Aliens vs. Predator Preview (PC)

These days, anyone hearing the phrase 'Aliens Vs Predator' would most likely associate it with the recent films that, whilst ok, were a little bit trashy and a blemish on what was otherwise a pretty decent franchise. What many people might not know however, is that the concept of crossing over the Alien and the Predator movies has been around since Predator 2, and that brief glimpse of an alien skill on the wall of the spaceship. Then, in the early 90's, a little known Oxford-based studio made one of its first titles based on this concept, one that some considered to be one of the many inspirations of modern gaming.

Now, eleven years later, that same studio is back with a 'next-gen' iteration of their original title, and Strategy Informer was privileged enough to be invited to a go-karting rink in the middle of Greenwich, London, for a day of fun, games and laser tag. Rebellion Studios, lately known for titles such as Rogue Warrior and the Battlefront Spin-offs, has returned to a series that holds a special place in the hearts of many of them. Updated for today's gaming standards, Alien Vs Predator seems to offer a very diverse playing experience.

As you know doubt know already, players can take control of either a Predator, an Alien or a Colonial Marine. Each faction is balanced against one another, with their own playing style, their own strengths and weaknesses, and even their own single-player campaign. It's easy to mistake this game as an FPS, but as Senior Producer David Brickley pointed out, this is more of a Survival-Horror Action game with an FPS element.

Each race plays very differently too each other, as we soon found out as the developers sat us down and took us through each faction. The Predator and Alien especially require a lot of getting used to from the player's perspective. The Alien, for example, can run along walls and along ceilings, but if you don't control it properly you'll end up going around in circles and switching perspectives so much you won't know where you are. The Predator can also get around a bit as well, although he requires a slower, more methodical approach, and whilst stealth tactics are key, it's essential not to get carried away.

The Colonial Marine will feel the most familiar to the player, with a classic FPS control-style and movements. It sometimes feels a little bit sluggish compared to current FPS standards, but that's probably as a result of this not being a shooter-centric game. Whether or not it was deliberate, it does add a hint of desperation, and fear, to ones gaming experience. Throw in an purposefully-imperfect radar system, low-lighting levels, and a torch, and you have yourselves the making of one of the most atmospheric games we've ever seen. The marine's strength lies in numbers and being able to keep their enemies at bay.

With the onset of multiplayer-only games, it's surprising that Rebellion didn't take this route, given the 'free-for-all' nature of the subject matter. Much like Section 8, Brickley would maintain that the single-player sets the player up for the multiplayer, especially for the non-human races. We only got a brief look at the single-player side of things, but from what we've seen it looks like Rebellion have at least given it some depth, like you were watching one of the movies. In terms of the wider franchise, this game is set 30 years after Sigourney Weaver throws herself into a molten furnace on Fiorina 'Fury' 161 (Alien 3).

The multiplayer element is where the fun really lies with this game. Mastering each of the races is going to be very satisfying, and everyone will eventually 'choose' their favourite sides. Used well, each of the races can present a serious challenge to the others, as even jump attacks can be blocked if the timing is right. As mentioned above, each race as its own strengths, and so unique strategies will evolve. Whilst at the moment it looks like the marines are going to be the weakest of the three... knowing the online community, that may all change.

Multiplayer modes included in this game are: Death match, Species Team Deathmatch, Mixed Species Team Deathmatch, Predator Hunt, Infestation, Survivor and Domination. Seven modes may seem like a lot, but we can't help feel that there's a certain amount of 'padding' involved since the death-match modes are essentially the same with different configurations. Still, there's plenty to choose from, and they're all quite fun. With any luck, we'll also see extra content added in the form of DLC, which could include extra multiplayer modes.

Whilst graphically it may not be the smoothest game of 2010, the atmosphere it creates and the diversity of the factions should more than make up for it. Still, with so many other top quality titles due out this year, this may turn out to be one of 2010's un-sung heroes. Still, it looks like there's going to be plenty here for fans of the franchise, as well as an challenging multiplayer aspect to boot - definitely one to keep an eye out for. We'll give you the final review as soon as we are able.

Aliens Vs Predators is due on out on February 16th in North America, and February 19th in Europe for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

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