As horror gaming enthusiasts slowly come to terms with the hugely disappointing release that was Aliens: Colonial Marines, we’re left with questions as to the continuation of the franchise. Seemingly, the iconic Aliens are destined to languish in video game conversion hell as we, the gaming public, struggle to understand exactly why justice remains to be done to what should be video game gold. We have to cast our minds back many years to remember when the Xenomorphs truly shone in digital form, which only compounds our confusion over the series’ ongoing dilution in quality. As we wait for the aforementioned game’s fallout to no doubt surprise us further, another development team have tasked themselves with bringing the iconic killers (along with their sworn enemies, the Predators) back to gamers. Having already released the not lamented Robert Rodriguez’s Predators for iOS and Android, Angry Mob Games have proved they are at the very least fully versed in the franchise lore, and therefore have a better chance of getting H R Giger’s vicious killing machines right. As such, we’ll skip straight to the most pressing question; is Aliens vs Predator: Evolution the success fans are not only hoping for, but genuinely deserve?
If the purpose of Aliens vs Predator: Evolution was to reintroduce two of horror’s most relentless and violent forces of death as clumsy, unresponsive and near-blind parodies of their former selves, then yes, AvP:E can be considered an unquestionable success. The setup is a familiar one for both species; on the one hand we have a rogue Alien seeking revenge on the Predator clan who enslaved the Alien Queen, and on the other we have a rogue Predator who also happens to be out for revenge. And both species are attempting to secure their vengeance via an overly long, repetitive, and badly designed 3D brawler. The opening chapters for each creature, while superficially different, offer little more than a series of enemy encounters in various generic corridor-focussed environments. Combat consists of two button combination, which are as unresponsive as they are unwieldy. Trying to block enemy attacks while striking back at the appropriate time is nigh-on impossible, thanks to the sluggish response time. Add to this a quick time event which is simply broken, in order to achieve an “execution” kill (which, when successful, regenerates health), and the game’s central mechanic become an exercise in frustration from the offset.
To add further insult to an already injured franchise, the camera is a prime example of what not to implement when developing a fast-paced, action-oriented brawler. While the player can opt to manually control the viewpoint, the game delights in switching back to the angle it deems optimal. Sadly, for the most part we didn’t agree with its choices (especially when engaged in battle with pulse rifle wielding enemies and the ‘optimal angle’ elects to hide them from view). Health drained and unable to execute the previously mentioned broken QTE in order to regenerate, it’s section restart start time. Again. Both species can be levelled up throughout their respective campaigns, via their species-specific points. The Predator utilises “Honour” points while the Xenomorphs prefer Xeno points. As you would expect, both sets of points are attained in-game (albeit rarely), or players can choose to forgo frustration and purchase packs via in-app purchases. Unfortunately, species evolution does nothing to rectify the game’s fundamental flaws.
A key criticism of the recent Aliens game was one of wasted potential. Aliens vs Predator:Evolution is guilty of the same unforgivable crime. The frustrating truth is that the game does have fresh ideas to bring to the table, and there are a couple of notable set-pieces which, if they weren’t fatally marred by the game’s many flaws, would give gamers a taste of what they desire from both franchises. Alas, AvP:E seems to go out of its way to remove any and all aspects of fun, with a malfunctioning camera and broken combat, and generic and linear game design. Taken as a brawler alone it would fail to turn heads, and would likely only find a small audience if offered as a F2P time sink, but the fact that it’s a licensed game, featuring two of cinema’s most cherished and feared death-dealing dervishes of destruction, is simply offensive. Angry Mob Games had the perfect opportunity to appease long-suffering fans, but their truncated development cycle has resulted in a fighting game which refuses to let you fight, a camera system that refuses to let you see, and a further grievous wound to an already deeply damaged franchise. In space, no one can hear you scream (for your money back).