So tonight I really wanted to sit down and try a few demos and top of my list was Aliens vs. Predator. The demo dropped this Thursday and I hadn’t heard anything about it at all. I’ve been playing more PlayStation lately and the TV the Xbox 360 was on was in use so I decided to download the demo from the Playstation Store. The download went quickly even for a nearly 2 gigabyte file and it installed as fast or faster than any PlayStation demo.
Once I started the game however, everything came to a stand-still. The menus ran fine but when I chose the only open, “Quick Match” I began the infinite loop of searching for games. After letting it run for 20 minutes I found it was a common error afflicting the PC and a patch had been released. A similar problem had also been seen on the Playstation but since there was a PC fix I decided to try it out on that platform. I hopped on Steam and let the 2 gigabyte download waste another chunk of my monthly bandwidth and in a few minutes I was off, and this time I actually got into a game. Who releases a demo that doesn’t even let you play the game on two out of the three systems that it is playable on? This was strike one.
The demo offers eight-player death match games. Before the game begins you join a lobby in which you can, or in my case are forced to, voice chat. My microphone was hooked up and laying next to my speakers so upon joining the lobby feedback echoed over all eight players speakers. Who enables voice chat by default without a way to turn it off? This was the strike two. After everyone chooses their species (and if it were the full version, their skin/class) they are given the option to flag themselves as “ready” which apparently does nothing because the game started before I had even thought about selecting my race. My race defaulted to alien, which I wasn’t all that angry about because alien’s are pretty kick-ass in general and their reputation holds in this game. Their ability to crawl on walls, and “sprint” huge distances at great speeds makes them my favorite species to play so far.
With no tutorial or help pop-ups to learn the controls I decided to do what any PC computer player would do and hit escape and find the “controls” set up to see what the controls were. There were control settings eventually but nothing alien specific so I was left to figure it out myself. This was strike three. So now that the demo has already thoroughly got me peeved before I’ve even played it let me tell you about it.
Eventually I learned you could sprint, jump, and for some reason screech. Some of the controls seem to apply only to certain races but as expected the two mouse buttons were the most similar between them. Left click was regular attack, or light attack for both predator and alien, and right click is secondary attack, or in predator and alien’s case, heavy attack. Heavy attacks are like haymakers with a little bit of a wind up.
The only real on-screen instructions that do show up are when you are behind another player and it says “Press E to grab”. Doing so performs one of the overly hyped “kill moves”, leaving you wide open for attack but killing your enemy fairly quickly and without a fight. The weapons available to the soldier were placed lazily around the level in corners, in an unreal tournament style, hovering about the ground while the predator weapons were actually pretty well hidden in locations that were relatively difficult to get to forcing the predator to make a few large jumps exposing themselves to attack.
Tips on the loading screen tend to not apply to the demo as half of them talk about experience points which you cannot earn in the demo. Apparently the kill streaks, wins, and other achievements in game will earn you more experience points which can then be spent to buy skins and possibly other upgrades. The menus and load screens are rather straight forward and fairly pretty, but I can’t say the same for the in-game graphics. Even on max settings on the PC the environment looked plastic and flat. The alien growth growing over the walls was perfectly flat, and the character models were were barely up to standard, appearing to be about the same quality than Half Life 2 characters, if not worse.
The alien moves with some grace with a snake like flowing body, sometimes standing erect to battle, and the predator has some bulk and accuracy, but the cloaking system texture absolutely fails. I’m not sure if it’s just the game mechanics but when moving at all it is very easy to see the predator as his cloaking device crackles. I expected more of a Halo 3-esque cloaking device until he attempts to strike. Maybe this is meant to keep the game balanced, which is important because he already has much more health, and does alot more damage than the other races, plus the ability to find ranged weapons throughout the level.
The one map available in the demo was poorly designed, lacking any feel of reality or promoting strategy. It feels like they just put together a multi-floor map with alien movie style textures, found some interesting places for predator weapons, randomly scattered human weapons and were done with it. Hopefully the map was designed for a different game type and they simply included it in the demo with death match placed weapons.
After playing the Aliens vs. Predator demo I’m not really looking forward to this game anymore. It’s not even vaguely pretty, the demo map was poorly designed, the game mechanics work but don’t seem to be very polished. Unless the full version has some higher quality maps, and makes the game play a little easier to follow I don’t think this will be worth the $50 they’re asking for it.
What do you think of the graphics and gameplay? The demo is on the Xbox Live Marketplace, Playstation Store, and Steam. Go pick it up and tell us what you think.
Aliens Vs. Predator is released February 16th. Who ever wins… We Lose.