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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Alien vs. Predator 2 Gold (PC)

If you can't wait until this summer's release of Aliens Vs. Predator on the big screen, fret not! Sierra and Fox Interactive have re-released the action filled shooter Aliens Vs. Predator 2 for the PC gaming platform. The Gold Edition of the now classic game comes with the latest update patch, new levels, and even a free expansion pack. So, warm up those pulse rifles, watch out for acid blood, and prepare yourself for one of the most entertaining sci-fi games of all time!

Let's be completely honest with ourselves. Most games based off of popular TV/Film franchises tend to suck the proverbial turnip in a seriously bad way. There are a plethora of reasons that this tends to be the truth, and we really just don't have the time to go into every dismal example that has hit the PC gaming market over the years. Simply put, the fear of yet another craptacular gaming venture that threatens to suck our precious gaming time away from us like a Hoover vacuum on a dusty old afghan rug was pretty much the chief reason why we declined to pick up Aliens Vs. Predator 2 way back in 2002. We here at The Laser are some of the biggest sci-fi fans that can be found anywhere, and we just couldn't take another butchered game that could have been spectacular. With the release of the gold edition of the game (now at a nice and cheap over the counter price, I might add) we thought that it was time to give the game at least a half-glance to see how bad it truly was. Nothing like being slapped in the face when you're completely wrong about something…just like we were about Aliens Vs. Predator 2. So many, many apologies to the designers of AVP2, for this writer was about as far off the mark as one could get. Not only was the game one of the best FPS titles I've EVER had the chance to play, it also captured the essence of what the Aliens and Predator big screen films are all about.

Ever since the final scenes of Predator 2 when actor Danny Glover stumbled upon the trophy case containing the Alien skull onboard the Predator starship, fans have clamored for more. A ton of material including various comic books series, novels, and the like have for the most part satiated the rabid sci-fi fans wanting more of the story behind the Alien/Predator connection. AvsP2 does an excellent job merging the two bad screen villains into a workable and quite playable game, letting fans jump into the shoes of not only the two notable extra-terrestrial species, but also the burly and efficient Space Marines featured prominently in the second of the Alien films. Aliens Vs. Predator 2 consists of one central story as seen through the three different perspectives of the Aliens, Predators, and Marines. Each singular portion of the game combines elements and gives hints to the other two aspects of the gameplay, allowing the story to unfold in front of you as you progress in the game. Taken as a whole, the back-story is very well written, containing elements of mystery, conspiracy, intrigue, and suspense. Of course this all takes a back seat to the non-stop 1st person action that makes up the bulk of AvP2.

Starting off with the Space Marines, players find themselves in a desperate search and rescue mission on a colony/prison world near the edge of unexplored territory. Right off the bat, you'll find yourself in a dire situation, cut off from your comrades and forced to search an abandoned complex on your own. Borrowing heavily from the film Aliens, the first few levels are incredibly tense and extremely nerve racking. You're expecting so much to happen, yet in reality it's just a walk through to build up on. Rather cool, in my opinion. Glimpses of movement, random blips on your motion tracker device, and creaks and moans of the building really add to the spooky atmosphere of the game. The dark and gloomy environments also add to this effect, giving players more of a Survival/Horror feeling to their gameplay for the majority of the Marine levels.

One still won't forget that this game is based around a 'Shooter' engine, however. As players progress through the Marine levels, this fact becomes apparent as hordes of Aliens try to take you and your team out in a most deadly fashion. 12 or so weapons are made available to players during the course of the Marine levels, mainly made up of retreads of standard Shooter game arsenals. Players will find the usual rocket launcher, grenade launcher, and sniper rifles in the mix. Also available are a few mainstays from the Alien films, including the Pulse Rifle, automatic tracking 'Smart' Gun, and the very useful flamethrower (when encountering hordes of Alien drones on the prowl). Each weapon comes with dual forms of use that allows players to tailor their attacks during specific situations. For example, taking a cue from the films, the Pulse Rifle has the ability to lob grenades, while the Smart-Gun can turn off their auto-tracking capability and just fire large caliber rounds randomly at enemies. The Missile launcher can change from heat seeking mode to point-n-fire, while the Handgun can be used in either dual-fisted mode (depending on your ammo situation) as well as change up types of rounds (from armor piecing to standard shells). Players also can also utilize shoulder lamps and hand flares in order to light their surrounding, as well as switch on a visual infra-red tracking system that sometimes can be useful (but don't always count on it).

Gamers should find the FPS moments in the Marine levels fast paced, thrilling, and extremely entertaining. The combat scenes change up in a heartbeat, moving from fast paced, multiple target situations, to quirky, last man standing/defense scenarios. The various locales for the gameplay within these levels are highly detailed, giving us realistic backdrops that hardcore fans of the films will easily recognize and admire.

After finishing up the Marine portion of the game, players jump into the shoes of the galaxies most infamous hunter, The Predator. Taking on the role of a Predator Noble set with the task of regaining his honor, the Predator character must use his wits, unique weapons, and stealth in order to survive encounters with the Human and Alien contingent found on several extraterrestrial planets. AvP2 gives players the ability to utilize such devices found in the various movie and novels conceptualizations of the extraterrestrial hunter. These include the ever useful cloaking field (which renders the hunter almost completely invisible to the naked eye), the motion tracking/shoulder mounted plasma caster, the deadly harpoon rifle, the movement impeding net-gun, the plasma pistol, retractable arm blades, and the always deadly flying disk. While some of the weapons can be found early in the Predator levels, others make there way into the inventory later on as certain tasks are completed. To aide in the battle conditions,

The Predator character can also change its visual acuity settings on their face-mask/visors, allowing it to see in various light spectrums (allowing for visual heat, cold, and textures within the environment). The mask can also be used to zoom in on objects like a targeting scope, as well as help aide in combat in certain modes by generating a target. For the most part, we found the Predator aspect of AvP2 to be the most entertaining of all of the gameplay elements within the title. Being able to play the Predator with all of the bells and whistles found in the film depiction of the character was just amazing. Sneaking into the Human base and decapitating and collecting skulls of the Marines and other personnel was just fun, no matter how morbid it sounds. Even better was the first time the harpoon gun sent a hapless human fighters head flying off of the body, slamming against the wall as an ornament. While the combat was more subdued than in the Marine portion of the game, there was still plenty of FPS mayhem to be found: alien hordes, angry ex-Marine's toting some mean firepower, and even a few synthetic/android conscripts that were more than willing to unload a clip of ammo at our alien hunter.

While the Predator was the most fun, I have to admit that the Alien portion of AvP2 was the most intriguing of all three chapters found within the game. Starting as an embryo laying 'Face-Hugger', players are charged with escaping from the hold of a starship and staying largely undetected. With no weapons, defenses, or anything else save for stealth and night vision, players must sneak around armed Marines and security personnel, finding passages through nooks, crevices, tunnels, and air ducts in order to stay alive. If the Face Hugger can stay alive long enough, it'll eventually come across a hapless victim to lay its egg within.

The next stage of the game allows players to take on the roll of a 'Chest-Burster', the mini-me version of the full grown adult Alien. Another test of your stealth skills, players must take this smaller version of the big ole nasty guy, and work their way around yet another secured human military compound. If you can keep out of sight of the gun toting marines and security personnel, you'll eventually come across a nice hiding place filled with tasty animals for you to munch on (and that will help you grow into a full fledged adult).

After molting skin and growing into a full fledged Alien drone, the game becomes a little more action packed, and less frustrating. No more skulking around corners and hiding in alleyways while gung-ho soldiers take pop shots at you. Payback is a bear: players can now take their fully grown alien slaughter machine and wreak its special form of carnage on the mostly unsuspecting human population. Though the only weapon you have are your claws, coma inducing tail, and telescoping inner jaw, the damage is considerable (taking off the head of an unsuspecting scientist the first time with the jaw was a sight to see). The Alien character can also rip apart enemies quickly with a jump/attack combo move that literally throws you into your prey with all available force, claws, and teeth. Being an insectoid/arachnid type of creature, Aliens can also climb up and around walls, changing the axis point of their attack. This means they can attack from above their victims by falling straight down on them, or run into nooks and crannies in any location, not allowing a floor, ceiling or wall to hinder their movement or attack pattern. Learning how to navigate on these various surfaces did take some time getting used to, though, and wasn't easy to master. On more than once occasion, we'd find ourselves losing footholds while trying to do something sneaky over an unsuspecting Marine target. Instead of dropping in for the kill, we'd fall right in front of the enemy units and get our butts toasted. Thankfully, AvP2 keeps an almost unlimited amount of save game slots, and you'll need them trying to get the hang of the Alien control system.

Three radically different games set with three different storylines made for one excellent FPS title. Aliens vs. Predator 2 successfully incorporated the best elements of the various Aliens and Predator films into a solid FPS title. The horror/survival elements of the Marine based levels were heart pumping and action packed, keeping up with the best of the genre. The Predator portion of the game, with its stealth elements, sci-fi tech aspects, and its fresh take with combat was really kept the pacing of the overall game up and running. Even the carnal fury that encompassed the Aliens part of the title was entertaining, giving us a rarely seen side to traditional FPS gaming. The writing for each section of the game was very well done and extremely thought out, paying homage to all of the feature films, as well as keeping the sci-fi mythos alive and well for future releases. Even though the game is several years old, the Gold Edition of AvP2 definitely stands up to the test of time, with excellent graphics, modeling, and superb sound quality. Not on that, but Aliens vs. Predator 2 also includes the add-on Expansion pack Primal Hunt, adding more to the original three storylines of the game and keeping the high intensity action at the forefront. All in all, both were great games for fans of Sci-Fi based FPS titles, and with a price under 20 bucks, you can't get a better deal.

- Jim McHugh

Grade: A- 

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