Game Over Online ~ Aliens. vs. Predator 2

GameOver Game Reviews - Aliens. vs. Predator 2 (c) Sierra, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Aliens. vs. Predator 2 (c) Sierra
System Requirements Windows, Pentium III-450, 128MB RAM, 750MB HDD, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 84%
Date Published Monday, December 17th, 2001 at 04:35 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Rebellion first developed Alien vs. Predator to a barrage of mixed reviews. Everyone hailed it as the first developer to actually construct a title that paid homage to its infamous Aliens franchise. The Predator one was just a bonus. It, however, was plagued by a few faults, which prevented it from rocketing to FPS stardom. The first problem was with the lack of saves. It wasn't that you only could save once as it is in Operation Flashpoint but you couldn't save until at the end of the level. The tense, mind-wracking obstacles you had to hurdle through did not help add to the comfort of being defeated just two steps shy of your goal. Secondly, the level design in the original seemed to be little more than a series of gauntlet runs through alien-infested territory, that is, if you weren't the alien. Finally, the original's multiplayer component was a tough sell. It worked through the now defunct Mplayer matching software and sadly these days, unless your title starts with the names Half-Life, Quake or Rainbow Six, it's hard to see people start their own servers for games.

Aliens vs. Predator 2 (AVP2) obviously takes these criticisms to heart. Not only does it address some of these faults, it rounds out and polishes what it does best. The fact of the matter is, AVP2 is still scintillatingly scary. All of the trappings of the film licenses, like the ominous beeping of the marine motion tracker are included and done well. AVP2 uses the LithTech engine, which recently was featured in No One Lives Forever. The audio components are still top notch and this time around, AVP2 even features a decent brooding soundtrack to add to the atmosphere. On the other hand, despite the best efforts of Monolith, the AVP2 visuals are a notch shy of the top titles in the same genre. This is no criticism to Monolith and not really to LithTech either but I found some of the visuals a little sterile and many of the very organic images within the title were not as, gooey, shall we say, as I had hoped them to be. In spite of this, you can still get stellar looking visual effects with the LithTech engine and anyone who has had experience with it knows how malleable the engine is to your computer's specific set-up.

Now that I've said that AVP2 has not committed any cardinal sins to its original design, we can take a close look at some of the novel improvements it has made. First and foremost is the addition of a storyline. We've seen a renaissance in real-time strategy story telling for quite some time, ever since the birth of Starcraft. I make this reference because AVP2 uses one storyline that is told from three sides. Often, in certain points of the game, you'll find yourself witnessing things you have done before, similar to what happened to Gordon Freeman when you played other characters in the Half-Life series. AVP2 is still strictly a classic FPS though. You are fighting solo in almost all cases. Obviously, in light of Halo, we've seen what can be done by incorporating team tactics and convincing AI. However, the synergy and excitement of co-operating as a team against insurmountable odds (that you'll be facing alone now, might I point out) are dashed because the story contrives unmistakably ridiculous ideas to pit one marine against much tougher foes.

The predator is actually less tough now but he now can recharge both shields and health. The alien still retains its interesting look and relies on melee attacks for the most part. The main addition to this role is the transition from being a face hugger into a more mature specimen. You now get to witness the whole chest-bursting scene, right from the comfort of your host's own ribcage.

You'll get to play with all three races more in the multiplayer component because often times, in the single player campaign, you're restricted to what the story allows you to do. This time around, AVP2 features built-in server browsing and game creation. There are several new multiplayer motifs including one known as Overrun and the other known as Evac. The Overrun is actually a modification of the assault/defend motif in Unreal Tournament while Evac has one team attempting to reach a predetermined area and holding it for a certain amount of time. The original Aliens vs. Predator had a so-called 'co-operative' mode that was nothing more than spawning human players in one area and having them defeat wave upon wave of aliens. Co-operative mode, curiously, is missing from AVP2 and I am still adamant that a co-operative setting would add volumes to the depth of the multiplayer component. The lack of bots for the other game types is also disconcerting, although I understand that LithTech engine-driven games aren't the most famous for multiplayer bots. Finally, while the first Aliens vs. Predator gave you problems finding a game to play, AVP2 gives you problems in the actual playing of the game. Lag persists at times even in broadband connections and hopefully this will be resolved soon because executing manoeuvres like the alien's head-bite takes precision timing.

There can be no mistaking that AVP2 is worthy of its license. The flaws that existed in the original game have been addressed but more, unfortunately, have cropped up again to prevent it from being a perfect stellar title. This year, however, AVP2 comes up against some stiff competition when it comes to marketing an action title. The success of long awaited and much publicized titles like Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Max Payne certainly must be taken into account. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon and Operation Flashpoint are other big contenders as we approach the end of the year. In a normal or lacklustre year, AVP2 would easily be contending for top honours. However, it will be tougher to battle on to the hard disks of gamers this holiday season.


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