Developer: Rebellion || Publisher: Sega
Director: Tim Jones || Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Paul W. S. Anderson’s Alien vs Predator (2004) film was, in many ways, a colossal waste of potential. Though casual fans of the series never took it seriously to begin with and hardcore fans view it as heresy, to this day I believe a great merger of these two franchises could be achieved, so long as the filmmakers making said film and the executives producing it took it seriously. After Batman v Superman (2016) and Captain America: Civil War (2016) dominated news headlines for a year, no one has room to judge. I don’t blame Anderson for his work on the movie (former 20th Century Fox chairman and CEO and current Sony executive, Tom Rothman, arguably bears the biggest responsibility for creatively handicapping it), but the fact of the matter is it will be some time before we see another attempt at joining these two series on film.
That being said, proof of the Alien vs Predator concept producing quality media is evident in its numerous first-person shooter (FPS) videogame-adaptations, none more respectable than Monolith’s Aliens vs. Predator 2 (AvP 2, 2001) released for the Microsoft Windows. That game remains one of my favorite FPS-titles and arguably the best rendition of the franchise crossover in any media to date, with the possible exception of the original Dark Horse comic by Randy Stradley, Chris Warner, and Phill Norwood in 1990.
2010’s Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion (creator of the original 1999 Aliens vs. Predator shooter, also known as AvP Classic) is no AvP 2, but it is the lone big-budget, modern adaptation of the subject-matter that is still worth revisiting — at least if you’re an Alien (1979–2011) or Predator (1987, 1990) fan. Though AvP 2 was a better game relative to its time, it doesn’t hold up to a modern gamer’s perspective unless you’re in a retro mood.
Many hardcore gamers may be into playing old-school games like System Shock (1994), Doom (1990), or the original Half-Life (1998), but I’m too shallow and immature for that. Despite Aliens vs. Predator’s (henceforth, AvP 2010) lazy writing and reuse of campaign maps, its devotion to the source material in both gameplay mechanics and presentation, as well as its relative variety across that material, is charming enough for this Alien and Predator fan to embrace it.
Spread across three different campaign modes and a decent helping of multiplayer options (though sadly competitive multiplayer may now be more limited given how many people still play it), AvP 2010 is a sizeable offering of franchise iconography served a la carte. It packs every series cliche and every crossover series trope into its 8-12 hour “triple-campaign,” its co-op or single-player Survivor mode (players withstand waves of xenomorph non-player characters [NPC] as Colonial Marines), and its three-way online multiplayer.
The latter is a competent, if somewhat generic FPS collection of the standard free-for-all deathmatch, team-deathmatch, and variations of King-of-the-Hill competitive scenarios. What makes these multiplayer modes stand out from the crowded FPS-multiplayer pack, if only slightly, are the varying control schemes of the three types of players (Aliens, Predators, or Marines), particularly with regards to the team deathmatch option. Going toe-to-toe with not one, but two different teams of completely different beasts (literally) adds spice to the done-to-death competitive multiplayer format.
The other non-campaign mode worth mentioning is the aforementioned Survivor mode, which can either be played solo or cooperatively with up to four Marines. If there’s one aspect of this mid-level videogame-adaption that never gets old, its blasting down waves of xenomorphs with the iconic Pulse Rifle in dark, foreboding, dimly lit levels that leave you at the mercy of your motion-tracker. Perhaps more than any other aspect of the game (save for perhaps those Predator “trophy-kills,” which we’ll also discuss in a moment), Survivor mode best recalls the cinematic emotions of its filmic forebears.
Each of the three single-player campaigns is different from the next, and two clearly outshine the third. The Alien-campaign unfortunately is that third and least impressive segment, though unlike AvP 2, it has no stupendous xenomorph life-cycle to experience. No, in AvP 2010, you fast-forward through the iconic facehugger and chestburster stages and play exclusively as a mature xenomorph, and it is by far the shortest of the three campaigns. The problem with the Alien-campaign, like its previous videogame incarnations, is that it is entirely melee-dependent, and first-person hand-to-hand combat is notoriously difficult to execute. Though playing as a xenomorph allows the player to climb on all surfaces and jump from platform to platform, and those new “execution”-animations are sweet, the Alien-campaign grows repetitive even across its 2-hour (max) length.
The Marine-campaign fairs much better, resembling more of a standard FPS than either its companion campaigns. Every audio effect and visual reference to Aliens (1986) is spot-on and adds to the cinematic tone of the gameplay. The way your xenomorph enemies move through the industrial environment is detailed and immersive, while the game’s respectable graphics engine plays with darkness, low-key lighting, and player-controlled light-sources well. The Marine-campaign also boasts the most diverse level-design of all three campaigns, transitioning from military compounds to xenomorph hives to outdoor swamps to ancient pyramids.
Still, the best campaign of the bunch is the Predator one. The reasons are that the Predator point-of-view is the closest to an Alien or Predator fan, as well as the most compatible with basic FPS mechanics. While the Alien’s campaign is animalistic and the Marine’s is survivor-driven, the Predator-campaign is all about being a badass hunter, and the character’s use of extensive Heads-Up Displays (HUD), vision modes, and grisly weaponry makes for an enjoyable gaming experience. It’s about the same length as the Marine-campaign (a little over four hours if you take your time) and provides the most varied gameplay. Like the xenomorph, playing as a Predator utilizes various melee-attacks through the game’s rock-paper-scissors combat-system, but the Predator’s ability to “lock on” to targets at medium to close distances makes these movements more precises, and extends to the Predator’s limited but memorable long-range arsenal. Finally, the Predator’s use of Trophy-kill attacks, which engage gruesome close-up animations of NPC’s (similar to the Alien’s Execution ability), adds visceral gore to complete the hunter experience.
Rebellion’s Aliens vs. Predator (2010) is an act of contrition for 20th Century Fox’s Alien vs Predator (2004). I’ve stood up for the latter on many occasions, but to this day remain on the fence with regards to its artistic merit and long-term franchise influence. Though AvP 2010 won’t win the franchise many new converts either, it pays respect to its source material and doubles-down on the iconography that made the series famous, rather than apologizing for it. It boasts extreme violence, classic Alien-Predator imagery and audioscapes, and dares to mix and match series tropes enough to be more than a mere clone of what came before, which is more than Robert Rodriquez’s Predators (2010) can claim. Eat your heart out.
Standout Features: Aliens vs. Predator (2010) knows its source material inside and out, and provides a wide range of single-player and multiplayer options within a respectable high-definition package. This game has considerable replay value.
Noticeable Weaknesses: Aliens vs. Predator (2010) places too much emphasis on an uninteresting story, reuses too many locations across all three solo-campaigns, and stumbles with the design of the xenomorph single-player experience. Competitive multiplayer options may be limited in this day and age.
? What is dead may never die!