Rebellion Gets A Forth Swing At AvP
Back in the first half of the 1990s, a little-known game development company called Rebellion released its first major title for a brand-new game console called the Atari Jaguar. That game was called Alien vs. Predator, and even though the ill-fated Atari console died after a short run, the title is still remembered as a shining star in the early days of first-person shooters.
In 1999, Rebellion was commissioned to develop a similar title for the PC. Dubbed Aliens versus Predator, the game will always be on my list of all-time favorites. It offered a triple campaign that allowed you to play through as a colonial marine, alien, and predator, all with their unique strengths and weaknesses.
Aliens versus Predator was one of the first PC games that let gamers experience really diverse cross-class multiplayer combat, and is the first PC game I can recall that really delivered a great multiplayer co-op survival mode. At the time, 10 years before Left 4 Dead's survival mode, people were helping each other survive an endless onslaught of fierce and endless aliens. Afterward, Aliens versus Predator 2 was handed to another game developer: Monolith. This company delivered a solid story, but in my opinion, Aliens versus Predator 2 never quite captured the creepy atmosphere of its predecessors. While Rebellion was again employed to create Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem for the PlayStation Portable in 2007, it is a movie tie-in title that wasn't very well received.
When I heard that Rebellion was in charge of the third PC installment, I was elated that the company was given another chance to once again provide a solid dose of sci-fi survival horror with the newest game in the series, simply called Aliens vs. Predator. More than 10 years after the original, I'm playing the spiritual sequel. But unfortunately, like almost everything else I've allowed myself to be enthusiastic about, the result is a little disappointing. Is the new Aliens vs. Predator a bad game? I don't think so, but the single-player campaigns seem to be missing a star quality that the original had.
The most unsettling thing about the sequel is that I can't quite put my finger on exactly what--if anything--is wrong. The graphics are lovely and the controls seem adequate enough, even if they can be finicky. Combat is updated appropriately and the proper challenges are where they should be. Playing a marine is unsettling, playing a predator delivers a powerful hunter vibe, and playing as the alien lets you experience the ugly fun of toying with hapless human victims before sneaking in for the kill.
I re-played the 1999 classic to see if I was watching the past through rose-colored glasses. The graphics are dated, but instead of being put off by the antiquated title, I found myself enjoying the experience. In the new game, the marine is lead around by an objective arrow, but in the original you just have to explore and find what you need to go on. I find this adds a lot of suspense and forces me into places I otherwise would try to avoid.
In the new game, aliens are somewhat slow to reach you, but are surprisingly resistant to gunfire. In the original, they come at you incredibly fast and are a bit easier to put down. The speed they wield in the original leads to more surprises, and even a jump or two. Another difference: the new game allows marines to push back aliens with melee in order to get an extra second to reload, but melee is not a marine's option in the original.
Are there any other differences of note? Predator players plan their jumps using a target reticule and land exactly where they designate, but in the original you have to manually run and jump. Sure, the old-school platform-style can be frustrating, but it's definitely more involving. The current title does allow the predator to jump a lot higher and stalk prey from treetops, which is cool. In the original, playing as an alien seems a bit more vulnerable, and this fragility causes you to employ stealth a little more when stalking your prey. Admittedly, this is a subjective observation. Aside from the characters, the new levels seem a lot more linear and the player is often corralled through a valley with one way in and one way out. In the prequel, the corralling was a little more subtle and the on-rails feeling wasn't as in-your-face.
Looking over my comments, it seems like I can sum up my complaints about the new single-player Aliens vs. Predator experience in two words: dumbed down. It's not as easy to be unsettled by danger when someone's holding your hand and telling you what to do and exactly where to go. There's no need to cover the map when you simply have to follow your objective marker and there's no opportunity to explore when you're locked in a valley. The direction of the new Aliens vs. Predator might well suit the tastes of many gamers, but for me it fell a little flat.
There is one single-player option that does seem to capture the spirit of the original game, and that is survival mode. Essentially, it's a gauntlet where the player tries to hold out as long as possible against never-ending and increasingly larger waves of aliens. This is a great diversion when you have a limited time to play and it does seem like the aliens might be a bit faster and more aggressive than they present in the single-player campaign. Maybe it's just the sheer number of them and the fever pace, but it's fun nevertheless. This mode is also available as a co-op multiplayer mode.
Speaking of multiplayer, any dumbing-down is less relevant because you're testing yourself against other thinking human players instead of AI bots. Other players face the same limitations and advantages you do. Indeed, multiplayer offers a greater challenge and a lot more satisfaction for someone who wants to test their predator, alien, and marine skills against worthy opponents. Frankly, I've played so many death matches over the years that this simple game type usually bores me without any metagame objectives. Nevertheless, I get a real perverse pleasure in playing a marine stalked by predators and aliens. There's definitely a wonderful atmosphere that this game carries, and in multiplayer, I find it to be very satisfying.
There are also some fun and unique game types, such as Predator Hunt and Infestation. In Predator Hunt, one player is the predator against everyone else playing a marine, and if a marine takes out the predator, he or she becomes the predator. In Infestation, all players start out as marines except for a single alien player and every marine that is killed re-spawns as an alien.
These are some great ways to take advantage of the Aliens vs. Predator license. On the downside, it can take forever to join a ranked match (the only way to unlock alternate multiplayer skins) and there are no dedicated servers yet. But this is a feature Rebellion has promised to add in the future.
Of course, there's another factor to consider when talking about the new Aliens vs. Predator: DirectX 11 enhancements. The game will take advantage of new-generation Radeon and GeForce cards to enhance the experience with tessellation effects, shadows, and DirectX 11-exclusive anti-aliasing (AA).
Now that the subjective portion of the program is over, let's dig into some objective data: image quality, DirectX 11 functionality, and performance with a wide range of graphics cards.
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The thing is, same with DirectX 10, you aren't going to see considerable difference unless it's coded specifically for that API. I have seen some absolutely amazing things done with DirectX 10, but only because the engine was purely for DirectX 10, and to my knowledge, no one has even attempted that with DirectX 11 yet anyway.Reply
To reach the broader audience, games are coded with DirectX 9 in mind then have DX10/11 tacked on with a few features.
We're not going to see much of a jump until DX9 is dropped completely, and especially with consoles running around DX9-ish, it's not going to happen till they upgrade, probably. Just my 2c.
I will say one thing, DX11 is a new api, and though the differences in screenshots is minute, it's great to see no performance loss going with DX11. I think it took a whole year or more to actually see performance increases with DX10 vs. DX 9.Reply
So that is one thing you can take out of this.
"Rebellion Gets A Third Swing At AvP" I thing that should be second swing, as AvP 2 was done by Monolith. Or swing at the third installment :-)Reply
Anyway, the original AvP was the best single and multiplayer pure FPS I ever played. The Alien was the king there, incredibly fast and agile and if done right, one hit killing anything in the game except a marine with a smartgun and head on (or predator with plasma guns in the same situation) :-) ...
The second AvP failed miserably in all aspects maybe except story telling ... I have to have a look at the current one still ... but from your description, I guess I won't like it. Marine with melee against Aliens ? W T H !!!!
KelavarusThe thing is, same with DirectX 10, you aren't going to see considerable difference unless it's coded specifically for that API. I have seen some absolutely amazing things done with DirectX 10, but only because the engine was purely for DirectX 10, and to my knowledge, no one has even attempted that with DirectX 11 yet anyway.To reach the broader audience, games are coded with DirectX 9 in mind then have DX10/11 tacked on with a few features. We're not going to see much of a jump until DX9 is dropped completely, and especially with consoles running around DX9-ish, it's not going to happen till they upgrade, probably. Just my 2c.Reply
good points, all true.
the biggest thing with DX10 was that it was vista only, no XP. as people flock to win7 with dx11 built in, that won't be such a big problem. also, dx11 doesn't really add much, it just kinda improves on dx10 and adds a couple of really useful things that should actually make life easier for everyone (kinda like win7 compared to vista I suppose) it adds proper multi threading in the drivers and allows the rendering engines to be multi threaded now. this is just a software thing too, so its not really hardware dependant (you don't need dx11 hardware to benefit) the other really useful feature added is tessellation. which is something that devs already do manually, and painfully in dx9 games. if anything its probably better for developers production times than it is for the end user! no complex art pipelines or engines, automatic performance scaling (the card knows how fast it is and can dynamically allocate the right proportion of triangles to every object in order to reach an exact total frame poly budget). it also adds compute shader. all of these things don't really add anything new, we had tessellation on GPGPU before, but it was all third party and more convoluted, so its more about ease of development than new stuff. don't take that the wrong way though. ease of development should lead to much bigger leaps and bounds in graphics than new features that everyone was too scared to use anyway.
Sounds like the new avp faces the same problem borderlands does - it's too easy! I compare borderlands with fallout 3 as they feel about the same. But in borderlands you've got this constant pointer to exactly where you're supposed to go - which makes you not even try to read the actually mission briefings - and when you've just downed a boss you stop and think 'what ? this easy?'Reply
Dumbing down's been seen in wow since burning crusade too. I suppose developers are just broadening their potential customer base by making the games so simple that any 10 year old can play them sufficiently well.
Depends on how you play borderlands, if you go to misions over your level is not that easy..Reply
XxOsurfer3xXDepends on how you play borderlands, if you go to misions over your level is not that easy..Yes it is.Reply
Sure 3 levels over you, and you do next to no damage - but you don't die, you simply run out of ammo!
I solved the difficulty level problem by running a lan game and have two other of my chars join. Now there's a feeling of difficulty in playthough 2, but given the directions you're still just following pointers and aren't really immersed in the plot at any rate. You don't have to think, just shoot. Could's well play cs or some other shooter
I really can't understand why you didn't use the older ATI 48xx series cards in your review. It would seem logical to do so as there are a lot of your readers with previous gen cards that are thinking about upgrading. You guys did use the Nvidia 260 and even the older Nvidia 9800 GT, but not the "populair" Ati cards.Reply
Third swipe, the first AvP was for the Atari Jaguar, by Rebellion and was a cracker.Reply
Don Woligroski, I must say that is a very nicely written article! I've only been seeing your name more recently; are you new to Toms?Reply
As for the games themselves: I would have to disagree on the second avp being a failure. The game packs everything you state the first one got right. I would also have to say that the multiplayer is(was) excellent. Theres nothing quite like dropping 150 feet as an alien onto some poor guys head (and the things he would say too!)
Do people still play AVP2 online? If so I might have to get myself into a match for a quick fix.