First Level: Aliens Vs Predator

We got nukes, we got knifes, we got sharp sticks. I’ll admit, I know my Pulse Rifle from my independently targeting particle-beam phalanx but when it comes to the Predator I’m a little less confident. Regardless, I’ve watched the two Predator movies and the two Aliens vs Predator mash-ups (in fact, I own the latter two on Blu-ray) so at least I’m aware of what’s meant to be happening, even if I’m not entirely sure how much I’m enjoying it.

And that’s also true of the game. Rebellion’s first person shooter might very well have arrived before the behemoth that is Colonial Marines, but I can’t help wondering whether it’s intended as a multiplayer stop-gap before the big event. Sure, the atmosphere is there, it plays well enough (and the developers have absolutely nailed the dramatic tone of the M41A) but there’s just something not quite right, at this stage in the game at least.

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I guess that’s inherently the issue with a First Level, or in this case, three First Levels. By splitting Aliens vs Predator’s single player mode into three campaigns (one for each race) Rebellion have had to come up with three stories, three sets of controls, three styles of gameplay, and perhaps they’ve spread the development a little too thinly. Whilst I’ve only dipped into each thread of the game for the first hour or so, I’m left feeling a little confused.

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Firstly, the Marine missions feel like the most rounded and complete. Characters are naturally overtly butch, ignorantly fallible, stereotypically racially diverse (“Tequila”, really?) and frequently disposable. Weapons might sound (and look) like the genuine article but they’re weak and lack punch, and whilst the build up to meeting your first Alien is genuinely atmospheric, once face to face it’s a shame that the game just diverts back to FPS-101.

Over to the Alien, and the first mission is little more than a training exercise (all three campaigns start with the player having to calibrate the vertical look, bizarrely) and then an escape, freeing yourself, your peers and the Queen from the clutches of Weyland Yutani’s experimental base. Aliens are swift and powerful, but the melee combat is jarringly ungraceful. Still, the ability to run along any surface might make for some tasty tactical choices.

And then there’s the Predator. Borrowing massively from the canon started with the two AvP movies, the Predator’s hunt of choice being Giger’s prize creations. Again, once the controls have been drip fed it’s business as usual, with the third race a blend of the previous two. Hand to hand feels weighty and the long distance phaser weapons deliciously powerful. I have a feeling the Predator section might well be the most enjoyable further down the line.

And further down the line I’ll travel – I have high hopes for the rest of Aliens Vs Predator – the Marine campaign was just getting started (and will presumably cross paths with the other two shortly), the Alien shows a great deal of promise if the opposition beefs up a bit, and the Predator is a killing machine to be feared, so lets hope he gets some opponents worthy of the hunt. All the pieces are in place for a great game, now all we need is a deck of cards.

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