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by Fox Interactive / Sierra

screen-fullsize09-01.jpg (3783 bytes)While I have no problem with the entire Alien premise, I do have to ask one question before going any farther: When is this "Corporation" finally going to realize that Alien harvesting is not a cost-effective project? I mean, there must be some really stupid people on the Board of Directors for them to keep pouring money into this kind of thing. Now bear in mind that I am not talking about the writers for the Aliens genre or the people at Fox Interactive or Sierra, but instead the fictional Corporation that is creating the scenarios that we read about and see in this sci-fi universe. I know that the Military–Industrial Complex thrives on the idea of new technology in developing arms, etc., but really, folks, at some point, you think they would get a clue…. but that is just a question I was always wanting to ask, especially after Aliens came out.

screen-fullsize07-01.jpg (5133 bytes)AvP2 focuses on the attempts of the "Corporation" to take advantage of excavations of an ancient and highly developed technology on a planet that just happens to also be a birthing center for an Alien colony. While most of the activities in the Human Encampment focus on this archeological mission, there are factions focused on other, different priorities (What a surprise! Who would have seen this plot twist coming?!) When the experiments go awry, Marines are called in to try and clean up the mess. At the same time, Predators come to the planet in pursuit of kidnapped Clan mates being subjected to highly unethical biological tests involving Alien DN A and all kinds of scientific nastiness. What results is a massive conflict resulting in a HUGE body count, a couple of surprising plot turns, and a rather enjoyable gaming experience.

screen-fullsize01-01.jpg (7056 bytes)AvP2’s high marks come primarily due to its incredibly immersive environment. I mean, I was seriously almost wetting my pants halfway into the first Marine scenario (and that was on the Easy setting!). The lighting and sound effects are so true to life (meaning the atmosphere created in the Alien saga) that I was wondering how long it was going to be until I was lying in a pool of my own blood as some strange creature rips my corpse to pieces. What makes it even worse is that the first Marine scenario draws out the suspense of actual combat until I was actually wondering about the wisdom of playing this game alone, in the dark, in a very deserted office. Since it takes so long for me to actually engage in real combat with the other life forms, I began to really wonder exactly how hard such combat would be.

screen-fullsize02-01.jpg (7629 bytes)I also came to wonder about how wise it is to walk into this kind of place with only a limited amount of ammunition and a motion detector that only works in one direction. I mean, it is such a tense atmosphere; I need someone else to sit next to me just to watch the motion detector while I walk forward. I remember the first time he shouted that something was moving, I think I sprayed about half my ammunition in a 360 "spin of death" before I realized the motion detector was registering the movement of the doors as they opened and closed. While this did cause me to think about how safe such a game could be on my cardiovascular system, another part of me secretly rejoices that a game could have such a primal and intense effect on me.

screen-fullsize04-01.jpg (6892 bytes)I would honestly argue that the AvP2 environment is probably one of the most engaging and enjoyable playing environments I have ever seen. Not only are there sweeping outdoor vistas, normally literally crawling with lots and lots of nasty little (and not so little) surprises, but also all the tight crawlspaces we have come to expect in the Alien universe. Every level not only provides a real difference in experience and sensation, but an impression of progression in both a narrative and physical sense. Very rarely did I feel that I had already been here and done this. Much of the game does involve a repetition of tasks, normally killing anything that moves or opening locked doors, but I never did get bored or feel like I just wanted to get things over with.

screen-fullsize05-01.jpg (6706 bytes)I would also have to complement the designers on creating a game where the feel for the different character races is really passed on to the players. I felt this most acutely in the Alien scenarios, where I would actually play an Alien at different stages of evolutionary development, but I also felt that there was a real difference in the levels I played as an Alien, a Predator, or as a Marine. Although they did use the same textures and mapping features, I felt a totally different kind of connection to the environment each time, which heightened the realism of the game.

screen-fullsize06-01.jpg (6374 bytes)What makes this so enjoyable, especially in the single player missions, is the constant convergence of storylines and the progression of the mission in general. Many times, plot devices are explained or developed as the player fulfills component missions for other races. I found this heightened my desire to complete all the missions and makes the game itself engaging and very enjoyable. There is a particular aspect of the Predator mission "Unexpected Allies" which really emphasized this, though I do not wish to reveal anymore lest I be accused of being a spoiler. Needless to say, from my point of view, it was a very welcome and unexpected pleasure and one that made the entire gaming experience all that much better.

Another appealing aspect of this gaming experience is the effort the design team put into creating a replication of the Alien universe, from chest-busters and face-huggers to exo-skeleton work units. The player is given the opportunity to interact with many of the aspects of the Alien genre that are the source of the sci-fi adventure’s appeal. The Alien scenarios begin with the player experiencing the life-cycle of the face-hugger, requiring the player to find a lone victim in order to progress on to future levels. The next level begins with the player, now a chest-buster, trying to free himself/herself. While this allows a sense of reality to the game, it also poses some serious ethical issues, which I address later in this review. The Alien still possesses the ability to wall-hug, giving a unique perception of the gaming environment. The Alien also possesses a type of Hunting/Night Vision, allowing for low-light vision. This has been changed from the first AvP in that the new vision does not create a "fish-eye" view where the peripheral vision is distorted and blurred; instead, it is replaced with a fuzzy border which is far less distracting and disorienting, especially when hanging upside down over a large mining complex.

Marines, unfortunately, never really get a break – but then again, they are marines and I wonder if they would want it any other way? Marines often find themselves in dark, very unpleasant surroundings wondering if they are going to find an ammo clip or another Alien around the next corner. The fact that the marine is not given unlimited flares, but a kinetic lamp powered by a battery which has to be recharged from time to time adds to this sense of foreboding and often had me asking myself "Why, oh why did I ever start playing this game?!" The weaponry the marine is given is pretty typical, though the actual weapon controls are pretty easy to handle and don’t detract too much from actual game play. As in the original AvP, the smartgun does provide a reassuring sense of power and protection, especially in the dark confines of the Hive and in Alien-infested parts of the Human Encampment. On a side note, I want to complement the design team on a small aspect of one of the weapons most commonly found in FPS games, the chain-gun. While the Chain Gun is a pretty powerful weapon, I really appreciated the realistic aspects of this weapon. It requires a few seconds to spin up and actually come on-line before firing, and the muzzleblast is so great that the actual target is so obscured that I you can’t see it, and it often moves, requiring additional bursts. This is, in all accounts, a small and minute detail, but it was one that I personally really appreciated. That kind of thing makes the game more believable and hence more enjoyable.

Predators do exude a sense of overwhelming power, both in terms of equipment as well as the option to view the world in several different lights with the use of the Mask. The weaponry the Predator has at hand does seem to outstrip those of the Marine or the Alien, but I never felt as though the Predator was completely and totally invincible or that the other two races had been unfairly left out of the race for superiority.

This was particularly clear in the multi-player aspects of the game. I felt as though the multi-player gaming options are just as enjoyable as the single player missions. The multiplayer options not only allow for traditional deathmatch scenarios, but also allow for Alien-specific missions, like Evacuation, where the point of the mission was for one team to simply try and escape the level, where the other team’s mission was quite simple: No prisoners. The multiplayer arenas are quite populated and it’s not difficult to ever find a game, and most of the players I met were both helpful in figuring out how to modify play in the multiplayer arenas. They were also quite personable and welcoming to newbies.

Another aspect of the multiplayer game that appealed to me was the fact the arenas were continually changing. While the players would remain the same, the map would change every time the mission scenarios were met. What this meant to me was that I wouldn’t have to join a game where I was going up against players that had basically specialized in playing one kind of map or one particular playing mode. The same players had to adapt to new environments on a consistent basis, making multiplayer games equitable between experienced and newer players.

While the game does offer a realm of pluses, there are also some rather important aspects of the game that tend to limit its enjoyability. The first of these is its rather simplistic challenges in the single player missions. Most of the challenge comes from simply finding the door that opens or the hatch that responds. There was linearity to the progression of the game that tended to limit my imagination as a player. For example, the Marine and Predator are equipped with hacking devices that allow them to open panels and unlock doors, but this is a feature that only works in certain circumstances. Therefore, it’s no longer a question of trying to deal with the environment but instead just trying all the doors until one opens so that you could move on. The lack of anything remotely related to puzzle solving tends to "dumb-down" the scenarios, but I guess you can’t have everything and still have a playable game at the end. It was just that the scenarios became a little too predictable at the end, since the manner in which you could interact with the environment remained the same even when you changed levels.

The other issue I had with the game is not so much a con as a comment. This game has a ‘M’ rating, meaning it is designed for mature audiences. I have to be honest when I emphasize that this rating is not given idly, considering the content of the game. As the Alien, I was expected to both bite heads and rip bodies apart in order to regenerate health. While this was, in and of itself, a bit disturbing, what really caught my attention was the fact that many of the scientists and other non-combatants would try and flee off into a corner in a feeble and hopeless attempt to hide. When I caught up to them and prepared to regain lost hit points, I would hear them whimpering or pleading for me to leave them alone. In order to win in the game, I would have to ignore these cries for pity and proceed to treat them like hanging sides of beef in a Rocky movie.

At one point, I was expected to find a lone victim as a facehugger and implant an egg. When I finally found an unlucky prospect and succeeded in my mission, I found myself leaping up in excitement and glee, until I realized that my success had really resulted in the painful and violent death of an innocent human being. It wasn’t any better when, as a chestbuster, I was expected to chew my way out of the body of my victim. This was done in a very explicit and bloody fashion. While it was completely true to the game and the storyline, I found it quite violent and almost over the top in its realism, especially in light of the cut scene which followed revealing the impact of my actions.

The kind of callousness this kind of game requires is not something I would recommend for children in any shape or form. I must strongly urge readers of this article to consider what kinds of audiences this game is presented to. It is not that I am saying that this game should be censored or banned; instead, I am recommending that players practice some form of consideration in deciding who will have access to this kind of game.

In essence, AvP2 is the spine-chilling, not-to-be-played-alone-in-the-dark kind of game that many gamers are looking for. The graphics are stunning, the gameplay is intense, and the game is absolutely true to its name-sake for heart-rending action and excitement. I would tell you not to miss this one if you are looking for a way to improve your circulation and clear out any blocked arteries. Your blood pressure will rise after being exposed to this game for any period of time. While it is definitely not made for younger gamers, it is a highly entertaining game that promises hours of fun and suspense.

Clayn D. Lambert   (00/00/2002)


Ups: Spinechilling gameplay; great graphics and ambiance; really, really scary and fun.

Downs: Maybe you don't like lots and lots of blood and gore?

Platform: PC