In the vein of Marvel vs. DC, Star Trek vs. Star Wars; two very recognizable science fiction icons clash to prove which one of them is truly the better species. Fans of any of the series would be in an uproar if the makers of the game favoured one species over the other. Thankfully, Rebellion Developments has crafted a game that doesn't make us play one storyline where one clear victor is seen, but rather let's us take control of both alien races and the marines they terrorize.
First and foremost, don't let the name of this title lead you to believe this is a game based on the 2004 movie of the same name. Based perhaps during the Alien series timeline, marines are called in to eradicate the Xenomorphs (Aliens) on a planet, Predators show up to begin their legendary hunt of the Aliens, and the Aliens are basically loose on the planet and kill anything and everything that moves. The story here is not a strong one. This is basically an excuse for these three races to duke it out which each other.
Perhaps the strongest trait this game has to offer is it distinct styles of gameplay for the races. The marine campaign play like a straight-up FPS, while the Alien and Predator campaign, play more like a first-person melee brawler. The Predators do utilize ranged weaponry, but you will more than likely use your claws to deal out damage. Also, each campaign has the great feeling of making you believe you are the race you are playing.
The Predator campaign is perhaps the strongest in this area because of how many tools you get to utilize. Pretty much every weapon you have seen them use in the movies is here in the game and it makes them quite fun to use. However, it seems to off-set this blatant overpowering; the Predator seems to die rather faster than any other race. The campaign is played like a stealth action game and gives the opportunity to pull of some gruesome stealth kills. Playing this game is almost like playing a game of golf. When you mess up, you almost want to stop playing all together because it gets rather frustrating, but when you pull off stealth kills and successful combo chains, it keeps pulling you back in to want to do it all over again. Yet this campaign is riddled with problems. For one, the stealth mechanics seem to go out the window once your targeting laser gets utilized. Even if a marine's back is turned to you, he will immediately turn around and begin to open fire on you.
The Alien campaign also has the stealth mechanics of the Predator campaign; however you must use improvised tactics to stay hidden such as knocking out lights and clinging to ceilings to stay out of sight. While the stealth mechanics for this species is up to snuff, its lure techniques need a bit of work. While the Predator's lure works flawlessly every time leading marines away from crowds, the Alien's does the exact opposite. Marines quickly halt from going into dark corners when they hear a screech from an Alien. Also, while Aliens are the most manoeuvrable of all species, with their ability to climb onto any surface, they are also the most disorienting. There would be times where I would try to transition to another surface and it wouldn't recognize my button prompt to do so. There were also times where prompts wouldn't even be needed. This system really lacked consistency.
Both the Alien and Predator rely heavily on first-person melee combat. The system plays loosely like a rock-paper-scissor match. Heavy attacks break blocks, blocks stop light attacks and can lead to counter-attacks and light attacks stop heavy attacks. The combat can get quite confusing at times trying to decide what type of attack to use, but thankfully the game provides button prompts on what actions to take for the appropriate situation. While light attacks and block actions are usually spot-on, heavy attack prompts are genuinely best ignored. Enemies will quickly counter with light attacks.
By far the weakest campaign of the three is the marine campaign. The FPS aspects needed to be seriously worked on and it shows more time was taken with the Alien and Predator campaigns. The shooting mechanics are very outdated. There's no down-the-sight option for weapons unless you have a sniper rifle equipped. Shooting from the hip is very inaccurate in this game. There were even shots that wouldn't register as hits. I would shoot out a grenade to take down several Aliens, and they juts walked through the blast like nothing had happened. Even the flamethrower, which should be the bane of every Alien, isn't a good weapon to carry. Rather than stop them in their tracks, it just puts them on fire for a few seconds while they continue to attack you. And once they explode, they usually spill their molecular acid blood all over you causing splash damage. Also, a fear tactic is added with the lack of lighting in marine stages and it doesn't work. I was more annoyed than scared when I was getting killed by Aliens I didn't even see. The flashlight attachment to guns is necessary for every level, but the little cone of light it provides offers very little visibility. Flares help light corridors a lot better, but you'll probably just spend half of a firefight throwing out those things. There are better FPS games out there worth playing than this.
Graphics for the game look very outdated. It looks like it came from an older system. Environments are very bland, and textures just blend in to the background. If it wasn't for the Alien's focus mode, I would barely be able to find air vents to climb into. They don't stick out. Also, it shows that corners were skipped in the detail that was put into it. In a Predator's thermal vision mode, heat signatures can light up marines hiding in the jungle. However, once a marine is killed, their heat signatures don't dissipate like they should; a trait that was utilized in original Xbox games. Visuals are just overall very poor.
Multiplayer has a mixed bag of activities to do. There's the standard single and team deathmatch (for teams comprised of one race or mixed races). There are also other modes of play including a Survival Mode where a group of Marines must survive wave after wave of an increasing number of Aliens. It plays out like Horde Mode in Gears of War 2, but after you're killed, that's it. You can't come back. Even if a team member finishes the round, you still stay out. It gets annoying real fast and you will probably ask the lone survivor to quit the match and start over. Also, if the marine steps out the camera's view, you will see none of the action.
Alien vs. Predator is not the greatest of games, but it is not all bad. On one hand, playing as both the Alien and Predator are rather enjoyable at times. You really feel like you are immersed in the species' universe and their traits and mannerisms are greatly featured. However, it still carries the same question that I had when I saw the movie: "Why are humans even involved?" The FPS mechanics of the game make it feel like little time was put into them and there are much better games out there that are devoted solely to that. Also with the poor visuals and a multiplayer system that isn't all that interesting, you'll probably put the game down once you finish all the campaign stories.