Aliens vs. Predator Review (PC)

When two of the most iconic monsters in cinema history come together for an all-out melee, you just know that you're in for a treat. The original Aliens vs. Predator was the best thing on Atari's ill-fated Jaguar and one of the most fondly remembered FPS titles around on the PC. We can still vividly recall seeing through the eyes of HR Giger's nightmarish xenomorphs for the first time, decapitating a soldier with a Predator's harpoon and then experiencing unmitigated terror as a Colonial Marine, dispensing with the “short, concentrated bursts” rule as we fired round after round of pulse rifle ammo in sheer panic.

Rebellion's long-awaited AvP update is almost as remarkable as their original, not simply because it's a good, solid game, but because it manages to recapture so many of those old experiences from the first AvP while still making it all feel fresh and relevant for a modern audience, who might not necessarily have been raised on Ridley Scott and James Cameron's Alien movies or the original Predator starring the Governator, who embarks on a covert jungle mission with a rocket launcher and a cache of grenades only to encounter the deadly alien hunter lurking amongst the dense jungle canopy.

The Predator is undoubtedly the coolest option, but you can't beat leaping out of the dark as a xenomorph and gnawing someone's brains out.
Aliens attack in numbers and aren't afraid of getting right up in your face. Careful when shooting at close range though – acid blood splashes will melt your face right off.

All indispensable movies, whose great reputations have since been sullied by the recent shoddy AvP films that aren't fit to lick the acid-soaked boots of the 1980s classics, happily, it's the spirit of the latter that lives on in Rebellion's current-gen Aliens vs. Predator update, which remains every bit as playable as we remember. Playing as an Alien is still exasperatingly disorientating, but uniquely empowering and going behind the mask of the Predator still makes you feel like a lethal hunter.

All three races have their very own individually tailored single-player campaigns to fight through, the most generic of these being – predictably – the Marine campaign, which mostly adheres to standard FPS tropes with the ubiquitous pulse rifle in residence and health boosts distributed via stimpak needles. Administering a syringe can be an impossible task when there are toothy xenomorphs pushing you into a corner, upping the fear factor considerably, especially given the confined spaces you're funnelled through during your journey.

Less successful are the Alien and Predator campaigns, both of which suffer from a lack of scares that make the Marine's story so much more intense. Each of the extra terrestrial's campaigns require a certain element of stealth, achieved by leaping from place to place until you gain the perfect angle on your prey. Biting a Marine's face off or harvesting him by wrapping a facehugger around his head is great fun as a drooling, acid-blooded xenomorph, whereas picking off troops one-by-one then pulling off their heads and admiring the length of spinal cord as it snakes out of a gushing neck stump as a Predator is sadistically satisfying.

It's gratuitously gory stuff, but perfectly in keeping with the lore laid down by the movies, which makes the blood-soaked violence entirely justified. Besides, it just wouldn't be the same if you were unable to witness the look of complete dread in the eyes of your prey as you shove a jagged talon through his brain or lash a tail-claw through his chest in a burst of claret spray.

Playing single-player is really just a primer for the full, undiluted battle royal that is AvP multiplayer, which provides the real meat of what the game has to offer as all three species are pitted against each other in several different games modes. Capturing control points, standard and team deathmatches, survivor and other modes such as Predator Hunt where a group of Marines team up to take down one player who spawns as a Predator have plenty to offer, and should keep you engaged for much more than a few mere hours.

While single-player only offers relatively short-lived excitement, it enables you to get to grips with the workings of each species, preparing you for multiplayer where you'll likely keep on coming back for more. All three species are sufficiently different to ensure that gameplay always remains interesting, as one minute you'll be lurking on the ceiling as a xenomorph, lithely leaping from place to place in stealth camouflage as a Predator the next. Then you'll be twitch firing at anything that moves as a Colonial Marine – variety is arguably AvP's strongest suit and most appealing aspect.

Sadly this variety doesn't extend to the single-player campaign in the same way, its tasks primarily consisting of having to repeat samey tasks specific to each species, such as releasing captive xenomorphs or locating fallen Youngblood warriors as a Predator. As a Marine, you'll be holding off relentless xenomorph assaults in dingy corridors.

Then as an Alien, you'll find yourself running through ventilation shafts, lashing fuse boxes with your tail and dropping onto the heads of unsuspecting human victims. And as a Predator you'll be jumping around the jungle canopy, shooting and impaling helpless Marines and scrapping with hordes of xenomorphs.

Control points become very hotly contested in multiplayer. Marines should be wary of waiting xenomorphs hanging from the ceiling as they idly stand waiting for the node to be captured.
This screen perfectly sums up AvP's own brand of primal multiplayer chaos.

While they last, each of the three campaigns will keep you occupied, although visually things remain only functional and therefore a bit dated compared to a lot of other more accomplished FPS titles on the market. Level design is consistently robust throughout, although certain sections of the Marine campaign are occasionally a bit flabby, especially in the more open areas where the claustrophobia and tension of the corridor shooting is lost completely.

You won't be buying AvP for its single-player though, and if you are you may find yourself sorely disappointed. Rebellion has built AvP around its multiplayer, which is both well-constructed and surprisingly well-balanced. Each species comes with its own unique advantages and shortcomings, and will take some time to master, but once you do, AvP rewards in spades. Fans of the movies will certainly find more to love in AvP than those without a knowledge of its celluloid counterparts, who might find the whole thing a little less palatable in comparison to the many superior FPSes currently available.

Top game moment: Taking a head and spinal column as a trophy is a graphic and gory treat.