Alien vs. Predator

Atari Jaguar
from AEO Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 12


 |||   Jaguar Review: Alien Vs. Predator
 |||   By: Timothy Wilson
/ | \  GEnie: AEO.8  Internet: wilsont@rahul.net
       ----------------------------------------------------------------

Here it is, a review of the release version of Alien vs Predator (AvP)
for the Jaguar. The ROMs weren't in a case yet, but I did get a
manual. (Lots thicker than the previous games.) First up, it was the
release version, and I spent several hours playing it, everyone got
that? Good.

I'll let you know now that I'm an avid Doom fan, but I didn't like
Wolfenstein 3D. I've played System Shock & Blake Stone too, all of
the same genre: texturemapped rooms with beasties in them. Okay,
that's a generalization but it's supposed to be, it's the same genre
that Jaguar AvP is in. Don't expect this to be an "Oh Gosh!" nothing-
but-praise review.

If you haven't seen any of these games, I'll describe how they're
played. Basically, you view the world through your character's eyes.
The world is populated with objects residing in rooms made up of
texturemapped floors and ceilings and walls - meaning that, instead
of flat polygons or dull colors, the walls look more "real", since
photographic quality "textures" or images are mapped into the 3rd
dimension onto those surfaces. Also, your movements are not
constricted to 90 degree turns and 10 foot lunges - in AvP, the view
can be rotated smoothly around, and you move freely within the game.

If done right, the end result is amazing - you actually feel that
you're -in- the game. Things can come at you from any angle, so you
have to constantly look around and check for beasties. Again, if done
properly, this type of game can really pull you into the gaming drama.

So by now, I hope you've figured out that this isn't like the other
Alien vs. Predator games out there, namely Activision's SNES cartridge
and Capcom's arcade game, both which are side scrolling beat-em-ups.
Also, AvP is not a Doom wannabe, AvP is a slower paced game, so I
suggest those people who want a Doom-like game... well... buy Doom
when it comes for the Jag. I saw it the same day I played AvP - it's
running very fast, and the sounds are great.

Atari Jaguar Alien Vs. Predator is a total rush - the best ever
adaptation of a movie concept to the video game world. As you get to
play three different characters: the Marine, Predator, and Alien, you
get to use all of their gizmos, weapons and tenacity however you see
fit. I'll start with a run down of the characters, and why they're
on ROM.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// Species Roll-Call
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

//// The Alien (Xenomorph)

This is a game of species survival. Your queen has been lost to the
Predators, and it's up to the Xenomorph soliders to get her back. Your
claw, tail, second mouth, and unearthly speed are your weapons. Unable
to heal yourself like the other races on the station, you have to
cocoon Marines to be impregnated with a Xenomorph egg. (This basically
"buys" you a new life after you die.) You may have up to three
gestating eggs at one time, but at least one must be full grown in
order for them to be of use. If you die with a fully gestated egg at
the ready, you'll start life again where you cocooned your victim.
You have free reign of the airducts, so it's easy to hide and wait for
your eggs to grow. This is probably the most challenging character to
play.

//// Predator

His is a game of sport, Predator style. The Predator in question is a
greenhorn, sent to prove himself in battle by eventually killing the
Queen Xenomorph to claim her skull. The only weapon availible at first
is the wrist claw. While the Predator does have the whole shebang -
wrist claw, "Combi-stick" (telescoping spear), killer discs, shoulder-
mounted plasma gun, medi-kit, and the cloak - the weapons are
activated as you gain honor points. You gain use of the Combi-stick at
150,000, the disc at 350,000, while the plasma gun is up somewhere
around 750,000. You get 5000 points killing a Marine with the stick or
claw, and 10,000 for an Alien. The catch is that you must kill while
uncloaked! Otherwise you -lose- honor points when you kill something.
(Sometimes, you get in a situation where you feel you have to play it
chicken and attack while cloaked. Don't get too caught up in playing
it safe though - after all, you're a Predator aren't you?)

With the cloak comes the Pred-o-vision, with 5 different filters
availible to you. Some are useful, and some can be inhibiting,
depending on your surroundings. The idea at the start of the game is
to single out a Marine (they like to travel in packs, but you can
catch one alone if you wait), uncloak near him (you can do so from
behind), gut him with your claw, then immediately cloak again. The
cloak is useless against Xenomorphs, and if you're not careful,
Marines can get a good idea of your presence.

//// Colonial Marine

The Marine's game is one of personal survival. Being the only human
alive on an infested space station (you've just been released from a
90-day brig sentence during which separate Alien & Predator invasions
of your station happened), you must gather clues from the various
computer consoles to figure out what occurred, and what you need to do
to save yourself. Hints gleaned from the data logs guide you to new
weapons and security cards. The cards are used to open certain doors,
or access certain computers. The weapons you gain help keep you alive
by allowing you do waste the aliens more effectively. They include: a
pump shotgun, a pulse rifle, flame thrower, and the best of them all,
the "smart gun". The motion tracker is around there too, but it has to
be found just like the rest. The Marine's job is to get enough
security level passes to set the base's self-destruct, and leave on
the escape pod. No easy task, since that requires searching 5 levels
(plus airducts) and 2 alien ships!

Yes, you will have to travel through the Alien-infested airduct
system, and retrieve items from both ships. Good luck, soldier.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// Details, Glorious Details
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Each character has their own overlay for the keypad, and their own
Heads Up Display (HUD), the HUD is a ghosty image that can be
brightened or dimmed if need be. The Alien HUD shows the status of
your eggs to the left, and your three attacks and their readiness to
the right. Using a claw constantly will reduce its effectiveness.
Waiting between blows allows for the "pull back" of a big swipe to
happen. The Predator HUD has a sound oscilliscope and his medi-kit to
the left, and weapons active on the right. (The oscilloscope reacts to
nearby enemies, but I heard things better instead of watching this
readout.) The Marine's motion tracker (if found) is on the left,
weapons and ammo on the right. All scores are at the top of the HUD.

Each weapon has a number or letter by it, as a reminder of which
button is used to select it. All characters can bring up an automap
that is overlayed in the middle of the screen. The map rotates as you
do, so "up" is always the way you face. The map fills in as you move
along, but it is lost as you move between levels - which brings up a
good point, as you play, you are free to go anywhere you want, there
isn't some lame-o "boss monster" guarding the elevators or guarding
anything in fact. Zero boss monsters in this game, HOORAY!

The controls are similar for each. For the Marine & Predator, "A" is
use, "B" is fire, and "C" (in combination with Left and Right) is
"strafe", or side step. The number keys select weapons, "8" is the map
on/off, "7" and "9" are alternate "strafe left" and "strafe right"
keys. Pause/Option brings up the HUD brightness control and Save game
menu. "6" changes the vision filter for the Predator, and Option
toggles the cloak. The Predator can use Marine food and medi-kits, but
they are stored/ converted in the Predator kit, which is then
activated by pressing "5". This lets you heal when needed, and as much
as you need. The Marine will use up all of a medical kit, even if its
not all needed.

The Alien is a bit different though, "A" is claw/open door, "B" is
mouth, and "C" is tail. In order to Cocoon a Marine for impregnation,
you hit the Marine with a claw, a tail, and a claw. This brings up a
message saying "Cocoon the enemy!" as you walk over the Marine, you
hear a nice painful, gurgling sound, and the Marine is cocooned.

Most sound in the game is straight from the movies. The one to listen
out for is that characteristic Predator snarl if it's nearby (which is
always un-nerving, as Predators are deadly). The Predator also laughs
when a new weapon is aquired. (Billy's laugh from Predator 1.) The
Aliens squeal when wounded, and doors open up with that unique winch
sound.

The Marine mainly just "ooofs" and "arrghs", but they added a bit of
"cheese" to the Marine in that any time he gets a weapon or gadget, he
says something inane. For instance, while grabbing the shotgun from
the body outside his cell, you hear, "What on Earth got ahold of this
guy?" Upon getting the pulse rifle, the Marine busts out with,
"Alright! Bug soup!" Probably the cheesiest comment occurs when you
get the motion tracker, "You can run but you can't hide". The voice is
one of those Hell's Angels-whiskey-and-cigarettes gravely voices that
doesn't really match the Marine's face on the HUD. Thankfully, these
are few and far between, but they do peg the cornball meter.

There is no music apart from the title sequence. (Which uses
beautiful 24-bit rendered graphics.) During the game you hear the
humming of the life support or the thrum of the Predator equipment.
During a good fight (as the Predator), gun shots and flame thrower
exaust were all around as I quickly found myself outnumbered by about
ten Marines. It's a toss-up on whether music should have been in the
game. I would have accepted some original Aliens or Predator music
myself, but the lack of game music didn't annoy me though.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// The Good
=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Jaguar AvP can be an intense game. The save game feature is a godsend,
and there are 3 places to save your game at, so it's not like you have
to play your way through the game in one setting. Rebellion did a
great job on getting the atmosphere right: you have to wait for
airlocks to pressurize; changing vision filters sounds just like it
did in Predator 2; Aliens gather speed as they run; and their acid
blood splashes on you (causing damage) at close range. Scampering
facehuggers and Alien eggs that open when you near them are great
touches. (Open eggs produce face huggers so beware.) The textures used
are low contrast, so putting your face in the wall doesn't give that
big chunky pixel effect. There are windows in walls to look through,
and some doors as well. There's lots to explore, the levels are vast,
and I think it'll be a while before they are all mapped out in your
head.

One other good thing is that unlike Wolfenstein 3D, when you -know-
there's an officer or a guard waiting behind a certain door each time
you play, Jaguar AvP randomizes a lot of its enemies and items in the
station. This greatly enhances the game's replay value, as in each
game, you'll never really know what's waiting for you....

The game was a challenge, I don't believe I'd tire of it quickly. A
particularly heart-pounding moment occured once when I got a pulse
rifle - suddenly a Predator decloaked right in front of me. I let
loose on the trigger while the Predator cloaked again. Green blood was
still visible as I unloaded a good 3 seconds of pulse rifle ammo into
him. Finally, he decloaked and died. Whew! These Predators are tough
fighters, and will often stalk a hapless Marine.

(Just wait until you're playing the Marine and walking down an empty
corridor only to hear a voice come out of nowhere and whisper, "Over
here...". You'll learn to scoot pretty fast.)


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// The Not so Good
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

The Alien bodies on the floor continue to hurt you when you walk over
them. I recall from the movies that the acid ate through floors and
stopped after about 3 minutes. Having just killed a bunch of Aliens,
and then having to walk through the remains all kinda grated on my
nerves, but you'd have to walk through a lot of acid to die.

Restoring a game resurrects all of the bad guys, so don't save in a
room where you just killed 10 Marines. (Like I did.) I would say a
good place to save would be in the elevator. (Or in an airduct, if
you're playing the Alien.) Restoring a game also resets the ammo and
medi-kits too.

Corellating the computer map with your map is difficult, since there
isn't a "north" or "up" on your personal map. It took me a while to
track down the various rooms I was supposed to go into.

Once I was playing the Predator and came across a Marine and an Alien
in the same room. This bothered me. Interestingly enough, I entered
the room and side stepped while watching the Alien. Suddenly, a flame
thrower burst came from behind me and wasted the Alien. Thanks, buddy.

The Marines are trigger happy to the point of stupidity. I lined up
about 5 Marines in a doorway and watched the guys in back torch the
guys in front. Maybe it's supposed to represent panic, but it's a
little too much.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// Overall
=-=-=-=-=-=-=

"The Edge" magazine gave this game a 4/10, and said something about
lack of anything to do. Well, that's bullshit. It's true that it isn't
a shooter, but I got my butt kicked many-a-time playing each of the
characters. I'd say if you want a real killing spree, play the
Predator. Suspense? Play the Marine. And the real challenge of the
game is being the Alien. The -game- here is great, I had an excellent
sense of being the characters, and hey, the audio and graphics are
good too. I'm gonna buy this one.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// Final Ratings
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

       Title: Alien Vs Predator         JagNet: No
      Design: Rebellion                Players: One
Published by: Atari Corp.            Available: October 21 (US)
       Price: $69US                             October 23 (UK)


 Here's the summary ratings:
              "*" is a whole
               "+" is a half
             5 stars maximum


 Control: ****   Strafing is slow, but most moves are similar
                 between characters. No way of customizing.
Gameplay: *****  Lots of variety and freedom. I felt like I was
                 playing a movie!
Graphics: ***+   Better than Wolf3D and its clones, but it's still all
                 orthagonal. Great textures and a lack of chunky
                 pixelated walls.
   Sound: ****+  Clean samples, very atmospheric, with only title
                 screen music. I miss the pulse rifle sound from the
                 movie.
 Overall: ****+  It's gonna get a place in my library. We've gotten
                 what we were promised. I really hope Atari makes
                 this a pack-in.



Pts Stars  AEO Ratings
""" """""  """""""""""
 10 *****  GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good.
  9 ****+  Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent.
  8 ****   Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this.
  7 ***+   Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers.
  6 ***    Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time.
  5 **+    Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this.
  4 **     Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic.
  3 *+     Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun.
  2 *      Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this.
  1 +      Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you.
  0 -      Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.


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