Come this February its backs to the walls time for the majority of gamers out there. No, we’re not sending Elton John round for a game of hide the pickle, Rebellion and SEGA’s Aliens vs. Predator will be hitting stores with a multiplayer mode with a difference. Last week we jetted (and by jetted we mean travelled coach class on the train) off to London to go hands-on with the title and test whether Rebellion could bring that magic from 11 years ago across to current-gen technology.
Taking a leaf out of their 1999 Aliens vs. Predator book, the multiplayer looks to bring the nuances and unique attributes that made the original so successful and instil them into their 2010 title. In the build we went hands on with there were 7 multiplayer modes with 6 different maps. The 7 different modes included varying mixes of deathmatch, Predator Hunt (1 Predator versus a squad of marines; kill the predator to become the predator), Infestation (the single Alien has to infest the group of marines one by one), Domination (capture and keep hold of key objectives) and Survivor (wave after wave of progressively harder enemies). The maps ranged from a Refinery and a Jungle to a Pyramid and a Temple.
Balance was always going to be key in the Aliens vs. Predator multiplayer arena and it’s safe to say that Rebellion has achieved that with its blocking system amongst other things... but mostly the blocking system. The system allows any species to defend themselves against melee attacks from any other species, whether you’re a Predator blocking an Alien attack or a marine blocking a Predator’s attack, you won’t be left short. It’s hardly a realistic nod to the franchise, but the fact remains it works and that’s the main thing. Unfortunately, whilst they may have achieved a solid balance in terms of overall gameplay, the problem still remains that being a human totally sucks and pales in comparison to being the ultimate Predator or a Xenomorph with incredible speed.
The controls in Aliens vs. Predator to start out with are as confusing as snow in July and it’s safe to say that there is a relatively steep learning curve. The problem comes down to having to use simultaneous button presses to achieve your end goal. Blocking is a matter of holding the two shoulder buttons. The Predator will have to use two button presses to jump – first select with the left trigger and jump with a face button. The same with an Alien jump attack. It might not sound too complicated on paper, but in the thick of combat it can get a little confusing. “How do I jump on this guy’s face again?” was a question I heard asked all too often. Once you get over the hump though and master the controls, the multiplayer comes into its own.
Depending on the mode you’ll get the choice of three species to use, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but all on a fairly level playing field.
Propping up the rear, for sheer generic shooter reasons, is the USMC AKA the humans. The marine unlike the other two species has no access to a “kill move” and he’s a long range weapon specialist. The marine’s strength is to hunt in numbers with like-minded marines, although if he is faced with a monumental one-on-one task, if they are skilful enough, they can survive. The marine has access to a number of weapons dotted around the map such as the shotgun, plasma rifle and the smart gun which automatically aims at your foe for you – it’s handy in the dark. They have no special abilities, but they can pick up and use stimpacks to heal themselves should they take too much of a beating. The flashlight is probably the marine’s handiest tool as you’ll find yourself searching every nook and cranny of every map searching for that Xenomorph scum. In reality, the marine’s best strength lies in its numbers. Stick together. Backs against the walls. Keep your eyes open.
The Aliens on the other hand are the ultimate weapon. Having the ability to move at incredible speeds, cling to any surface, regenerate health and see any species with its honed senses makes the Alien a barrel of fun. It’s truly the species for fans of stealth. Yes, the Predator may have invisibility, but the Alien can always detect a Predator; invisible or not. The problem with the Alien comes if you can’t get the jump and use the element of surprise. You’ll then find your opponent (if he’s wise) will block all incoming attacks and with a species that relies on melee attacks, you can end up running out of ideas quite quickly. Outwitting is the name of the game then. How can I sneak up on him? How can I get round his back? These are the questions that a player must answer for themselves.
Last, but by no means least, my personal favourite, the Predator, who has more tricks up his sleeve than the late great Tommy Cooper did. Giving the Predator access to all their tools from the off may have tipped the balance scales in their favour, but because you have to pick them up on the map, then it’s trickier than you’d think. The Predator has access to the spear, a one-shot-kill disc, the shoulder cannon and of course invisibility, which works great and thankfully has no time limit set to it. The Predator’s cloak is broken if they interact with something... you know, like a marine’s skull as you rip it off its shoulders. That being said, the cloak is only useful against the marines... and other Predators, as the pesky Xenos have those fandangled ultra senses. Our only qualm with the Predator is that his leap mechanic is limited and you seem to spend a lot of time finding suitable places to leap to – you have to be accurate to the millimetre and a lot of the time, it won’t work as you’d hoped. Don’t think you can just blast the living daylights out of your opponents with your cannon all the time, oh no, not only will you have to find it on the map first but then you only have a certain amount of uses before you have to recharge it. Ladies and gentlemen, one of the many ways the game tackles balance.
The game not only controls well, but also looks fantastic and that’s what makes the multiplayer such an enjoyable experience... if being scared out of your wits is what you find enjoyable. Actually, yes, we quite enjoy that around these parts. Rebellion have done some great things with light and dark, to create a moody, eerie, “I want my mommy” experience. The environments are so suitably detailed that as a marine the fear really kicks in and you’ll have plenty of double-take moments as you shine your torch across the many metallic surfaces.
The multiplayer on the whole is a fairly unique experience despite only using slanted takes on traditional multiplayer modes. Mastering the species and unlocking their full potential is the ultimate hook though. Granted, the multiplayer arena in itself is a different kind of multiplayer with a much slower pace and on the whole, you’ll spend a lot of time running around searching for prey, but that’s part of the lure... this suspense filled experience with pockets of intense action that captures the mood of each franchise perfectly. Our main concern with the multiplayer beforehand was how Rebellion looked to make it balanced and I can safely say that they’ve achieved that. It’s backs against the walls kind of stuff. Truth be told though, whilst the balance is spot on, it truly sucks taking hold of the marine when you’ve been ripping your opponents limb from limb as a Predator or an Alien. Who wants to be normal after having all that power?
Aliens vs. Predator is out February 16th in North America and February 19th in Europe.