AvP 2010: Introduction

I've long been a huge fan of Aliens vs Predator, which if you didn't bother to click the link is referring to the 1999 FPS in which you can play as an Alien, Predator, and Colonial Marine. There's a lot of reasons for this, such as how games that let you play as an Alien are basically nonexistent, but a big part is that the game is very solidly executed. (Note that I'm speaking from a single-player perspective here: I've barely touched multiplayer) There's flaws, to be sure, with two of the most bothersome being how easy it is to get lost, which is compounded by the second issue of the campaign missions being pretty terrible at making it clear what you're expected to do, but it's tremendously fun and is one of the bare handful of games I've played that succeeds in eliciting fear/horror/tension from me on more than a passing, superficial level.

Conversely, I was pretty thoroughly disappointed with the sequel, AvP 2, which I eventually learned was made by a different company -the same people who made F.E.A.R., as a matter of fact. I'm not going to get into it here, but F.E.A.R. is one of the most pathetic 'horror' games I've ever seen, and AvP 2 is entirely consistent with the level of effectiveness here, making basically all the same mistakes and leading to a tedious, boring single-player experience. To be fair, people seem to be fond of AvP 2 more for its multiplayer than anything else, and I'm certainly curious how well it's class-based approach works in practice... but not curious enough to actually buy the game, which would be necessary to give multiplayer a shot.

The point is that I was pretty unhappy with AvP 2, and was worried the series was dead, or worse yet any future sequels would be in the same vein as AvP 2, which had utterly missed the point of various critical design decisions.

Thankfully, AvP 2010 came along eventually, though the timing ended up a bit awkward for me; I actually heard about it when it was first going to be released, but stuff came up and I forgot about it entirely until the most recent Alien Day sale happened to bring it to my attention. I suspect part of why I forgot was I mentally wrote it off because the advertising seemed to paint too different a picture from the 1999 game to appeal to me.

In some ways the game is a very different game from the 1999 game... but the 'magic' is actually still there, unlike AvP 2. I've really been enjoying the 2010 game, even as it has its own share of flaws that would be nice to have ironed out, in stark contrast to AvP 2 being a trainwreck I wish didn't exist.

As such, I'm going to be doing a series of posts: the first three will be covering each species', primarily from the perspective of campaign design (Though avoiding spoilers), acting half as guides. The fourth will be me covering the game's story, as the game tries to tell a single intertwined story, contrasting with the 1999 game having each species' campaign a standalone story. After that I'll be going into more detail about the ways AvP 1999 and AvP 2010 are more similar than AvP 1999 and AvP 2 are, and the implications for among other things how successful each game is at pulling off horror.

First I'll be starting off with the Predator.


  1. >...such as how games that let you play as an Alien are basically non-existent...

    Games that let you play as anything other than a human are thin on the ground. And I'm talking about playing as something distinctly physically nonhuman, rather than a humanoid with cat ears or whatever. I remember seeing the big robot-dinosaurs in the Horizon: Zero Dawn trailers and wishing I could play as one of them.

    On another note, have you considered playing and writing about Alien: Isolation?

    1. I seriously considered buying Alien Isolation during the Alien Day sales, but ended up going with AvP 2010, actually.

      It's a game I've been planning on getting ever since I first heard about it, and I'm liable to talk about it once I do, yes.

      I personally don't necessarily mind the lack of games that let you play as non-humans in aesthetic terms, because that's really all it is: aesthetic. The main realm I've noticed being lacking in real terms is that games pretty much never go with a physically massive protagonist who uses said mass as a part of the gameplay, even though that could be a really interesting gamespace in its own right. Otherwise? You've got games with flight, teleportation, sneaking, hit and run, overwhelming force, careful resource management, careful coordination of a team, burying the enemy in the legions of bodies your forces can field... it's kind of silly how some cases will insist on a human aesthetic even though some other aesthetic would be a better fit to the gameplay, but in most cases it's not terribly important whether your disposable minions are supposed to be Tyranids or Chinese soldiers etc etc. It still works out to plenty of gameplay diversity.

      I've got some more roundabout issues with the humanocentric thing I guess, but as far as game design goes the lack of 'you play as Aliens' is an issue to me because they have a unique dynamic, set of capabilities, etc, that provides a fantastic launch point for a number of unique game ideas... aaaand they get reduced to disposable mooks you kill, most of the time.

  2. I will look forward to an Isolation review from you. Judging from the Concrete Jungle review, you seem to be on an Alien/Predator kick, so maybe I'll get to see it soon?

    Below are some of my own thoughts about Isolation. You may not want to read it if you want to go in with no preconceived notions at all:


    The story and writing is uninteresting rot. I figured out early on that I was better off not paying attention to it.

    The aesthetic, atmosphere, and sense of place is on point.

    The portrayal of the Xenomorph itself is utterly fantastic. I loved how it moved around and prowled the hallways. I love the fact that the more you use ease-of-life items (flares/noisemakers for distraction, the flamethrower to scare it off) the less effective they become. It "learns and adapts" as much as a video game NPC can with current day tech.

    Working Joe androids are creepy and fairly threatening. Beating them up with a wrench and/or blowing holes in them is cathartic, especially after evading the effectively unfightable Xenomorph.

    There's room for lots of neat actions on your part. Such as luring the Xenomorph into an area to "deal with" humans hostile to you. Or that time when the Alien was charging at me down a corridor and I lobbed a firebomb into its face a fraction of a second before it would have killed me, losing a chunk of health but temporarily driving it off in the process.

    The difficulty is...not ideal in my eyes. See, part of the Xenomorph AI involves a "leash range" - basically it will always stay within a certain radius of the PC as it searches for her, though it won't know exactly where she is until it has line-of-sight. The higher the difficulty level gets, the closer it is chained to your feet. You would be able to solve this by tossing some flares and/or noisemaking devices to distract it...but higher difficulties *also* starve you for the crafting materials you need to create these things.

    I found myself playing on the second-easiest difficulty, where the leash range felt "right" but the game dumped crafting materials and flamethrower fuel onto me to the degree I never felt like I wanted for anything. I actually had plans to poke around in the config files to modify the difficulty settings to be more to my liking, but I got bored and gave up.

    Tragically, Sevastapol (the space station setting) is a place begging to be explored...but the game objectives don't want you to. You actually *can* take tram trains to any place in the station as you please, but the game objectives constantly push you in a singular direction and the Xenomorph is almost always hounding you so you are pressured to follow the big flashing words instead of forging your own path. It's a shame, because Sevastapol as we see it could have made for a neat 3D metroidvania. I even remember seeing an item in an early area locked behind something that could be opened with a mid-game tool...but there was no impetus to go back for it.

    If you look up walkthroughs, there is a particular point in the campaign where you get to explore Sevastapol without fear of being molested (heh) by the Xenomorph. I didn't take advantage of it on my one playthrough, but perhaps you would like to.

    Finally, the game runs headalong into the conundrum that killing you is perhaps one of the least scary things a game can do. When you're on a roll and skilfully evading the Xenomorph, the tension - and your heartbeat - remains high and the intended experience is preserved. When you run into a problematic section and die repeatedly, the illusion is broken and you just find yourself annoyed.

    1. I did, indeed, avoid reading this until I had largely gotten my own thoughts organized, and some of what you say mirrors my own thoughts -particularly the aspect of how the game has the tantalizing potential for a Metroidvania sort of gameplay, which is terribly underutilized, and indeed is completely abandoned for the last third-ish of the game. And is already mostly abandoned in the middle third, honestly. (That is, starting from when you've ejected the first Alien)

      I've played through on two different difficulties and didn't notice the Alien having a shorter 'leash' on the higher. It moved faster and more consistently performed fake-out actions (eg wandering in a direction very briefly and then abruptly turning around), but as far as I experienced things the extent to which such a 'leash' exists is defined entirely by local scripting tied to your current objectives -that for example when you're hunting for an ID in Medical, the Alien prowls the general area of the ID relentlessly, while finding the ID causes it to magically lose interest in the area and conveniently go wandering off to patrol your next route. On higher difficulties it's more attentive and aware, so that might be what you were experiencing, or maybe you just became more aware of the leash range as you played the game more, I don't know, but I'm pretty sure there's not a difficulty-based 'leash'.

      I actually also felt crafting materials are ridiculously abundant no matter the difficulty. Until the last third or so of the game, every encounter is designed to be possible to get past the Alien without burning craftables/Flamethrower fuel on it, and the craftables are generally overkill or somewhat irrelevant to non-Alien enemies, so in both playthroughs I spent most of my time with my pockets stuffed to the gills and ignoring still more crafting ingredients for lack of space. And in my first run I didn't even know about the pre-commit trick!

      Atmosphere-wise, I'd say that the portion of the game starting from when the Alien shows up to until you get rid of the first one is genuinely on-point. It did a sufficiently good job of evoking actual experiences I've had with hiding, worried I'd be found, that on my initial playthrough I could only cope with playing the game when I wasn't under the weather because it was genuinely upsetting.

      Unfortunately, once you've gotten rid of the Alien, the competency with atmosphere goes out the window for good; the bits before you get back to Alien presence aren't scary, period, and once Aliens do re-enter the picture the game relies so heavily on blatantly scripted moments that are prone to killing you that, yes, the illusion ends up broken. Stuff like how the hive sequence blatantly script-spawns in Facehuggers when you cross arbitrary lines, or how one late-game encounter the Alien hunting you ALWAYS comes leaping through a specific door when you enter a different door. I ended up with an unrealistic awareness of whether an Alien is even allowed to spawn or not as a result of all this.

      I could say more here, but I've got posts up already and will do more so eh.


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