Monday, December 27, 2010

Aliens vs Predator 2

With the, almost, recent release of Aliens vs Predator (2010) earlier this year, there have been a lot of comparisons to the previous iterations in the series: Aliens vs Predator (1999), Aliens vs Predator 2 and its expansion pack Primal Hunt. I have not given Aliens vs Predator (2010) more then a cursory try, so am not very qualified to say more then that I agree with most of what I have heard. But a statement by Notch summarizes my opinion of it very well: “The original developers totally fail to understand what was good about the first one”.

What I did play a lot of is the multiplayer of Aliens vs Predator 2. It is a top notch FPS, with tons of customizable features, loads of unique content, and great community created mods and maps. It is surprising how well they were able to balance the diverse abilities and gameplay of the three races: Human, Alien, and Predator. They are all very different to play with, which leads to some interesting multiplayer modes. Bottom line, if you are looking for a unique multiplayer FPS you cannot find one much better then this.

The Humans have radar, giving them the general location of all moving creatures in their vicinity; This is really needed because they are by far the most fragile of all the races without the stealth or the armour of either the Aliens or the Predators. But what they do have is excellent well rounded long range weapons of all types. These attributes combines to make them a race best suited to cautious players; Basically if you see the enemy soon enough you have an advantage over them, but stop paying attention and you can be dead before you even know you are in danger.

The Aliens, most notably, can climb on walls, ceilings, and any other surface in a completely free roaming manner; and it is surprising how easy it is to get used to this. This wall climbing allows them to hide in shadow enshrouded clefts in the ceiling or on top of tall towers in outdoor maps, out of view, hopefully, until it is to late. They are also very fast, and of course have powerful melee attacks, and an incredibly long range pounce. And all of its mobility advantages must be used, because unlike the other races it does not have any long range attacks and it cannot even count on shadows or distance to hide them when facing Predators. Because of all of these aspects, Aliens play almost completely different from the Humans; The player wants to be continually moving as fast as they can while in the open, and patience only comes in handy if you want to lay in wait in a good ambush location.

Predators play a very diverse role. verses Humans they are masters of stealth capable of becoming invisible and because of their inferior ranged weaponry they must use this advantage to kill the humans before they are noticed. While verses Aliens their stealth is useless, but their weapons are also very powerful against them; Their energy weapons in particular are very devastating against Aliens, but they even have a head-on melee advantage over them. Predators are capable of many vision modes that include one for each race to bring then into focus and allow the use of guided weaponry. The most unique aspect of the Predators are their energy bars. Many of the Predators weapons and abilities use energy that must be recharged when depleted; This recharging causes them to become very vulnerable for a short time. One of their most surprising abilities is their health recharging ability; At anytime, if they have a enough energy, they can completely restore their heath in exchange for a short period of vulnerability and most of a full store of energy. All of this probably makes them sound completely overpowered, but they are, in my opinion, the hardest to learn how to use proficiently and even harder to master.

Because of all of this diversity and unique gameplay there is quite a lot of interesting multiplayer modes, in addition to the classic modes. I do not even remember most of them, but there are a few that left a strong impression. There is a survival mode that pits a singe Alien against a team of Humans; The catch is that the Alien will continue to respawn when killed but when a Human is killed he responds as a Alien. There is also a similar game where their is one Predator verses a team of Humans, but in this match both teams continue to respawn as normal and do not switch sides.

The last thing I want to touch on is community made content. There are many great fan made mods to improve gameplay and balance, worth checking out but I do not remember any names at this time. Additionally, I believe that official multiplayer servers are no longer running, but through programs like Qtracker people can continue to play against each other online, and a few years ago there was still quite a few fan servers constantly running. But over and above all of these other things I want to talk about custom maps. There are a great many wonderful fan made maps available, most of which are compiled into a single giant map pack, the Ultimate Mappack 2 with its many updates (which I think you have to install if you want to have absolutely everything): 1, 2, 3, 4.

Some of these maps are very fun, and I remember playing one with a very unique and fun gameplay mode many times. Sadly I do not remember the name of the map, but will try to faithfully explain it in the following paragraph. The match starts of with a countdown timer and the players splitting up into two teams: Alien and Human. The Aliens spawn in there underground lair and have infinite lives, but will lose when the timer reaches zero. The Humans start in the front of a military complex with the alien hive just outside and have a set number of lives and must survive until the timer reaches zero. From the alien hive the aliens have two possible routes; The faster but most dangerous is above ground route in which the Aliens must race across a open plain while likely being shoot at by Humans through inaccessible or closeable windows and openings. Alternatively, they can try to tunnel through a specific spot underground and through the initial line of Human defences. The humans when they first start, and throughout the entire game, have to quickly shore up defences, turn on devices, and take extremely cautious and defensible positions. The Humans will likely have to retreat and the map was designed for this, there are many doors and locations that can be quickly locked to slow the Alien advance as well as turrets and other impediments. And throughout the entire map there are multiple routes and defensible places. In general the map gets less defensible the further you retreat inwards, but then the aliens have to cover more ground when they respawn so it kind-of evens out. One of the more interesting Human devices in the complex is in the last defensible location, the command room. This device actually tracks the location of all the Aliens throughout the entire map. All of is this combines to produce a very interesting match on both ends; As an Alien I always felt like the head of a endless horde of unstoppable invaders, while conversely as a Human I was always quite frightened and vulnerable but also extremely satisfied when I was able to set up the perfect defensive location.

1 comment:

  1. Aw man you're are making me want to buy this game so much.
    I played the first one but never 2 for some reason and I remember the stress and tension as a human (and the confusion as an Alien ;) ).
    You're write-up made all those memories flashing back.