Written by  :  Dr. M. "Schadenfreude" Von Katze (589)
Written on  :  Nov 19, 2003
Platform  :  Windows

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It's like playing the Aliens movie, with a special guest star...

The Good

Dr Eisenberg's experiment is totally out of control, even though he won't admit it...
The mysterious incident no one seems to know much about had something to do with the xenomorphs, I would bet both arms on that... I mean... Pod Number 5 has been totally destroyed!! What kind of cataclism can be so powerful as to take down such a monumental structure?
And now we lost all contact with the exterior. We can't even communicate with the Primary Observation Complex...
Yes, the xenomorphs were involved somehow. We had it coming. Some things should be better left uncovered.
And now I'm definitely sure there's... something else out there.
The Eisenberg has stolen a number of eggs. The Eisenberg wants to make things to them. I have been born in captive. I must escape. The Eisenberg has built an artificial Hive and fooled the Mother into spawn broodlings inside it. The Eisenberg wants to capture the Mother. I must save the Mother.
Here we are, once again. The dumb marines of the VERLOC, always underrated and criticized by civilians and politics, but we are the first to be called when it comes to to put off fires.
The Weyland-Yutani Corporation has problems with one of their colonies again. They lost contact, and we have to find out why. Another raid over some multi-millionaire installation that must not take any harm, which means no heavy stuff.
Again, sent to war armed with a fork.
I only hope this isn't another bug-hunt.

The prey is here. It's my chance to prove myself a worthy leader.
And there's something else too. I seem to recognize them.
Time to hunt.

Aliens vs Predator is a name that speaks for itself in lenghts. The franchise is the physical manifestation of a fantasy that grew in the minds of most of us who were teenagers during the late 80's and early 90's, those nerds who argued for hours about "who would win a fight between...?"
Aliens vs Predator 2 is in general lines a great improvement over the original ALIENS VS PREDATOR. Not that the first game was bad at all (in fact it's an excellent game) but this one's much more of a cinematic adventure, with an actual story to follow, and a lot of technical enhancements.

Gameplay-wise, both games are the same: a first person shooter (FPS), with some very light adventuring to do —the pull the lever to open the door at the other end of the building kind of adventuring.

This second game is powered by the Lithtech engine, which grants a smooth and good-looking gameplay, providing you have a generous amount of RAM and a powerful video card. A graphics chip with a Z-Buffer is greatly appreciated, since the game features extremely large outdoor environments.
In this regard, the scenario graphics are amazing. Outdoor environments are not only massively huge, but also very well designed, full of life and details in their grim loneliness. Indoor scenarios are certainly something: they're perfect recreations of the buildings we've seen in the 'Aliens' movie.
Characters feature a much higher poly-count than in the first game, higher resolution textures, life-like skeletal animation, and what all not. Some particular characters we got to see in the first game will show up again, like the predalien and the praetorian alien, and they look much better and way more menacing.

Regarding the sound, we've got an immersive music score which matches the action perfectly, getting to enhance the atmosphere very nicely with its changes of pace; we've got a very acceptable voice acting which matches the game perfectly; and —above all— we've got every single one of the sounds we've heard in 'Aliens' and 'Predator' movies. The other day I watched 'Aliens' for the Nth time, and I noticed that even the noise of the doors opening and the elevators is the same.

Like it happened with its predecessor, the most interesting feature of AvsP2 is the possibility of playing three different stories: Alien, Predator, and Marine. This gives the game a lot of interest, since every character needs to be played in a very different way according to his particular abilities/limitations.
Playing as the predator is just as fun as it was in the first game. It's like the guest star of the movie, but at the same time it's the most interesting character to play. Here, it has a few new weapons and the ability to perform HUGE leaps, which sets it quite apart from being just a marine that can get invisible.
The alien —as cool as always, with its ability to walk on walls and ceilings, and feed on enemies' heads— now can pounce on an enemy from a large distance, and has one added trivia attractive: the first level we will play a facehugger in search of a victim to infest, and the second level we will play the newborn chest-burster, looking for food and safe hiding in order to get to evolve into the real thing.
The marine missions, like it also happened in the first game, are the most horror-inclined ones. In AvsP2 we have a radio through which we are in contact with the team, and even though it's not a real useful feature, it really adds to the atmosphere, specially when after a while of nothing going on, suddenly there are xenomorphs all over the place, and as we try to fight our way out, we hear our desperate comrades, the gunfights, and the aliens chilling screams. The whole lot is like playing a scene from the 'Aliens' movie. Furthermore, there are a few bonuses that every 'Aliens' fan will greatly appreciate, like the possibility of using one of those exo-skeletons that Ripley used to fight the alien queen.

The multiple-character device in AvsP2 has yet another piece of interest, since it not only involves gameplay: as the three stories are set in the same timeline, playing each character will let us watch the same story from a different perspective, so only by the time we finish the game with all three characters we'll have the whole thing figured out.
This way, even though the storyline is nothing to write home about, the way it's told really is. This is one of those games in which a smart storytelling makes interesting an otherwise rather simple storyline. Note that even though I say the story is not that great, it IS much better than in the first game, featuring a few plot twists in which, for example, the marine will have to fight other human beings as well as aliens and a predator.

To spice the game up, there are multiple winks for the player who pays attention. One of the greatest things is, there are several moments in the game in which we will meet ourselves.
For example: there's a stage in the marine missions in which we open a door and, incidentally, we release a predator who's being held captive in some sort of cryo-capsule.
At a certain point in the predator missions, we'll get setup, caught, and contained in some capsule. Upon waking up, we'll see a marine passing by and releasing us before escaping through some hole in the floor.
Playing as the alien we'll pass by some laboratories, and we'll see a captive predator being released by some dumb marine...

The Bad

In the first place, I found this game too short. I played it right after I finished DEUS EX —one of the longest experiences a person can go through- and maybe that distorted my perception of what a long game is, but I think there's definitely something wrong in the game, that left me with the impression that something was missing...
As you can guess, the marine missions end in a confrontation with the alien queen; but the thing is, it happens too soon, and it's not as... spectacular as it should be.

The atmosphere, although pretty chilly and immersive, isn't nearly as scary as it was in the first ALIENS VS PREDATOR, specially in the marine missions. Strangely, I fail to tell WHY is this, but I found lots of people saying the same thing: even though AvsP2 is technologically WAY superior to the first ALIENS VS PREDATOR, the first game was WAY more scary.

The taunts! What ever happened to the taunts? In the first game, it was quite amusing —playing as a Predator- to invisibly sneak behind a marine, suddenly yell at him, and watch him run around horrified.
Here, the taunt key doesn't do a thing!
I know, it's not a useful feature, and let alone useful, but... I want my taunts back!!

And finally, what I think is the biggest flaw of this game: there are some special effects, like the visual modes of the Predator, the marine's motion tracker, or even the blood-shot whenever we sever a head, that were MUCH BETTER done in the first game.
The marine's motion tracker is awfully designed, with some horribly silly blue colour, and it isn't nearly as useful as it was in the first game. Maybe part of the lost atmosphere I was talking about relies in the fact that the first ALIENS VS PREDATOR made us much more depending on this tool, which we needed just as badly as we got to hate, with its nerve-breaking beeping. In AvsP2, on the other hand, you can forget about it quite easily.

The Bottom Line

Aliens vs Predator 2 is a must for every 'Aliens' fan.
The first game was a really cool experience, but it was more of a typical FPS with a scary twist —granted, REALLY scary.
This game, on the other hand; is REALLY an 'Aliens' game. It IS another FPS, but it features your typical 'Aliens' plot, with all the characters and events you would expect from an 'Aliens' movie.
Plus, there's the Predator, who adds a whole new dimension to the package, specially gameplay-wise.

I'm usually a storyline-driven guy, and pretty picky about the games I like, but this (as it happens with the 'Aliens' movie) is one pure-action game which I just can't stop replaying.