A 2020 Review - Aliens Versus Predator (PC, 1999)
Mediocrity Score: Makes Mediocrity Look Good.
After twenty-one years, this once great action shooter fails to entertain. If only Aliens Versus Predator were as thrilling, exciting, and tight-playing as it was back in 1999 when it was released. Today it's dim, dark, and bland; being more of a mess than it's worth.
Tags: A few words or tags that come to mind are: dark, disorienting, multiplayer, unpolished.
Avg. Time to beat: 6.5 hours
Quickest Speedrun: 1.2 hours
Retail Price: $5
Lowest Historical Price on Steam: $1.24
Quick Take: I'm not going to sugar-coat it; the years between now and 1999, when Alien Versus Predator was released, have not been kind. Graphics, textures, lighting, sounds, UI, AI, and everything else unmentioned have all vastly improved during that time. All of this will become incredibly apparent as soon as you launch the game. AVP became a LAN party cult classic of the early 2000s through its chaotic multiplayer deathmatch. Players could compete between Aliens, Predators, and Colonial Marines (a fancy-pants name for Humans). Unique for its time, each race is completely different. Rather it be weapon selection, visual-modes, tools, or movement speed, each playable-race requires a different strategy and approach. It makes for a crazed deathmatch experience. Each race also has its own campaign to play through along with several bonus levels. Today, the majority of what made Aliens Versus Predator such a standout game of 1999 has been washed away. The improvements in gameplay, technical design/engineering, story, and multiplayer experience have all long since improved offering more than what was possible at the time. The AVP franchise has also seen more releases since '99 which have each sought to improve upon the original title. In 2020, AVP is more interesting as a retro-museum of what once was rather than a competent game worth your time. It's interesting on a component level, but not as a whole.
- Fun, chaotic multiplayer. Offers multiple game modes.
- Controlling the Alien feels crazy and is entertaining enough just running around the walls and ceiling.
- Predator's vision modes is a really cool feature to play with, and is something we don't see enough of in modern games.
- Nostalgic for some.
- Confusing, dark, bland environment that runs together and makes navigation difficult at times.
- Non-existent storyline and narrative.
- Amateurish voice-acting.
- With multiplayer being the primary source of value, there are very few available games online. Most often, none to be found.
- Bare-bones, ugly UI.
Concept: Leaving humans out of the name, Aliens Versus Predator pits the two Hollywood beasts against each other as well as the Colonial Marines in a triple-sided deathmatch. Each race gets its own multiple-mission, multiple-map singleplayer campaign.
Graphics: Unfortunately, not all components of a game age as well as one another. In many regards, It was behind the times even for 1999. With repetitive texture and object re-use, variety in colors being very low, and the brightness-bar being either strongly too low or too high - it results in a disorientating. Part of this is to permit for a bigger "woah!"-factor when using the different vision-modes that either of the alien-races have. Both modes require a dark setting for ideal wow-ing.
Sound: There's a key mapping for releasing a loud taunt for players who choose to join as either an Alien or Predator. It makes for a really thematic screech or hiss, depending on which alien species you select. Each race has a distinctive set of noises it emanates. From weapons, to tools, grunts and even footsteps all have different sounds than their other opponents - be it Marines, Predators, or Aliens. Terrible voice acting.
Gameplay: Mixed. Often a negative and frustrating experience. Too frequent did I feel disoriented and lost as to what to do or where to go next. Sometimes for an hour of hunting high and low for a button to press or lever to pull which would allow me to progress further. Until, of course, I find myself trapped in another exercise along with a very similar problem.
Entertainment: Campaign provides little more than a proving grounds in which you can practice against AI. The most enjoyable and exciting part of AVP is its online multiplayer deathmatch. While still flawed, it provides for fast-paced rounds that are a chaotic and fun experience worth having.
Replayability: Only in its online multiplayer. Its singleplayer campaign is painful enough to finish just once. I'd pass on reinstalling this, really.
---Full Review Below---
In 1999, the gaming industry as a whole was perceived as being incapable of creating a successful movie-to-game adaptation. Fox Interactive took a roll of the dice with Rebellion Developments in creating the original Alien Vs. Predator (Atari Jaguar, 1994). This risk paid off to much acclaim. Expanding on this success, Fox chose Rebellion again when creating a version for PC. Planned releases for Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation fell through before launch.
AVP became a LAN party cult classic of the early 2000s through its chaotic multiplayer deathmatch. Players could compete between Aliens, Predators, and Colonial Marines (a fancy-pants name for Humans). Unique for its time, each race is completely different. Rather it be weapon selection, visual-modes, tools, or movement speed, each playable-race requires a different strategy and approach. Aliens have a wider vision and can speed across walls and ceilings. Predators can switch between three vision-modes: thermal infrared, night-vision, and Alien-vision. They can cloak themselves with invisibility and can self-heal, both at a cost of energy. Colonial Marines' primary perk is having a lot of guns and explosives to hurl at their foes. They also have a motion sensor, but it is mostly just there for cool 90's vibes. All combined, it makes for a crazed deathmatch experience. Unfortunately, online matches or servers are becoming rarer and rarer. Often going long stretches with none available. One way to get matches (outside of your personal friends) is to subscribe to the discussion forum in Steam. Announcing it as a scheduled event would provide others an opportunity to plan on playing in advance. Otherwise, it's a game of chance rather you find anyone playing or not.
The bulk of the content is in its singleplayer campaigns. Having three of them, each is designed with a specific playable-race in mind. The Colonial Marine missions are the most comfortable to start with due to likely having the most familiar feeling gameplay. A style similar to the original Doom (PC, 1993). Marines are all about their expansive assortment of weaponry. The Marine campaign begins at a research station studying where the first Alien eggs were encountered. The main goal is to wipe out the Aliens before they make their way to Earth. The Predator campaign feels the most powerful and is the easiest to complete. It is by far the strongest physically and stays truest to the films. Bringing us to three different planets, the main goal in this campaign is to hunt and kill both marines and Aliens. The Alien path by far the most abstract as well as most frustrating. It includes one of the coolest movement mechanics being able to run on the walls and ceilings. It's fast and can drop its opponents with speed. Playing as the Alien is a disorienting experience. When navigating, the walls, floor, and ceiling can look too similar. Add fast movements and tight corridors and it becomes a bit difficult to navigate the map. It can be nauseating. The Aliens are meant to induce confusion and panic, not experience it when you play as one. It's unfortunate that in practice it turned out this way. Your main goal as an Alien is to go from the xenomorph hive and infiltrate Earth by making your way onto an Earth-bound ship as a stowaway.
Rebellion was going for a particular aesthetic. By going with a dark, ominous setting would best show off certain components of the game. Things like Predator's vision-modes or the Alien-vision. Low light sources and limited flares - amping up the thrill and suspense. Logical on paper, in execution it muddied the visuals and made for a very dim experience. Some doors only open from switches or buttons. Many of which are not easy to distinguish from other decorations on the wall. Textures are too overused. It results in a particularly bland and repetitive appearance. It's disorientating as it all begins to look the same. With no guidance or direction provided, it's led me to watching map guides out of frustration. Play as the Alien, and it only becomes worse as the ceilings and walls further blend. Is this hallway a left or a right? Is this where I just came from or was I walking on that wall when I came through?
Providing for a quality audio experience for most of the game. The voice acting was the exception to this. It's atrocious. They could have done much better. It came off as campy and did not match the tone of the game. The ability to screech or taunt your foes at the click of a button is cool. It can either lure or scare them away, although I never quite got this to work how I expected.
Overlooked in its day, Aliens Versus Predator was left in the shadow of bigger, more notable games like Unreal, Half-Life, Quake 3 Arena, and Deus Ex. It's not that AVP was bad, it just wasn't as good. I went ahead and reinstalled each of those games, as well as a few other titles from the era (Thief II, Hexen II, Systems Shock II, and Delta Force II). I wanted to see first hand how they compared at a quick glance. Plain and simple - the vast majority of the games from that time had more to offer. AVP was a fascinating concept game for its time. It had great multiplayer deathmatches. New and differing gameplay features for each playable race as well as the best thrill value at the time. But it had little else to offer. It brought some innovative touches to a genre that was still new and burgeoning. But longevity and future-proofing? AVP falls short.
Today, the majority of what made Aliens Versus Predator such a standout game in 1999 has been washed away. It fails to pack enough to punch through the advances in game development and hardware since its release 21 years ago. The multiplayer is its only saving grace, and only rarely can you find anyone online playing. LAN party throwback at best. AVP is more interesting as a retro-museum of what once was rather than a game experience worth your time.
Overall - in 2020, this is not a good game. It doesn't do its legacy any justice. It used to be a LAN party hit, with everyone being excited to play. Now it rarely gets brought up and it never gets picked. The multiplayer is still fun, but I'm not sure it's "$4.99-fun". If it goes on sale, and you have a group of friends interested in doing deathmatch - I'd say it would be a worthwhile laugh. A throwback to how multiplayer games once were.
Thanks for reading!