cloak. Now that confused me, the marines have motion trackers, but the cloak throws them off. What?
Unlike previous games you don’t do much except select a weapon to bind to MOUSE3. Yeah, mouse3! Like you might choose your plasma caster or mines for M3, and by pressing M3, you use that weapon which drains your power meter. Cloaking, incidentally, doesn’t drain anything. Apart from that your primary weapons are your melee weapons, typically your claws until you get that staff stick thing later on. The controls are the same as the alien; left for a fast attack, right for a heavy attack, and hold them down for a block. Really, all you have to do is click the left mouse button and that’s it. The only really cool thing is that you can grab an opponent for an instant kill, usually by tearing their head off their shoulders for humans, or by breaking their back for aliens. That’s about the hightlight of the game.
Graphically the game ranges from solid to sub-par. The visual effects are reasoanbly good, as are the shadows… but the texture work can be a bit bad at times. Marines, predators, aliens, in fact pretty much all character models are good, but the world textures don’t stand up to the same standards. Grass looks shit, as do the trees, and level designs are fairly bland and boring. It doesn’t matter how many shaders they apply to the textures, shit textures still look shit, whether you like it or not. Starship Troopers tried to use a load of bump mapping and shaders to make itself look good, but it couldn’t cover up the bad textures. In fact AvP and Starship Troopers have an awful lot in common; bland gameplay, bland visuals, not worth shit. Except Starship Troopers is comical, while AvP has hyped itself up.
Performance of the engine is pretty iffy too. Shadows tend to shit around a bit and the flares can kill your FPS. Random slowdowns, crashes and so on are common, as well as weird driver issues like shadows refusing to work on certain settings with nVidia cards. I can understand that a game won’t be perfect on release, but come on, basic things like this are starting to cross the line from “It’s a driver fault” into “We refuse to code a solution so we’ll leave it up to somebody else”. It’s worse than Crytek expecting people to simply upgrade to reach their standards, they’re asking people to fix their own problems. Not even the X-Ray Engine used in STALKER is this bad, and believe me when we get to STALKER: Call of Prypiat next issue, we’ll get into taht. Oddly enough simply flicking on the flashlight in DX10 mode is enough to cause my game to crash. Christ, what a waste of time.
I refuse to review the multiplayer aspect because at launch there are no dedicated servers, and on the PC unless you’re an RTS, co-op game or some other special case, you’ve got no excuse not to include it. It’s an instant fail.
They’re not fantastic, and they’re not going to win any awards, but for the most part they do the job. Still some textures look pretty bad, and they stick out like sore thumbs.
Voice acting is bad but at least the pulse rifle and Predator noises are fairly faithful to the original media. Poor mixing though.
For what it’s worth, it is playable and at times it is enjoyable, but there’s nothing here that makes you think “Wow, this is a good game”. For comparison a “good” game would have moments where you go “Wow, this is a lot of fun” while an “Excellent” game would be non-stop “I DO NOT WANT TO STOP PLAYING!” experience.
Multiplayer mode has already earned a fail grade from me because of the lack of dedicated servers at launch. Beyond that, the boring and short SP modes won’t be so good for a second run through.
It’s like a patient with congestive cardiac failure; yeah, their heart is still somewhat functioning, but they’re not functioning as well as they should be. Aliens vs Predator is a lot like Starship Troopers in that it’s mostly solid but still reasonably unappealing, except Starship Troopers was never going to be awesome and AvP was constantly talking itself up like it was the second coming. The marine campaign has been polished as much as Rebellion possibly could, but even then it’s pretty weak. The alien campaign has been left for dead (haha) and the predator campaign has giant red bars and poor gameplay mechanics. How do they mess this up? What a bitter disappointment. The engine problems only compound the woes that have befallen this game. This one might be worth picking up after the price has fallen, but until then, just walk on by.