Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
New versus, same as the first
Long before it was a pair of uninspired films that all but ignored everything that was cool about their individual movies, Aliens Vs. Predator was a series of comics and computer games that often lived up to their geek-bliss potential. But while this latest entry—which was made by the same people as the great 1999 game of the same name, and the terrible 2007 movie-related Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem—is better than any of the recent games or films, it's not exactly a return to this team-up's glory days.
Aliens Vs. Predator is broken up into three interconnected campaigns: one for an alien named 6, one for a predator-in-training, and one for a rookie colonial marine. Each can be played straight through, or you can skip back and forth between their respective chapters.
However, because our heroes all have different strengths and abilities, their respective stories play very differently. When playing as the marine, for example, the game is a fairly straightforward first-person shooter. As an alien, however, the game leans toward first-person melee combat, albeit one where you can climb on any surface. Finally the predator parts use melee and ranged weapons, again from the first-person perspective, though your personal cloaking device and ability to throw your voice adds an element of stealth.
But while this game has its moments, especially for fans of the films, it's also got some problems. The biggest are for the marine, whose skills are rather dated. Not only has he not learned to look down the barrel of his gun for increased accuracy, but he also hasn't figured out how to duck behind things for cover.
Ironically, while the marine's part is the most generic, and least evolved, it actually ends up being the most fun. This is especially true in the beginning, when you're alone, in a poorly lit outpost, with a bad flashlight and no help, which gives the game a really nerve-wracking, scared-of-the-dark vibe akin to Doom 3. The marine also gets into the most harrowing firefights, usually because he's outnumbered.
Being an alien can also be fun, albeit in small bits, since he has some cool leaping and grabbing attacks. But his regenerating health, cheetah-like speed, and sneakiness sometimes make this too easy, especially when he's battling the marines.
By far the weakest of the three are the predator's parts, since it isn't until late in the game, when you have all your cool weapons, that you really feel like you're as a badass as he was in the movies. Y'know, the one who could run circles around humans and aliens alike.
It also doesn't help that the story is closer to the 2004 movie Aliens Vs. Predator than any of the better written comic books.
Things do get a bit better when you play online, especially in games of “Species Team Deathmatch” (which pits teams of aliens, predators, and marines against each other) and “Mixed Species Team Deathmatch” (in which the two teams have aliens, predators, and marines fighting alongside each other) in frantic, all-out skirmishes. Then there's “Survivor,” in which you or you and some friends take on waves upon waves of aliens much like in similar co-op modes from Halo 3: ODST and Gears Of War 2.
Ultimately, the biggest problem may be that this Aliens Vs. Predator is too beholden to the original games. Sure, it looks all shiny and modern, but it plays like one of the older games. Which, of course, is better than being beholden to the recent movies or games, but without some evolution and some necessary modernizing touches, this is still—if we may crib from another sci-fi series we love—not the ménage a mayhem we were looking for.