Predator: Concrete Jungle for Xbox Review

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Yeah, I’m a big fan of the Predator series. I think the first movie is the best and Predator 2 and Predators are both a bit underrated. Outside of the films is the Predator expanded universe which contains comics, novels, and even video games. Developed by Eurocom and published by Vivendi Universal Games, Predator: Concrete Jungle was released for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox in April, 2005. For this review, I played the Xbox version. I don’t know if this game is rare but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in stores. I purchased it through eBay for about forty bucks. The Predator franchise is not only popular because of the creature, itself, but also because of its crossover with the Alien franchise through comics and games. However, the franchise has seen some dedicated video game titles and I think Concrete Jungle may be one of the more popular ones.

The game is named after the first volume of the Dark Horse Comics Predator series but it does not share the same plot. The story opens in 1930 and is set in the fictional New Way City. You play as a Predator who stalks and kills a mob boss only before getting attacked and leaving all your equipment behind. He is shamed by defeat and because he exposed his race to the humans. He’s exiled by his clan. One hundred years later, the Predator resurfaces and is now named Scarface. He is offered a chance for redemption by reclaiming his stolen equipment and hunting down those who stole it. However, the gangs utilized the Predator technology for criminal purposes and the city is now known as Neonopolis. Honestly, the story is ridiculous, I lost track of what was happening very early on, and the voice acting is atrocious. In fact, the villains sound like cartoon characters. The story plays out in chapters, some of which are extremely short and others which can be quite long. It took me almost ten hours to beat the game.

When you first fire up the game, you’ll be asked to create a profile and choose your difficulty of which there are three. The higher the difficulty, the tougher the enemies but on the lowest difficulty, your Energy Supply will automatically recharge to a low level. Once you choose your difficulty, you cannot change it at any point unless you start a new game. I played on the Young Blood difficulty which is the equivalent to Normal. Before jumping into the main campaign, I would highly suggest you complete the training which covers three aspects of the gameplay – movement, combat, and gadgets. I would suggest you go through each of them for two reasons – 1) the controls are a bit cumbersome but you will get used to them over time and 2) every button has a function. You can sneak, walk, run, jump, perform a high jump, shimmy along ledges, wall bounce, backflip off walls, strafe, somersault while strafing, tear open objects, lift heavy barricades, and grab onto what the game calls “Gecko Surfaces”. You play through the game in primarily third-person but your mask allows you to aim in first-person but you won’t be able to move when doing so. You can zoom in first-person and the mask also allows you to switch between three different vision modes – thermal vision, neuro vision, and tech vision. Thermal vision allows you to see hot objects like humans. Neuro vision allows you to see the mental state of enemies and identify honorable prey. And Tech vision highlights recharge points, cloaked items and enemies, and robots or security devices. Furthermore, when in first-person, you can scan enemies to obtain information on their strengths and weaknesses. The Predator can also utilize Vocal Mimicry to lure enemies to specific locations or to obtain passwords and then use them to gain access to certain areas. The Predator is equipped with a Medicomp which allows it to heal itself. However, you must acquire Healing Charges to do so. Supply Caches are scattered throughout the environments and contain healing charges and ammunition for specific weapons. You can activate a cloak to turn invisible and when cloaked, it’s harder for enemies to spot you. However, the faster you move while cloaked, the more likely you’ll be spotted. Getting wet will deactivate your cloak as will running out of energy. When cloaked, you slowly drain energy and using certain weapons will also drain energy, usually in large chunks. Throughout the environments are Recharge Points where you can refill your energy in full. If you’re caught in an EMP blast, your energy will drain to zero for a brief time. I think the biggest problem with this game is most certainly the camera. Quite frankly, it sucks. It works against you most of the time and never positions itself in ideal spots. Usually it’s hard to judge depth perception, making jumping on platforms more work than it should be.

As the Predator you can grab enemies and humans and certain ones can be grabbed and used to access specific areas and even to deactivate sentry guns. You can punch enemies but you’ll want to use your arsenal which has quite the roster of weapons. Some weapons need to be acquired in specific chapters and you can also find weapon upgrades which makes them more useful. You can use your wristblades to slice enemies to pieces. The combistick and glaive are like polearm weapons that can do massive melee damage. You can also acquire a maul which resembles a nigtstick in terms of how it’s used but its bladed and is very deadly. You can perform light and heavy attacks with your melee weapons and even perform combos which deal a good amount of damage. You should always lock onto enemies whether engaging them in melee combat or through the use of projectile weaponry. The plasmacaster is the shoulder cannon that fires bolts of plasma and can be charged up for a more devastating attack but at the cost of more energy. You can lock onto multiple enemies and throw the smart disc to attack all of them in succession before it comes back to you. The speargun is a great weapon to fall back on but does require spears. When fired, it can kill many enemies in only a few shots or less and even stick victims to walls. Some of the more useful weapons are in the forms of traps and mines. You can acquire fire bombs which will set enemies on fire, pulse mines which can deactivate any type of electronic devices, plasma mines which deal heavy damage, and even sonic traps which can stun enemies. These weapons require ammo and can be used as traps or you can throw them at enemies directly. I do love the variety of the arsenal but the combat, itself, is okay at best. Unfortunately, you can’t block anything so when engaging tougher enemies, there’s a lot of somersaulting and/or performing hit and runs where you attack the enemy and quickly run away. Also, most of the melee combat comes down to mashing two buttons. However, it is enjoyable to sneak up on enemies and perform executions. You can crush enemy heads, rip their skulls and spines out, split them in half, and even juggle enemies in the air.

Weapon upgrades are normally hidden throughout the environments but are worth collecting. For example, the smart disc upgrades allow you to lock onto more enemies before throwing. The speargun upgrade allows it to hold more ammo. The wristblade upgrade makes it more powerful. Most of the weapons can be upgraded one or more times and you can view what weapons you’ve acquired and their upgrades through the Hunting Gear menu. In addition to the weapon upgrades are attribute upgrades which are well worth acquiring since the later chapters can be a real pain in the ass. Most chapters contain bonus missions and completing these will reward you with attribute upgrades or alternate Predator costumes. The upgrades include things like increased health and energy, upgraded armor, and even bandolier upgrades which increase your mine carrying capacity. The bonus missions are not always obvious but you can find hints in the form of question marks scattered throughout the environments which will provide you some intel on what you need to do. These bonus mission objectives have you doing things like killing a psychopath preying on the homeless, destroying vehicles, killing prostitutes, and even something as simple as destroying monitors. I would highly recommend completing these for the upgrades since they will make your life easier. The alternate Predator costumes are also pretty cool but are only cosmetic. You can switch between them from the main menu and some costumes resemble Predators seen in the films Predator, Predator 2, and Alien vs. Predator.

Due to obtaining the Predator technology, many enemies are equipped with advanced weaponry and can utilize advanced technology like cloaking. The early chapters have you contending with basic enemies carrying melee weapons and basic firearms but soon you’ll have to deal with heavily armored enemies and enemies wielding laser weapons and missile launchers. Some chapters include mechs called Ulysses Machines that are equipped with miniguns and missile launchers. You can jump on them from behind and rip out the enemy pilot. Later in the game, you’ll come up against tougher ones that can take a hell of a lot more damage before going down. Any human enemy with a missile launcher can be a real pain in the ass and can cause you to fail missions in a matter of seconds if you’re not careful. The missiles will home in on you and dodging them can be a real nuisance. It’s also not always clear where the missiles are coming from so trying to identify the enemy can be frustrating. Two chapters late in the game introduce Xenomorphs, or Aliens, into the mix and I was quite surprised. They come in large numbers, crawl along walls and ceilings, and will basically melee you to death. They’re not hard to kill but they don’t stop coming and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. Now one of the worst aspects of the enemies in general is their AI. They’re quite stupid. You can execute a guy followed up by a roar and the enemy two feet away won’t hear a thing. You can even kill and enemy in clear sight of another and they may not even budge. Most of the challenge comes from getting overwhelmed and/or dealing with damage sponge enemies that have high damage outputs. Sometimes you’ll be attacked from multiple directions. You’ll need to move, jump, and somersault constantly to avoid getting hit all while trying to land attacks to kill enemies. If you’re low on energy and healing charges, you may find yourself dying quite often. You really need to master movement and your arsenal to be successful. Acquiring the weapon and attribute upgrades also go a long way and can be the difference between life and death in the later chapters.

Throughout the game are several boss encounters. You’ll engage gang leaders, enemy Predators, assassins, and other damage sponge enemies. That’s what they all are, damage sponges. Although, several of these battles are enjoyable. Some boss encounters have you up against a single enemy, others have you up against multiple, and some of the earlier bosses are more challenging than the later bosses. For example, the Monster Squad encounters are more challenging than the final boss. Whenever you defeat a boss, you get the opportunity to claim their skull as a trophy and your trophies can be viewed from the trophies menu. You can also view your attribute upgrades from this menu. Defeating bosses also unlocks Ritual Challenges which are extremely boring. Each one requires you to navigate through all the checkpoints before the timer runs out. Each checkpoint rewards you with more time. I guess the whole idea is to set record times but there’s no other reason to even play through these. Whether you beat one or set a record time or not, you unlock nothing. Ritual Challenges is a very throwaway mode and almost any other idea would have worked better. Like putting you in an environments populated with enemies and you need to kill them for a high score. That’s honestly what I thought this was going to be but I was way off. If you check the times you need to beat for each Ritual Challenge, the names are from Alien and Predator films. So that’s pretty cool.

Predator: Concrete Jungle contains plenty of chapters across a good variety of locations. You’ll traverse through city streets and alleyways, rooftops, a museum, docks, and even a depot, among others. Early chapters have you completing one or two objectives but the later chapters will have you completing more. Most objectives require you to kill an enemies. Sometimes you’ll have to follow someone or simply get from point A to B. Unfortunately, there are no checkpoints so if you fail at any time for any reason, you’ll have to restart the entire chapter which does become very, very frustrating in the later chapters. Some objectives require you not be seen and if you are spotted, your alert meter begins to fill and if it fills completely, you will fail. If cameras spot you, it’s an immediate failure. Enemies that are harmless are considered dishonorable prey and killing enough of them will cause you to fail a chapter. There are a few chapters where it’s not clear what you need to do and then you fail because you didn’t realize you were timed or needed to grab an enemy or something like that. The pause menu will sometimes offer you hints on how to complete your objectives but they’re not always helpful. Many of the later chapters turn into trial and error scenarios and given the length of some of these chapters, failing in any way can become aggravating. The environments also vary in their level design. Some are more linear, others are more open, and its the open environments that are the most enjoyable in my opinion. Chapters with open environments normally allow you to navigate a somewhat open space and kill targets however you want, giving you some freedom. The more linear missions are obviously more straightforward, giving you very few options on how to accomplish your goal. Sometimes you need to kill a specific amount of enemies before you can even proceed. I would say the level design is okay at best. Outside of boss battles, I wish all the chapters offered open environments because it allows you to utilize your arsenal and moveset in fun and interesting ways.

I wouldn’t say Predator: Concrete Jungle is a particularly good looking game or maybe it just hasn’t aged well. Character models during gameplay lack detail, object pop-in is noticeable, you may notice tons of jaggies, and the texture work isn’t amazing but it’s not horrible, either. Although, some of the outdoor areas can appear rather bland. The environments, themselves, are somewhat detailed and vary in theme from chapter to chapter. You’ll go from futuristic urban environments with with neon signs and hover cars to research facilities housing Predators and monsters for study. In terms of audio, the music isn’t half bad. It’s got a memorable theme and the game is filled with dramatic orchestral scores that fit the action well. And the music ramps up when you’re spotted or engage enemies. As for the sound effects, everything sounds loud and clear. You can hear the Predator stomping around as it runs as well as hear its equipment shuffling with each step. The plasmacaster makes a loud cracking noise with each shot and it sounds accurate to its film counterparts. Enemies will comically scream as you tear them apart or rip off their heads. Vocal mimicry will sound distorted just as it does in the films and the Predator’s roars and growls are loud and sound intimidating. I read that the developers used a mix of lion, tiger, leopard, and jaguar growls. As for the technical aspects, I noticed the frame rate dip here and there but it wasn’t often and, overall, the game ran pretty smooth.

As fan of the Predator series, I can say I had fun with Concrete Jungle but I do think it could have been better. The camera is a real shit show and the melee combat lacks depth. I also feel like the developers should have placed a bigger emphasis on stealth over action. As it is, it’s more of an action game. That’s not really bad but the game really shines during the chapters with open environments that allow you to tackle objectives however you wish. Some chapters force you to be stealthy and others just throw you into an area full of enemies with no real way to be stealthy. Also, because of the premise, the enemies are what I’ll call overpowered thanks to Predator technology which I guess is a reason to keep the gameplay challenging but at the same time, I never really felt like a powerful alien force hunting humans which is what I expected. A Predator can easily slaughter a human being without much of a problem. But here, a lot of enemies are just damage sponges. Well I guess it’s better than the game being a cakewalk. Although it can become aggravating during the later chapters due to the lack of checkpoints and the controls being a little convoluted. The unlockable content does give this game plenty of replay value and the game as a whole is a decent representation of the Predator franchise, or at least the Predator creature because the storyline, itself, blows.

Overall, I would recommend Predator: Concrete Jungle but only if you can find it for cheap. I paid about forty dollars and did get it complete in box but if you’re not a collector and just want to try it, I would suggest getting a copy for under twenty dollars if you can. It’s not a bad game but it’s not great, either. The cumbersome controls, shitty camera, and lackluster melee combat really bring it down in some ways. However, Predator fans will appreciate the executions, the nods to the films, and even the creature representation. There’s even some nods to the Alien franchise if you really look. Predator: Concrete Jungle is a decent action game at best and a bit underwhelming as a whole.

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