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Evidently, the Alien vs. Predator franchise started in comics but has since expanded to films and games. I’m fan of both the Alien and Predator series and seeing them come together is pretty cool. Actually, the Predator series in particular seems underrated. I admit the first movie is the best but even the second one is not bad. I think it’s considered a cult classic now. Predators, released in 2010, is also an enjoyable film. I liked it, at least. I saw the original Alien vs. Predator film way after it released and thought it was really cool. After that, I saw the sequel, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem and thought it was decent. I didn’t expect it to be amazing but I did enjoy it. When comparing both films, Requiem has the most least interesting human characters and funnily enough, all the characters I wanted to die, did. Developed by Rebellion Developments and published by Fox Interactive, Aliens versus Predator was released for PC in April, 1999. For this review, I played the re-released version titled Aliens versus Predator Classic 2000 on Steam. It was released in January, 2010. This version has been updated to work on modern systems, supports Xbox 360 controllers, and includes the content from the Gold Edition and Millenium add-on pack. In 2015, it was updated to support cross-platform multiplayer between both the Steam and GoG versions. I’ve played the original once or twice before but never got past the first level. I decided to give it another shot and this time, it finally clicked with me. I’ll also be taking a look at the Aliens versus Predator Classic Redux mod which completely overhauls the presentation, adds new multiplayer and skirmish maps, and includes bug fixes.
Aliens versus Predator contains three campaigns that play out in episodes. And you can also unlock bonus episodes by beating the campaigns on specific difficulties. You can play through campaigns in any order and each campaign has you playing as a different species. In the Alien campaign you play as an Alien and have to defend the Alien hive from Marines before leaving on an escape shuttle to the Gateway Station. You then rip your way through the Marines on the station before finally facing off against Predators and then you depart for Earth. In the Colonial Marine campaign you play as a Marine and the campaign opens with you at a research station on the planet LV-426 right near the derelict spacecraft where the Nostromo crew first encountered the eggs in the film Alien. You complete objectives, fending off hordes of Aliens before making your way to the Odobenus Station where you encounter more Aliens and some Predators. Eventually you’ll reach the ship Tyrargo where you battle Praetorians before finally facing off against an Alien Queen. In the Predator campaign you play as a Predator and the story here takes you to three planets. You start the campaign hunting Marines in an effort to recover a captured Predator ship. Aliens are accidentally released but you’ll fight your way through them, eventually reaching Fiorina “Fury” 161, the prison planet featured in Alien 3. And finally, you battle your way through another planet infested with Aliens before facing off against an Alien Queen. Honestly, the stories only seem to exist just because, and throughout most of the game I had no idea what was going on. I had to look up a plot summary. The stories are far from remarkable and it’s obvious that they’re just backdrops for the gameplay. Now I’ve read that the original in-game videos, which contain the only real voice acting, were replaced in the Gold version with new ones, featuring members of the Rebellion staff. I can’t confirm if the videos here are the original or the replacements since I haven’t played enough of the original to know but with that said, the little voice acting that is here is pretty bad but does give the game a campy B-movie-like quality.
The game includes three difficulty modes – Training, Realistic, and Director’s Cut. Beating a campaign on Realistic or Director’s Cut will unlock bonus episodes. By default, you can only manually save a certain amount of times per episode but you can utilize a command to enable unlimited saves which I would recommend. Controlling the three characters will take some getting used to since they do play differently. If you’ve played any first-person shooter in the last two decades, playing as the Marine shouldn’t be a problem. The Predator and Alien, on the other hand, change things up. All characters can walk, run, crouch, and jump. They lose health when they take damage. The Marine can acquire medikits to restore health and armor pickups to acquire extra protection. One thing to be aware of is that pickups can be destroyed, including weapons, so you need to watch where you shoot or attack. The Predator can use the medicomp to heal itself and the Alien must perform a head bite on an enemy to acquire health. The environments are pretty dark but luckily the Marine can throw flares which light up dark areas but more efficient is image intensifier which can be activated and de-activated at will. The Marine is equipped with a motion tracker which detects nearby enemies and it is visible on the HUD when not using the image intensifier. One of the cool things about the Marine and Predator is their unique equipment, acquired in the bonus episodes. The Marine can activate a Jet Pack to fly around environments and the Predator can utilize a grappling hook to basically navigate anywhere. These two things can change up how you approach battles and in some cases, make escaping areas easier.
The Predator’s HUD contains its iconic symbols on either side of the screen. The red symbols represent its health and the blue symbols represent its energy which is drained when using energy weapons or by activating the cloak. Energy will slowly regenerate over time but you can acquire energy pickups scattered throughout the environments to refill it immediately. The Predator can activate a cloak so it turns invisible, although in my experience, enemies can still detect you, the Aliens more than the Marines, so its efficiency is questionable. The Predator can zoom in and out at will and can also switch between different vision modes. The what I’m guessing is thermal vision is best for locating Marines. Electric vision is best for locating Aliens. And I think the other one is a form of night vision, where everything is green, but I really found no use for this as the Predator. When using weapons like the Shoulder Cannon or Disc, you must be using the right vision mode for the reticle to lock onto enemies. Otherwise, you’ll have to aim manually. The Alien is the fastest character out of the three. It can switch between hunting mode and navigation mode. Hunting mode is basically its normal vision and enemies will be highlighted. Navigation mode just makes it easier to see in dark areas. The Alien can climb along walls and ceilings, leap long distances, slash with its claws, perform a tail whip, and head bite enemies. While the Marine is more of your typical run and gun style, the Predator and Alien emphasize stealth. It’s very easy to drain through energy as the Predator and not having enough to use energy weapons can really put you in a bad spot so making every shot count and taking your time is key. Going in head-on against numerous enemies as the Alien is usually not a good idea since enemies can kill you pretty quickly, especially if they use flame-based weapons. Whenever you’re on fire in this game, it takes forever for it to go out on its own, and it can be a death sentence. The Predator can utilize the medicomp to put out fires which is useful. I found that the Alien is also the hardest character to get used to. In fact, to climb along walls and ceilings, you need to hold down the crouch button which is quite tedious. If you let it go, you’ll fall to ground. However, you can utilize a command to toggle crouching on and off which will make playing as the Alien a lot easier. Another problem with the Alien is that due to its fast movement and ability to climb along everything, it can be very easy to lose track of where you are. On the plus side, the Alien has the most freedom out of all three characters just due to the fact it can literally navigate anywhere and silently sneaking up on enemies and then quickly getting away can be very satisfying.
For some reason, any weapons acquired throughout an episode do not carry over into the next. This effects the Marine more than the other two characters. The Marine always starts with a pulse rifle which is a rapid firing weapon and it can also fire pulse grenades. New weapons are introduced as you progress through the episodes. Eventually you’ll acquire a smart gun which can track enemies but you can disable that to aim freely. When you equip the grenade launcher, you can switch between grenades, frags, and proximity mines, making this one of the more deadlier weapons. The SADAR Rocket Launcher will decimate most Aliens as will the Skeeter Launcher. This thing might actually be the most powerful weapon in the game. It fires a projectile that can bounce off surfaces and release beams of energy upon impact. You’ll also acquire a flamethrower, minigun which forces you to remain stationary when firing, and a pistol which can be dual wielded. I should mention that you cannot reload the weapons manually. The Marine will only do so when required and weapons can jam, as in they may not fire for a second or two. The Predator is always equipped with wristblades and a Speargun. The wristblades can slice enemies to pieces and if you charge up your attack you can claim skull trophies from dead bodies. Although, you don’t get to see the trophy, you just hear the Predator roar. The Speargun fires spears that can impale enemies to surfaces which is pretty cool. But this thing does utilize ammo of which there are no pickups so it’s the kind of weapon you use when you absolutely have to. The Predator does have access to energy weapons in all episodes but one. You can switch to the shoulder cannon which, if utilizing the correct vision mode, can lock onto enemies before firing a blast of energy. You will acquire a Disc that can be thrown and like the shoulder cannon, if using the correct vision mode, you can lock onto enemies before throwing. It’s an extremely deadly weapon and is able to slice enemies in half. It kind of acts like a boomerang and will come back to you after being fired if nothing is blocking its path. You can manually pick it up if you can find it but you can also retract it from wherever it is at any time at the press of a button but this will drain energy. Eventually you’ll acquire a pistol which fires balls of plasma that will electrocute enemies. The Alien is the only character that doesn’t utilize any weapons or equipment. You can perform the melee attacks and the head bite but that’s it.
There are several enemy types you’ll encounter throughout each campaign. Aliens are the most common enemies in the Marine and Predator campaigns. You’ll mow down hordes of Aliens and they’re basically an infestation. They usually appear in numbers, they can crawl along walls and ceilings, they’ll slash you, tail whip you, and they can move extremely fast. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by the Aliens and when they do take damage, they usually release acidic blood which can hurt you. Sometimes the game likes to throw ambushes at you where Aliens appear from behind or even above you. This can be annoying, especially if you’re playing as the Predator and are low on energy. Because multiple Aliens slashing at you will drain your health quickly, if you do kill some, you may be standing in acid blood, meaning you’re taking even more damage, so you really want to avoid getting swarmed. You will have to contend with Praetorians and Predaliens as well, both of which just seem like tougher versions of the Aliens. For those that don’t know, the Praetorians serve as guards to the Queen, at least in the lore. In the game, they just run around like Aliens and can take a good amount of damage before dying. The same goes for the the Predaliens which are the result of Facehuggers impregnating Predators. Yes, Facehuggers also appear in these two campaigns and if they manage to latch onto your face, it’s an instant death. In the Predator and Alien campaigns, you’ll have to contend with Marines and Androids or Synthetics, whatever you want to call them. Androids act a lot like Marines except they leak white liquid instead of blood upon taking damage. Marines and Androids usually carry weapons. They’ll shoot at you, utilize explosives like rockets and grenades, and set you on fire with flame throwers and what I’m guessing are molotovs which becomes annoying, especially if you’re the Alien. You’ll also have to contend with Sentry Guns and Xenoborgs. Sentry Guns which will fire at you immediately upon detection. These are extremely deadly and when playing as the Alien, these might be the most dangerous “enemies” in the campaign. There’s usually a way around them so you can destroy them from behind. Xenoborgs are Xenomorph cyborgs equipped with laser weaponry. One thing I did notice is that the human-type enemies, and even the Sentry Gun, can and will often shoot at you from long distance, sometimes before you can even see them. That does become a little annoying and results in a lot of trial and error scenarios. When playing as the Marine and Alien, you will have to battle Predators every now and then. They usually show up in only specific areas. They can activate their cloak, lock onto you and fire their shoulder cannon, they actually carry and use a spear, and if they go down, they can activate their self-destruct sequence. So make sure they’re dead. When I first encountered them as a Marine, I didn’t know they could do that, and when I heard the iconic Predator laugh my instinct was to run, which I did with a silly grin on my face because of how awesome that was, only to die shortly thereafter which made me frown. It was still pretty cool, though. One of the really cool things about the enemies is infighting. Enemies will attack each other. You may come across a Predator blasting Aliens to hell or Marines fighting Aliens only to witness the Aliens rip the them to shreds. Specific enemies will also respawn so you’re never really going to be completely safe. It seems like most of the Alien types and Marines will always respawn after a while, even after you’ve cleared an area. Predators do not. This would explain why Aliens never seem to stop coming. You’re always going to be outnumbered and it’s very possible to get swarmed from multiple directions so you always need to be alert and aware of your surroundings. The enemy AI really isn’t that bright. Enemies just seem to charge at you, and the enemy Predator’s lack of intelligence seems to be balanced out by its extremely deadly arsenal. Enemy Marines and Androids will sometimes spot you from long distance and other times not even be aware you’re right next to them. They may not even react when an ally is killed nearby. Now there are boss battles, at least in the Marine and Predator campaigns. You have to battle the Alien Queen in both and I think the fight in the Predator campaign is actually more enjoyable. Mainly because you have to attack her until she dies. As a Marine, you have to force her out into space without getting sucked out, yourself. The Queen can slash you if she gets close but she can also pick up and throw small objects with extreme precision. The Alien campaign doesn’t really have a boss battle, at least not in my opinion. You battle Predators at the end of the campaign but that’s it. Maybe that is meant to be the boss battle but considering Predators are standard enemies in the Marine campaign, it doesn’t feel like a traditional boss battle.
So now it’s time to talk about the level design. You will traverse through many of the same environments in each campaign, albeit with different objectives in each. The actual level design is confusing most of the time. This is one of the reasons why I would recommend enabling unlimited saves. There’s nothing more frustrating than finally figuring out what to do or where to go and make good progress only to die and realize you didn’t save and have to replay through a large chunk of the level again. You’re always provided objectives in text form on the screen but the text will disappear very quickly and it’s just very easy to get lost and forget what you need to do. The Marine’s campaign includes monitors scattered throughout the environments where your commanding officer will appear and verbally tell you your objectives. One of the biggest issues is that many areas look way too similar. There’s no map to reference and it’s never clear where you need to go. Many times you have to destroy something or multiple things, sometimes you need to kill specific enemies, and you’ll even have to escape areas before they self-destruct. The episode locations are actually diverse for the most part but the many of the areas within a given episode look all too similar most of the time. And some environments can be quite large and even contain multiple floors, all of which may share similar looking assets. The environments can be very intricate with all kinds of paths, rooms, and corridors that lead to other paths, rooms, and corridors, usually separated by doors that may require you to do something specific before they can be opened. This is where things get really confusing because nothing is obvious or clear. You may have to destroy or break something before you can proceed and you can press a button to bring up your objective but if it’s vague, it won’t be very helpful. Honestly, I would recommend shooting, slashing, and attacking any object in sight because I learned that more often than not, if it can be destroyed, it’s usually required to progress. You could be running around in circles, draining ammo on enemies, just trying to figure out what to do next. There’s also a lot of hidden paths and by “hidden” I mean paths that are located behind or under objects that can be broken. If you can’t figure out where to go, there’s a good chance you either missed an objective, which is very possible, or there’s something you need to break because these hidden paths are usually the way to progress. This game released at a time when games didn’t hold your hand and that’s definitely true here which is kind of refreshing. But games around that time are also known to show you how things work through gameplay and that’s, unfortunately, not the case here. Mainly due to no consistency. Different objects in different episodes need to be broken or destroyed, and I’m not talking about objectives, just things that need to be broken so you can proceed forward, and it wouldn’t be a problem if the game made it clear in some way. This game just throws you in and basically says “figure it out”.
One positive thing I will say about the level design is the amount of freedom you’re given. There’s usually multiple ways to an objective and you’re free to roam around the environments as you see fit. You’re basically free to go wherever you want, whenever you want, and however you want within the limitations of the character, with the Alien basically having no limits when it comes to navigation as mentioned before. Because of the amount of freedom you’re given, the game does offer a good amount of replay value. While the Redux mod is primarily a presentation overhaul, it does make some changes to the environments. For example, no matter what character you’re playing as, you have to do everything solo. But the mod adds friendly NPC’s to a few episodes which does kind of make the game more immersive. With that said, the friendly NPC’s don’t seem to last long but it’s just nice to see them around every now and then attempting to blow Aliens away or rip Marines to shreds, depending on the campaign. After beating an episode, you can view your stats for that episode and meeting certain requirements will unlock in-game cheats, accessed from the Cheat Options menu. For example, there’s a cheat that will cause time to slow down when you get attacked. To unlock it, you need to beat a specific Marine episode with a specific accuracy of head shots. Another cheat sets all enemies on fire and to unlock it you must beat a specific Predator episode with a specific amount of Alien kills. There’s all kinds of other cheats you can unlock which change up the gameplay in different ways. Many make things easier but some make things more challenging.
I did attempt the multiplayer and actually found a deathmatch game but I was waiting for the host to enter a description which never happened so the match never started. Outside of the campaigns and multiplayer is the single player Skirmish mode and this mode is somewhat customizable. You can set the time limit, score limit, how many lives, what weapon pickups are available, and several other options, and you can even save and load different configurations which is nice. There’s a good amount of maps to choose from, some of which are based on locations seen in the films. After configuring the settings and choosing your map, you can select your species. You can choose a Marine or a Marine specialist which means they only use a specific weapon or the Predator. You cannot choose the Alien because the entire goal of this mode is to eliminate Aliens. It’s basically a survival mode and, unfortunately, playing as the Predator is not really that enjoyable. You’re just going to be constantly overwhelmed and the Predator is not really designed for that. What I should say is the Predator isn’t designed to go in all guns blazing. By that I mean, it’s better to lean towards a stealthy approach as a Predator which is really not an option here. Aliens will be coming from everywhere and even when you’re cloaked, it doesn’t seem to make a difference, and your energy can drain rapidly, which will reduce your access to your best weapons. The Aliens always seem to know exactly where you are so it’s just a matter of fending them off for as long as you can. There are energy pickups scattered around and also weapons, health, and armor pickups for the Marine which is what this mode seems to cater to the most, at least in my opinion. As a Marine, it’s a lot of fun running and gunning, blasting away Aliens with deadly firepower. I don’t know if there’s a variation of this mode for multiplayer but it seems like it would be best enjoyed cooperatively with friends. And I believe that is possible, I think through mods or commands, although I didn’t try. You’ll fend off Aliens, Praetorians, and Predaliens, and each enemy type rewards you with a specific amount of points, and the amount of points can be set beforehand when configuring the options. However, I do question why there aren’t any variations of this game type. Why can’t we hunt Marines? Or even Predators for that matter? You can’t play as an Alien in Skirmish for obvious reasons but being able to hunt Marines seems like a no-brainer, and would also allow you to play as the Alien. Plus, it would better accommodate the Predator play style, emphasizing the use of stealth. I did notice that the enemy Alien AI pathfinding can be pretty poor in some of the new maps introduced in the Redux mod. They’ll often get stuck in the environment and it looks like they don’t know where to go. I’m also curious as to why the developers called it Skirmish? They could have called it “Bug Hunt” or survival, both of which sound a little more appropriate. When I first launched the game, I literally thought Skirmish was going to be a replica of the multiplayer but with bots. I was only partially correct. It’s just you against hordes of Aliens.
Aliens versus Predator is a late nineties game and it looks like one, too. But it doesn’t actually look bad. Yes, it looks dated. Textures are blurry, models are low poly, and the animations are stiff. However, there is a good amount of detail in the environments. Scattered throughout the environments are broken objects, sparks may be flying through the air, muzzle flashes look cool and illuminate dark areas, you’ll come across labs housing Facehuggers for research, blood may be splattered in certain areas, and even the amount of destruction is impressive. You can a blow a ton of shit up, break and interact with all kinds of things, and blow or rip off enemy body parts like heads, limbs, and Alien tails. The death animations are scripted but splitting an Alien in half or just blowing off its legs and watching it crawl toward you is pretty cool stuff. The first thing you’ll notice after installing the Redux mod is the visual overhaul. Almost every texture received an HD upgrade and it looks fantastic. Everything looks sharp and crisp. Even character and weapon models were overhauled. I’m pretty sure the Aliens are a little bigger and they resemble their appearance in the film Aliens which is not a bad thing. Some of the new weapons look a lot different, like the pistol for example, but each weapon contains an impressive amount of detail. You can now actually see the ammo count on the side of the pulse rifle, although it never seems to change. The Predator’s arms have a lot more going on and the wristblades look much deadlier. The mod even gives the Marine gloves. On the audio side, I’m pretty sure the music in this game is taken straight from the films or it just uses very similar motifs but it all sounds pretty good and fits in with the theme of the game. The sound effects also seemed to be ripped from the films and that’s honestly what I expected. The Predator’s iconic laugh is ripped straight from the first film, many of the Marine weapons sound just like they do in the film Aliens as do the enemy Alien sound effects. When they die, you can hear their tail whipping around and as they come towards you, you can hear them screeching and hissing. Even the motion tracker’s clicks and beeps are taken directly from Aliens. Marines and humans may run and yell if they encounter you and then scream in agony upon getting killed. The Redux mod enhances most the sound effects significantly, giving everything an even more movie-like quality. The Aliens will not only hiss and screech, but also squeal. The Predator’s speargun in the base game sounds pretty weak overall but the mod gives it a bit of a punch, and it sounds a lot better. There really is no reason not to install the Classic Redux mod but in my experience it does contain some more technical issues. The vanilla game ran smoothly but the mod seems to stutter every now and then, and the frame rate takes a noticeable dive with the mod installed when there’s a lot of fire on-screen. I should mention that the main menu is hard coded at the 640×480 resolution and the game likes to crash a lot, more so when playing with the mod installed. I was fine playing the vanilla game for the first day or so but eventually, it started to crash frequently, usually after loading a save. But it’s worse with the mod. After beating an episode, the game would usually crash. Not every time, but more often than not. I would say that with the mod installed, eighty percent of the time, the game crashed to my desktop after beating an episode or attempting to exit a game to go back to the main menu. The game as a whole also contains some bugs like clipping, Alien enemies will often get stuck on objects and walls, and I would frequently get stuck on parts of the geometry. It’s really bad in the Alien campaign. If you have to navigate up or down steps or traverse around ledges, the Alien will most likely get stuck and you have to move in a different direction or stop crouching which could mess up your attack plan, and it just becomes really annoying. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.
As I mentioned before, I played Aliens versus Predator once or twice in the past and this time it finally clicked with me. I definitely had fun with the game but it certainly aged in many ways, both gameplay-wise and in its presentation. But it’s also a somewhat interesting game, especially for it’s time. It contains two different genres, first-person shooter and stealth, and both implementations could use some more polish. But both do succeed in terms of fun factor, accommodating different play styles to some extent, and I would say this is still one of the best video game representations of the Aliens franchise and even the Predator franchise. But if I’m going to be honest, this really feels more like an Aliens game than anything else. Hell, the Aliens are the primary enemy in two out of the three campaigns, and even in the Skirmish mode. In fact, you don’t actually get to the battle Predators very often, only in select episodes across two campaigns, and you’re not going to battle many. It’s very obvious the developers were inspired by the film Aliens or are just huge fans because the atmosphere of that movie is just rampant throughout this entire game. Even throughout the Predator campaign, everything just felt very Aliens. The Aliens move and act a lot like they do in the film and the game contains a lot of locations and iconic things seen in the first two Alien movies. For example, the planet LV-426, the Hadley’s Hope skirmish map, and even the Space Jockey seen in the film Alien makes an appearance here. It’s just obvious there’s a lot more nods to Aliens then there is to Predator. Regardless, I’m not complaining, I’m just pointing it out. I’m a huge fan of Aliens and believe it or not, the Marine campaign is still a better Aliens game than Aliens: Colonial Marines.
I would say Aliens versus Predator is a classic or maybe just a cult classic. All in all it’s a good game. It’s a little rough around the edges, its got issues, it could use some more polish, but it’s still fun nonetheless. I would definitely recommend this to fans of either the Aliens franchise, Predator franchise, or action games in general. The Skirmish mode is a lot of fun but I do feel that it could use some more content like the ability to hunt Marines or even Predators for that matter. I hear the multiplayer isn’t bad if you have people to play with and, unfortunately, I only found one game that never actually started. However, if you’re looking for more than just the campaigns, I think there are ways to get bots in the Skirmish mode through commands and even mods. I know there are plenty of mods out there, especially skins and maps, among others. And the game still seems to have a somewhat active fan-base so that’s pretty cool. I would say the Classic Redux Mod is a must if you’ve played this before and even if you haven’t, it just gives the game a very welcome facelift. Aliens versus Predator is a fun action-packed sci-fi romp that’s worth checking out. You can get the Classic version on Steam or GoG for pretty cheap, too, so there’s no reason not to try this if you think it looks fun.