With the recent news of the Predator's arrival in the realm of Mortal Kombat, this week seemed like the perfect opportunity to revisit Sega's first crack at the Aliens franchise: 2010's underrated Aliens vs. Predator. Developed by Rebellion, AvP is a somewhat melee focused FPS with three distinct campaigns. You can play through the events of the game as either a Xenomorph, a predator, or one of the colonial marines trapped in the middle of their conflict. While primarily focused on its multiplayer mode at time of release, I feel that the short campaigns are great to go back to as a fan of either franchise. You really get a feel for the asynchronous combat between the three species. The Predator leaps around the battlefield and stalks his prey. The Alien shambles through vents and lunges at everything that moves. And the hapless marines travel in packs and attempt to lay waste using pulse rifles.
Speaking of, the marine's campaign plays like a typical first person shooter. You have an array of weapons, mostly taken directly from Aliens. They hit all the bases here, you can play with the smartgun, flamethrowers, and the pulse rifles that sound like pulse rifles. The game does a good job building tension around your foes, but it shares a flaw with Colonial Marines and most other extensions of the Alien films. The Xenos are too expendable, and the game has to throw new varieties at you to keep things interesting. Fighting off hoards of aliens is exhilarating, but that thrill doesn't last through even the short two to three hour marine storyline. Add that to the threadbare plotting and the generic gameplay that clones a thousand other titles, and you have the least essential part of the package.
On the flip side, playing as the Xenos in the same environments is anything but dull. Having free reign to climb through ventilation shafts around foes or to scale the ceiling and pounce on them from above gives the player plenty of options in any scenario. The unique movement and relative short range of the alien's attacks forces you to think differently than you would in most FPS games. You feel clever as a player for stealthily taking out lights, sneaking up on unsuspecting victims complaining about the darkness, and then launching your tail through their sternums. Shifting your view constantly as you climb on walls takes some getting used to, and you do get stuck on geometry from time to time, but when it all works it feels great.
The third option is the Predator, and you play as an interloper into the events of the other two campaigns. You can leap onto rooftops and have an unlimited cloaking device. This makes ducking out of a battle or avoiding a group of enemies and watching them slaughter each other valid options. You are also overstocked with killing implements, including a supply of mines, the plasma caster, and your spiked gauntlets. Everything is fun to use, but the most satisfying way to take out opponents is the Predator's lethal trophy kills. Stun someone at the right time, and you can grab them and rip their spine out of their bodies a la Mortal Kombat. There are several animations for both marine and Xenomorph kills, and they all look great in first person.
Aliens vs Predator was released five years ago, and the Steam version of the game holds up remarkably well. The game has different executables for DirectX 9, 10, and 11, so running it on a modern PC at a blazing 60 FPS is easy. Running it with modern tech also makes the graphics look almost as nice as a modern FPS, with only grainy cutscenes and some UI elements reminding you of its release year. The gameplay works great on controller or keyboard, although the Xbox One controller I had plugged in initially wasn't recognized. It was a bit overshadowed by the older AvP games on PC in the eyes of most multiplayer fans, and the audience for that mode dried up quickly. However, there is still a rewarding campaign and a horde mode to test your skills with. Considering how few single player FPS games have come out recently, this is certainly worth a look. If you were disappointed by Colonial Marines and don't mind a little comically over the top gore, Aliens vs Predator should be on your motion tracker.
What do you think of Sega's repeated stabs at the Alien franchise? Would you be interested to know that Aliens vs Predator is on sale for $6 on Steam as of this writing? Answer these questions and more in the comments below!