Monday, January 28, 2019

Alien Vs. Predator Video Game Post

There have been a grand total of fourteen videogames in this combination franchise, not counting games that only feature one of these extra-terrestrials.

By any definition, that’s kind of insane, but it does illustrate the staying power of the idea, and how many folks are drawn to participating in it.

There have been many varieties on the game play, but where it stands out is in the first person shooters.  I believe that started in the old, high end at the time, problematic at any time, somewhat spotty (HA!) Atari Jaguar.

My first introduction was to the PC version. It was my favorite first person shooter on that platform.  It is the first and only game I completely finished on multiple difficulty settings including bonus levels.

When I remembered the good times playing, and sought one out for the PlayStation 3, it became my favorite again.

The first reason is it simulates the environments and sounds of the films excellently.  Human and Yautja weapons, Xenomorph and Yautja vocalizations, and the alarms and other atmospheric noises are all amazing recreations.  The locations both inside and outside were gorgeous as well, matching both claustrophobic interiors, or wild jungles.

But more than that, it's the emotion, and feel of the films that is captured, and captured in three different ways.

That’s another fantastic selling point of the game, it’s really three games. The controls are different for whether the game is played as a Yautja, Xenomorph, or Marine, but that is a superficial difference. It's the emotion of the play that, once more, generates the same feel the films have. 

Playing as the monster provides a reverse viewpoint than what a standard game offers.  Pop up at the right moment, and a human adversary won’t fight back, they’ll scream, cower and run away at the sight of your space borne hideousness. 

The Marine play mode looks and responds the most like a standard shooter, at first.  You’re heavily armed, there are weapon power ups and health packs all around, and you’ve got in game communications coordinating objectives.  It's a straight forward military tough guy game…
Until the lights go out, the coms go static and all hell breaks loose.

Whether it's a horde of Aliens, or an invisible Predator stalking me, at that point I usually go from picking and choosing targets and using controlled fire of specially selected weapons “ain’t got time to bleed,” “state of the badass art” mode to randomly running, throwing flares and screaming, “Whatever it is, it ain’t no man, we’re all gonna die,” and “Game over, man!”

Playing as a Predator is entirely different, it's a stealth game, but one where you outclass just about any individual opponent in size, strength and technology.  Numerous opponents of any type can be an issue, but not always. 
With the right amount of hunting, luring and planning most crowds can be whittled down to manageable size. Then you can leap in the middle with a roar and unleash the claws!

While the Yautja missions do have similarities with some high tech sniper type shooters, the Xenomorph ones are, understandably, Alien.  It’s a first person shooter with no shooting.  Alien “vision” is much wider angle than normal, you can walk on any surface, and a health pack is eating someone’s head.  This is a whole different game.

Similar to my other favorite excellent simulation of a movie environment PC game, (Tie Fighter) some Alien missions let you be on the opposite end of the grouping of most video games. Instead of being one heavily armed and armored individual against the masses, you’re one of that terrifying mass.

Being left with natural weapons, fighting foes armed with long range hardware could make it similar to the Predator’s stalk filled missions.  However, there is another difference.  Xenomorphs are crazy fast.  Wall crawling combined with a lethal leap to bring the claws, tail and fangs in range means: while sprinting can still be the solution to an automatic fire armed enemy, sometimes the best plan is sprinting towards them.  
Put out the lights and the eyeless Alien’s pheromone “vision” means you can easily take out a room full of armed but panicked foes, sprint around their random, scream filled, unaimed automatic fire, and leap into a service duct before the reinforcements show up.  It’s nice to be on the other side of that one for a change.

Besides the immersion and the variety there is one feature of this game that made it a favorite for so long.  It has an “easy” setting.  I want to be able to enjoy that immersion and variety, and not get stuck running the same room over and over again. This is why I finished the PC version at multiple levels.  The run through on easy let me both enjoy the sights and sounds while practicing at it to get better.  I'm hoping the fact that the PS3 version has more difficulty levels means the quantum steps won’t be as large. 

The difference between “easy” and “medium” on the PC tended to be
“Open the storage bay door and hear one Alien in the distance.”
“Open the storage door and hear six Aliens eating my face.”

Having Lance Henriksen lend his voice to the newer version of the game upped the feeling of “correctness’ by orders of magnitude.

But there’s one aspect of the old PC version that I miss.  Even the PS3 version is old enough that I think the multiplayer servers are shut down.  I didn’t play with other gamers back on the PC either though. I’d set up a multiplayer room in the Nostromo or some other expertly recreated environment, and choose easy level Xenomorph hunt, meaning there were only a couple of them.
With my then toddler daughter on my lap, I’d explore the authentic ship interior, keeping an eye out for the occasional Xenomorph in the shadows, while she would reach out and smack the keyboard buttons that fired the grenades or other explosives, and giggle wickedly.

That’s my girl!

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