Aliens vs Predator tells its story across all three playable campaigns – Marine, Alien, Predator – which means that there’s more to experience in each chapter than just the same cutscenes rendered from different angles. Instead, the Alien campaign is set at the very start of the inevitable disaster, breaking free when the Predator temple is first breached and running riot immediately. The Marine and Predator expand the predictable tale from there, with different objectives and endings marking each one.
Unfortunately though, while the details of each campaign differ slightly depending on which creature you want to play as, the over-arching plot is a fairly predictable piece of work that doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. Worse, the shared story means that levels are shared between characters – which wouldn’t be too big a problem if only the actual game mechanics weren’t so repetitive too.
The Alien, Marine and Predator campaigns differ in more than story and position in the timeline; each one is also built on entirely different gameplay. You may think that the Marine is going to be a super-badass with his smart-guns, pulse rifles and grenades, but the reality is that he’s hopelessly outclassed by the agility of the Alien and the technology of the Predator.
Also, he doesn’t do the whole ‘silent character’ as well as a Gordon Freeman either and we spent a lot of the game waiting for him to scream “It’s game over, man!” – even dying deliberately a few times just to see if he would. Unfortunately, he doesn’t and now everyone thinks we’re rubbish at games as a consequence.
The Predator is easily the most accessible and easy character to play as, starting the game with a cloaking device and both melee and ranged attacks of enemy-gibbing power. The cloak doesn’t provide complete immunity or stealth – Aliens will see right through it, while Marines will scare easy if you get close, but it provides a handy edge for new players.
You've got something on your face
Conversely, the Alien is probably the most difficult to control thanks to the Spiderman abilities and lethal speed, though both have been pealed back from the ferocity of the first AVP. Rest assured, the Alien is still a nippy little…nipper, but he’s also a lot easier to control now and the introduction of a button for changing surfaces means you don’t get vertigo from spiralling down hallways unless you actually want to. The introduction of targeting jumps means you can get in and out of vents a lot more easily too.
Accomplished players and fans of Rebellion’s 1999 version will be glad to know that you can revert to the old crawl-anywhere controls through the options menu and that upping the difficulty restores much of the classic feel, but the new system is still going to be handy for navigating enclosed areas with precision. At least, it will if you want to keep your partially-digested bacon sandwich off your keyboard anyway. Changing the setup of distracted pals is fun for that very reason, by the way.
Whether you play as the Predator or the Alien though, you’ll still need to make heavy use of the melee system that Rebellion has introduced. It’s a simplistic, awkward and somewhat overpowered affair and, it has to be said, that once you’ve learnt the timing of the two different strikes then the game becomes an unfortunately boring and grotesque case of hack-and-grab. Basically, you get one button for light attacks and one button for heavies. Light attacks are only really useful for hit-and-run tactics as the Alien, or softening droids in the later Predator levels – the heavy attack is the standard mode of combat for anyone who’s played for more than five minutes.
Don't lose your head!
Heavy attacks take a while to charge up, more so for the Predator than the nimble cranium cruncher, but either way the delay is only a second or two and the reward for being a heavyhitter is stumbling the enemy and opening them up for a grab attack; a guaranteed kill for everything but robots. Quickly, the Predator and Alien campaigns become a case of hitting all opponents once and then using a grab move to kill them - and while that’s fun the first few times it gets downright fatiguing when you do it to every enemy in every level.
There are other ways to kill admittedly (for the Predator at least), but they always involve increased risk and less payoff, so the game mechanics are always pushing you to go for grabs. Right mouse button, press E to grab, rinse, repeat. To do otherwise skips the bloodiness and opens you up to defeat.
The only variation between the Alien and Predator when it comes to this tactic is the fact that the Alien can charge straight in and do it, while Predators are better served to wait for an ideal opening. It’s never a long wait though, as enemy Marines are predictable in their behaviour and prone to wandering about like drugged kittens, ripe for slaughter. In the few cases where enemies refuse to budge you still get a ludicrous distraction tool that allows you to tell enemy Marines exactly where you want them to go stand.