AvP 2010: Marine

The figure dominating the right of this shot is the player Marine. This early glimpse is all you'll get for most of the game.

The Marine's play experience in AvP 2010 is basically Doom 3, but less irritating. You spend a fair amount of time wandering around in dark corridors while the game tries to scare you, you pick up PDAs that play dialogue generally meant to try to be scary and/or horrifying, and you shoot ineffable monstrosities beyond human understanding for a smaller portion of game time than you might expect. Even the art direction is fairly similar. Unlike Doom 3, AvP 2010 doesn't nonsensically force you to choose between holding your flashlight out and brandishing a firearm, actually has a fair few sequences where you aren't fumbling around in improbably dark corridors, and AvP 2010's attempts to ambush the player are, not to put too fine a point on it, competent. (Not all the time, but more than Doom 3's 'never')

You'll spend the majority of the campaign fighting a single enemy type (Aliens), but the game avoids turning overly repetitive by changing up the context. Sometimes you're defending against an onrushing horde, with help from other Marines and/or a Sentry Turret. Sometimes you're walking through dark corridors and being caught off guard by Aliens attacking from places you were sure no Alien could be. Sometimes you're running, because there's too many and someone is screaming in your ear to just keep running and oh god. Once you're maybe getting bored of the Aliens, it's time to start fighting humanoid opponents, which is a completely different experience. The campaign does have some game design flaws, most notably its difficulty properly escalating the challenge because the game has anything bigger than a basic worker Alien classed as a boss fight, but so long as you're not going to be freaked out by the game's attempts to ratchet up your tension you should find it enjoyable enough.

Speaking of the attempts to induce dread/fear/horror, while a lot of these fall flat because it's just very obvious you're in absolutely no danger whatsoever (There's two different sequences where you open a door manually and an Alien is on the other side and I was quite clear from the first microsecond that I could've pulled my hands away from the controls and nothing bad would've happened -and I was right), there's some genuinely brilliant moments in the game. They're so brilliant I'd rather not spoil them in this post, in fact.

While I wouldn't hold up the Marine's campaign as some ideal to shoot for regarding Horror Shooter design, it's probably the least incompetent execution I've seen since the 1999 AvP game, and the improved graphical fidelity certainly gives the 2010 game an advantage in getting you to believe you're actually in danger rather than playing a video game.

Stims
Stims means syringes, apparently.

Health on the Marine works pretty much exactly like health on the Predator: you have a segmented health meter, damage within a segment will fairly rapidly be regenerated off if the segment isn't completely drained, and you can fully heal herself using your limited supply of healing items that you can carry up to three copies of and can find more copies lying around on a map. Note that the Marine's regeneration is actually ridiculously fast, with it not being that unusual for an Alien to perform a Light Attack on you and then you regenerate the damage before they even make their next attack.

While we're on the topic of your survival, note that the Marine needs to be extremely careful to stay out of reach of Aliens. When an Alien dies in the Marine campaign, for some reason they produce an explosive burst of acid blood, and even on Normal difficulty this will instantly kill you if you're right on top of it. This is in contrast with the Predator, which isn't dealing with exploding Aliens and even when acid blood gets on it the damage is so minor that for a while there I wasn't entirely sure the Predator was taking damage, in spite of there being a visual effect and pained grunts when exposed and all.

Also note that fall damage is a very real danger for the Marine. Most 'single-tier' drops you see will do less than a full unit of damage and thus be regenerated off for free, and in more natural environments if you just barely walk over the edge you'll often basically slide your way down and take no damage, but don't be doing wackiness like trying to jump over guard rails because you're impatient. The Marine mostly doesn't deal with significantly vertical environments anyway, but it's still something to be cautious of.

Melee combat

The Marine has access to Blocking and Light Attacks, and that's it. This is surprisingly serviceable for melee combat, but in practice the primary way you'll be using your melee combat options is to get yourself some breathing space so you can shoot people. Possibly not even then, since your Light Attacks can be blocked and the 'sticky' way melee attacks work can get in the way of the goal of breaking away from your attacker, where the only issue with shooting them is the risk of acid blood killing you when they die.

Sprinting

The Marine Sprinting doesn't have the dramatic effect that the Alien Sprinting does, but surprisingly the Marine's Sprint is completely superior to the Predator's, lasting longer and providing a more significant speed boost. As a bonus, if you run the full Sprint distance your character starts breathing hard, and then stops breathing hard the instant you're ready to Sprint again: this makes it a lot easier to keep up the Sprint rhythm as the Marine than as the Predator or even the Alien, neither of whom provides an indicator of when they're ready to Sprint again.

This is good, because the Marine is expected to Sprint a lot in the campaign, both for scripted sequences where you're supposed to run like mad and also just to get yourself space from pursuing Aliens and then turn around and shoot them to death. Where for the Alien and Predator Sprinting was not a very important tool, for the Marine Sprinting is essential.

It may feel counter-intuitive, but often the correct way of disengaging from an Alien is actually to Sprint past it and then turn around while it's also turning around. Just make sure you don't zip on ahead into activating more enemies.

Motion Tracker

The Motion Tracker passively detects moving enemies around you. It can detect enemies all around you, but it 'sees' much farther ahead of you than behind you, and it's not unusual for an enemy to get up behind you and hit you in between Motion Tracker pulses, so you can't count on it to forewarn you of attacks from behind. The Motion Tracker is also hampered by the fact that Aliens generally spawn directly from the holes they're crawling out of, meaning it will frequently give you much less warning than you'd expect it to give. You can mitigate this some by keeping yourself moving on a continuous basis, making it unlikely an Alien will spawn right next to you and attack you before the Motion Tracker can tell you anything happened, but you can't rely on the Motion Tracker as much as you might hope. Furthermore, Aliens that aren't moving don't show up on the Motion Tracker at all, so even Aliens that start out in the open don't necessarily show up before you've basically walked right into them and woken them up.

Flashlight

In single player, there's literally no reason to not have the Flashlight on at all times. There's no battery power, no situation in which it provokes enemies that would otherwise fail to notice you, no disadvantage or anything that I've ever noticed.

I'm not entirely sure why the devs didn't have it on by default in single player. Just turn it on each time you start a mission and then forget about it.

Flares
Yes, Flares color everything red.

You can toss a Flare ahead of you, which acts as a temporary light source. Once the old Flare has gone out -which happens fairly quickly- you can immediately toss a new Flare if you like. Flares are most useful when you're dealing with a dark environment in general, such that your Flashlight is inadequate to ensure you'll spot any Aliens lurking in the darkness. Keep in mind the Flare-tossing animation prevents you from firing weapons, reloading, etc; it's brief, but you probably shouldn't be tossing Flares during an intense firefight.

Note that the Flare will briefly trigger the Motion Tracker. If you're not keeping this in mind, it's easy to end up thinking an Alien is doing something like popping out of a vent right in front of you when in actuality you're just seeing the Flare you tossed. If you're particularly jumpy, Flares may be interfering with your play more than they help.

Personally, I experimented a bit with Flares on and off throughout my Normal difficulty run and never found any real benefit to using them. The red light washes out color and I found it made it harder to see Aliens in environments their black carapace would otherwise have stood out in, it temporarily made the flashlight worthless, and the harsh realigning of shadows made it harder to keep a consistent internal mental image of my environment.

Maybe that's just me, though.

Jumping/Climbing

Like the Predator and Alien, the Marine can jump. Unlike those two, your jump is essentially worthless and the campaign never expects you to make use of it. More strangely, the jump button doubles as a contextual action letting you climb atop short-ish objects like crates, a fact the game never bothers to inform you of (Not counting the contextual prompt itself) and which has exactly two sequences you're intended to use it in, one of which I've accidentally bypassed with an actual jump.

I can't help but suspect the developers had intended to incorporate and emphasize mechanics akin to cover shooters letting you hop over cover barriers, and then didn't end up using it in practice. This would incidentally be consistent with my suspicion that a lot of the campaign maps were actually made first and foremost for the Predator, with versions for the Alien and Marine being based upon this initial Predator-oriented design: AvP 2010 recycles most of its maps across at least two of the species, often with fairly minimal modification, and with the exception of a portion of the labs (Which were almost certainly made first and foremost for the Alien) any map the Predator uses generally plays most naturally for the Predator and less naturally for the other species.

There are situations you can use it where it might be worth keeping in mind, but not many, and it's only actually essential one time.

Pistol

Your core backup weapon you always have no matter what, the Pistol cannot be swapped out for other weapons and has unlimited ammo in reserve. You'll have to reload it every eighteen shots, but you'll always be able to reload and fire some more.

The Pistol's primary fire is a single shot, while its secondary fire is three shots being rapid-fired. It has surprisingly little recoil, such that you can generally expect 2-3 shots to land on an Alien if you're reasonably on-target, so if you play like me you won't actually use primary fire very often since you have unlimited overall ammo and enemies are all too durable to take them out with just a single Pistol shot. (Yes, even Facehuggers take two shots) The Pistol's damage, incidentally, is quite bad: this is not one of those games where your pistol is meant to be a headshotting weapon. It's very much a weapon of last resort or a way to avoid burning ammo in relatively safe situations.

The Pistol is, however, ideal for activating explosive canisters without wasting ammo, killing Facehuggers without wasting ammo, and hurrying up the death of a crippled Alien if eg you're cornered and aren't confident it will bleed out on its own before it gets in reach of you.

Weirdly enough, the game has some kind of internal concept of proper Pistol ammo, which can be seen in action in the first mission: there's dead Marines who have dropped their Pistols, and you can pick these up for ammo even though your ammo is unlimited, and there's enough such Pistols that if you try to collect them all the game will eventually inform you that you're at maximum ammo. It has me wondering if the developers originally intended for the Pistol to have a finite ammo supply, eventually slapped atop the code an effect where you don't consume ammo when you reload and another effect to hide your out-of-firearm ammo under an infinity symbol, and forgot to modify this initial chunk to avoid this oddity.

From the Predator and Alien perspective, Pistols are an anomaly. They primarily show up on the handful of officers the Predator is supposed to behead for mission progress reasons and in the Alien's first mission in general, and pretty much just serve to have an enemy be technically armed but not a real threat to the player. The Pistol fills this role admirably through its poor damage and mediocre fire rate.

Pulse Rifle

This is your default weapon throughout the campaign, the one you have most consistent access to and the one that's never ill-suited to a situation. Primary fire is rapid-firing bullets; your clip size is 99 while total ammo reserves is 297, and the recoil is significant enough that you should generally only fire it in bursts, as continuous fire will quickly go off-target and be difficult to get back on target. The Pulse Rifle's damage is better than the Pistol's primarily from rate of fire: you'll generally have to put a lot of bullets into a target before it goes down, especially if you don't master the art of burst-firing into the head or legs.

Secondary fire launches a grenade that instantly explodes on impact; you can only carry up to 4 grenades at a time, with grenade refills being a separate ammo drop from primary fire (eg Pulse Rifles lying around on the ground don't provide grenades) always providing either 2 or 4 grenades. (It seems to be defined per pickup, with no way to tell beforehand which it is) As such, if you're intending to pick up a grenade refill shortly, you should usually make a point of using up your remaining grenades first. A direct hit from a grenade one-shots Aliens and usually one-shots Combat Androids, but this is only for a direct hit: even having the grenade hit the ground right in front of them doesn't count as a direct hit, and the damage drop-off is so significant it takes something like three such grenades to kill an Alien on Normal difficulty. On the plus side, anything that survives an grenade's explosion is probably knocked to the ground, buying time and making it easier to line up more shots on them.

Keep in mind that your own grenades can kill you, so don't be using them as a desperation move on an Alien trying to melee you. If it's close enough to try melee, it's probably so close a grenade will instantly kill you. Aliens will also jump aside to try to dodge grenades in more open environments, avoiding the explosion entirely, so in such spaces grenades should only be used to either try to tear apart groups of Aliens or to force an Alien into a predictable path to then be shot to death. (Mind, Aliens try to get out of lines of fire in general when being shot at, but they're not actually fast enough to dodge bulletsFacehuggers won't try to dodge the grenade, and are sufficiently a pain to hit that it may be worth blowing a grenade on them, especially if you've got multiple active and close to each other.

Overall the Pulse Rifle is good in all situations at all ranges, and as the game is somewhat generous with grenades you're effectively getting your ammo pickups to go further when using a Pulse Rifle. If you find yourself tempted to swap out your Pulse Rifle, you're probably making a mistake, with the exception of the Smartgun. In practice you're generally best off treating the Pulse Rifle as glued to your character and just swapping around what's in your other slot. (Again, outside of the Smartgun)

From the perspective of the Alien and Predator campaigns, Pulse Rifle Marines are your default enemy that is dangerous at all ranges but isn't all that dangerous. Strangely, no Pulse Rifle Marine will ever use a grenade on you, which in fact means that you'll never fight an enemy who uses explosives in either of their campaigns. (With the exception of a specific civilian who will try to suicide-bomb himself when the Alien gets near him) This may have to do with the fact that no enemy in the game uses any of the secondary fire functions on these guns.

Shotgun

The Shotgun is fantastically lethal, with a direct hit at close range being able to kill enemies in one shot fairly consistently. This is with primary fire, mind: secondary fire is to expend two shells and thus do something like twice as much damage, which is honestly overkill on close-range targets. Secondary fire is mostly useful in boss fights and for landing a kill shot at more medium ranges. You have to reload every 8 shells, with up to 24 shells held in storage beyond that.

The Shotgun actually can do damage quite far out, but as the shell spray spreads out the further you go the damage drops off and it's really not worth trying to hit people particularly far out. Where it excels is in close-in tunnels where nothing else has a meaningful range advantage over it, and against Aliens in general since they're forced to close into its effective range regardless. Against Combat Androids and to a lesser extent acid-spitting Aliens, the Shotgun can still be used, particularly in cases where the environment forces combat to close-quarters, but usually the Scoped Rifle and Pulse Rifle will perform better in those cases.

If you're not confident in your aiming ability with the Pistol, particularly if you're being pressured, the Shotgun is actually probably the best way to kill a Facehugger. It can reliably kill them from just outside their jump range and doesn't require you be all that precise with your targeting.

Something particularly worth pointing out is that the Shotgun can't be beat for damage output. You might intuitively expect the Pulse Rifle's grenades to be king of damage, or maybe the Scoped Rifle or the Smartgun, but a secondary fire Shotgun blast that isn't even genuinely point-blank can tear off a quarter of one boss's health meter instantly where a direct hit from a grenade only does roughly 1/8th of that boss's meter. The main caveat to this is that smaller and more distant targets won't receive the full hit, and so the Shotgun's peak damage potential won't usually be realized. On the other hand, it's so tremendously lethal even fairly partial hits are surprisingly effective.

From the Alien's perspective, Shotgun Marines and Combat Androids are fairly infuriating. On Normal difficulty they'll occasionally instantly kill you if you botch sneaking up on them, and on Hard and above they'll usually instantly kill you if you're in close-quarters. Worse, even if you survive and manage to turn and flee before they fire again, it's entirely possible a follow-up shot will finish you off anyway. They contribute less against you if the team notices you from further away, but this is a cold comfort since that situation happening generally means you screwed up in a very basic way you shouldn't have screwed up in the first place.

From the Predator's perspective, Shotgun Marines and Combat Androids are very dangerous to be getting into an extended melee with, but not kill-you-in-one-shot dangerous. If someone is wielding a Shotgun and you're not completely confident in your ability to isolate them and sneak up on them, they're probably the best target to use ranged attacks on, but unlike the Alien you don't really have to go out of your way to mentally mark Shotgunners as especially significant.

Flamethrower

The Flamethrower is simultaneously awesome and terrible. Its range is strictly short, unlike the Shotgun's best-at-short-ranges-but-can-hit-further-out nature, and in fact it's so short that if an Alien isn't actively trying to melee you you probably won't manage to catch it in the fire... but if you do catch an Alien with it, the Alien will freak out and flail around at random and ultimately explode with no further intervention on your part. (I'm not exaggerating about the explosion part: they actually shatter, limbs going all over the place and acid possibly killing you if you're too close) As such, even though the Flamethrower burns through its ammo really fast, you can actually get it to last a surprisingly long time by tossing out quick puffs and then just avoiding the resulting flailing Alien. Since Aliens have to get in close to do damage to you, outside of the acid-spitters, the Flamethrower is actually fairly reliable so long as you're fighting Aliens, which is most of the time. Even dragging themselves through swamp water will offer no protection: once an Alien is on fire, it's just a matter of time until it dies. Combat Androids, by contrast, cannot be lit up at all, and it's extremely dangerous to try to get them with the Flamethrower since a portion of them use Combat Shotguns that will murder you before you can even get within Flamethrower range.

Secondary fire sprays unlit fuel, which lingers on the ground and can then be set on fire by hitting the fuel with primary fire. The result is fire that does damage to anyone who walks through it, with the fire lasting a decent amount of time, and in the case of Aliens it will straight-up light them on fire in exactly the way primary fire does. This can be useful for dealing with Facehuggers, which will blithely crawl into the fire and die, and somewhat counter-intuitively you can essentially strike further out by spraying fuel and then tossing out a puff of fire than by spraying flame: apparently the fuel goes further than the fire yet somehow gets lit by the short-range flame. This is slightly exploitable, as Aliens will endeavor to avoid being hit with primary fire, backing away as you advance and even leaping aside to get away, but they'll ignore the fuel spray. The net result is that you can bypass their attempts to avoid being burned alive, assuming you're confident they'll hold still just long enough to do it. Which happens more often than you might think.

A related point is that some parts of the environment will briefly burn when hit with primary fire, which can catch Aliens on fire just as well. This is generally reasonably intuitive: trees burn, steel doesn't. This... doesn't come up very often, but it's worth being aware of, especially since you can take damage from such fires yourself, so you should be cautious about relentlessly advancing while spraying flame.

The Flamethrower gets up to 250 units of ammo in a 'clip', though puffing even a brief bit of flame consumes several units. I'm not entirely sure what the limit on ammo in reserve is, as I've never hit it, but it's somewhere above 700.

The primary flaw with the Flamethrower is the Shotgun fills a similar niche but is usually more effective within that niche. This isn't a crippling flaw, as it means that it makes sense to swap back and forth between the two as ammo shortages dictate (ie use the Shotgun until you're out of ammo, then pick up a Flamethrower until you find a new Shotgun), but it does mean the Flamethrower suffers a bit thanks to the limit of two non-Pistol weapons.

One key thing about the Flamethrower is learning when Aliens aren't in a position to dodge and taking advantage of that, as a big part of what makes the Flamethrower struggle is that Aliens see the fire coming and get out of its way... unless they're on a chunk of environment that gives them no jump options, or are currently locked into an attack animation, or are locked into a crawling-out-of-vents animation, or otherwise can't dodge. Keep in mind that an Alien that's in the middle of an attack string on you will complete the string before it transitions to Freak Out Because I'm On Fire mode; if you're going to try to set an Alien on fire in the middle of an attack string, you still need to be ready to Sprint out of the way once they're lit up, or something of the sort. If you struggle to master the exploitation of Alien can't-dodge animations, the Flamethrower can easily seem like a worthless weapon, but if you can master those it's actually a fantastic way of taking Aliens out of the fight with no (immediate) risk of acid blood damage etc.

From the perspective of the Predator, Flamethrower Marines are the easiest of all Marines. Just kill them with a ranged attack: there's a fairly large range in which a Disc or Plasmacaster shot will kill them before they get a chance to get out of the way, and yet you're still too far away from them for them to hit you with their Flamethrower. Even if you're shooting for a Stealth Kill, their poor range makes it easier to escape if you botch the process of sneaking up on them, and it also means that you can potentially allow a Flamethrower Marine to spot you finishing off one of their buddies without this being dangerous at all. They don't even do that much damage if they do hit you, and they certainly don't set you alight. This isn't the 1999 game.

For the Alien, Flamethrower Marines are still the least dangerous of all Marines, but it's less dramatic than with the Predator. Unlike AI Aliens, the player Alien is not set on fire and doomed to die just because a brief puff of fire touched them for a split-second, and the AI Flamethrower's actual direct hit damage hasn't been upped to compensate for this difference, and in fact a Flamethrower is in practice the slowest Marine/Combat Android weapon to kill you. The short range also means that Flamethrower Marines can potentially be allowed to spot you killing another Marine, if they're far enough away they won't be able to attack you before you're already fleeing from the kill site, just like with the Predator. This is unique to Flamethrower troops: Marines and Combat Androids wielding literally any other weapon will be able to do damage no matter how far away the instant they're aware of your location.

Scoped Rifle

The Scoped Rifle is AvP 2010's idea of a sniper rifle. Primary fire launches a single bullet per click, while secondary fire puts you in a scope mode so long as you hold the button down. This scope has the obnoxious property of putting everything into a grey-blue view mode, with enemies (and allies) highlighted with a grey-blue outline effect quite similar to the Alien's pheromone auras, up to and including that the outline is visible through walls... with the caveat that since everything through the scope is grey-blue, it's actually fairly easy to overlook a given enemy's grey-blue outline. It can still be useful for letting you scout ahead, or keep track of a patrolling Combat Android's exact location, so you can time your attack, but it's not as useful as you might hope, particularly since the Scoped Rifle doesn't shoot through walls or anything like that. Its ability to see through walls is also somewhat erratic in its behavior, such as a nearby object that's blocking your sight also blocking the outline sometimes while a different case of the same basic situation doesn't block the outline, with no obvious difference.

Outlines seen through solid objects. This is actually two different people being seen, but the outline really is just an outline, and so they've merged into some bizarre blob, visually.

Surprisingly, the Scoped Rifle also outlines friendlies, though the greying effect makes it not very obvious in a screenshot.

One thing worth noting is that the outline effect only applies to still-living enemies. If the outline starts fading after you shoot an enemy, it's dead. If it keeps on going, they're not. This can also be used to check decorative bodies and innocuous elements of the environment to see if they're actually enemies that will wake up when you get close, which is a not-quite-unique utility of the Scoped Rifle's.

That body my cursor is over sure looks dead, right?

Hmmm. They have an outline...

... and lo! They're trying to sit up now that I've shot them! (Okay yes it's not a great screenshot)

The Scoped Rifle itself gets 6 shots in a row, and can store up to 60 shots beyond that. It hits fairly hard per shot and is particularly prone to causing an enemy to flinch, and notably it has only modest recoil and you'll automatically realign reasonably quickly, so it's fairly easy to repeatedly ht a single unmoving target with it at a decent pace. Being hit, on the other hand, will throw it severely out of alignment, and it takes a long time for you get to back on target, so it's difficult to be scope-shooting people in the middle of a firefight. And of course enemies rarely hold still for you...

Surprisingly, the Scoped Rifle is actually fairly effective fired from the hip, in part due to its minor recoil, solid damage per shot, and unusually generous ammo reserves. If you're good at reliably lining up shots on the head, it may be worth running a Scoped Rifle alongside a Shotgun instead of my otherwise-recommended Pulse Rifle/Shotgun pairing. Notably, it will instantly kill an Alien with a headshot, so if your aim is decent it may well be a lifesaver.

The Scoped Rifle is only ever found in the hands of Combat Androids, as far as enemies go: no Marine gets this weapon aside the player Marine. As previously covered, enemies don't seem to use secondary fire at all, so Scoped Rifle Combat Androids won't actually spot you through walls/cloak/inside Vents, and in fact are not readily distinguished from Combat Androids using a Pulse Rifle in functional terms. The end result is that bullets come your way from any distance with moderate danger, either way. The net result is that the Marine is the only one who cares about/notices the difference, and the primary effect there is that the Scoped Rifle is a very stable weapon anytime you're fighting Combat Androids, as the majority of them are wielding a Scoped Rifle or Shotgun and you get to pick up their weapon/ammo after they're dead.

Frustratingly, the Scoped Rifle's firing sound effect as heard from enemies is indistinguishable from the Shotgun's, which makes it hard to tell whether a given Combat Android is dangerous to approach or dangerous to try to fight at range. This is compounded by them having, as far as I can tell, identical graphics for their shots, and depending on angle and lighting and whatnot you won't always catch a glimpse of more than one Shotgun pellet when they fire.

Smartgun

By default the Smartgun has a rectangular section consuming a good chunk of your view in which a grey-blue visual effect akin to the Scoped Rifle's scope mode occurs, including that enemies will be highlighted with grey-blue outlines and will be seen even through walls. Unlike the Scoped Rifle, the Smartgun will automatically track its targeting cursor to enemies within this radius that aren't behind walls. In conjunction with its superior firepower and large clip size (150 rounds), the Smartgun is at first glance an obviously awesome weapon to shunt aside basically everything else.

Unfortunately, the Smartgun uses both of your weapon slots, leaving you with only the Pistol as an alternative, and if you have the Smartgun out you can't Sprint. (You can still Sprint by switching to the Pistol, keep in mind) It's a weapon for standing in place and tearing apart an onrushing horde, not a staple firearm for general use, and the campaign knows it and generally only gives you it as an option when it's about to throw such a horde at you. A related point is that I've never seen what the actual ammo reserve max is because the game tends to only give you one or two Smartguns lying around at a time.

Secondary fire just turns the auto-targeting/highlighting effect on or off. If you're confident in your ability to aim on your own, it's maybe more ammo-efficient to turn the effect off, but in my experience the auto-targeting is really effective (In contrast with the 1999 game, where the Smartgun's targeting cursor tended to end up trailing behind Aliens) and you just need to make a point of firing it in bursts that cut off when you kill a target and then kick back in once the cursor has reached the next target.

It's too bad the Smartgun isn't given to the player more often, because it would genuinely be interesting to use it as more than a gimmick weapon for gimmick sequences. I suspect it's not given to you very often in part because the early game has multiple run-just-run sequences and you can't Sprint with the Smartgun.

When you are using it, you're actually best off trying to let Aliens get somewhat close to you and then firing a burst. The Smartgun is surprisingly prone to getting headshots at a moderate range, and can kill an Alien in something like 5 bullets. Meanwhile, if you fire the instant the target is highlighted, you can easily expend over 50 bullets trying to kill a single Alien because most of the bullets splash somewhere nearby.

Curiously, the Smartgun can actually lock on to enemies that are outside of its highlighting range. This can be helpful when it comes to maximizing awareness, but generally you shouldn't take a shot under those conditions, as just outlined.

Like the Scoped Rifle, the Smartgun's outline on a target -and more immediately obvious, the cursor lock on effect- cancels out the instant that target is dead. Paying attention to this is a good way of conserving ammo: stop shooting once the cursor starts changing targets and/or you notice the aura fading. In theory you could also use the Smartgun to sniff out hidden enemies and enemies playing dead, but unfortunately the game's reluctance to give you the Smartgun means this is only barely not a technicality.

Surprisingly, from the perspective of the Predator and Alien Smartgun Marines are uninteresting. They do generally kill you faster than a Pulse Rifle Marine once they start shooting you, but they don't see through a Predator's cloak and they don't see the Alien when it's hiding inside vents. As such, they're basically just a Pulse Rifle Marine that will kill you faster if you screw up and let them see you.

Difficulty notes

Enemies get tougher, and ammo pickups give less ammo at a time (Or more precisely give a partially randomized amount of ammo, which you can see yourself by reloading a checkpoint and seeing how much ammo pickups provide) with the exception of Pulse Rifle grenades, and enemies get more lethal, with the most obvious example being that Facehuggers on Normal remove half your entire health meter while on Hard and Nightmare they remove all but a tiny sliver of health. (Which is to say they instantly kill you if you're not at full health) Outside of Facehuggers, though, this doesn't really impact your play other than making it making it a bit more frustrating to have things go wrong, as unlike the Predator and Alien there's nothing that was viable or kind-of viable on Normal that gets closed off by this change. You're just a bit more likely to die if you make a single mistake, in essence.

The overall impact of this is to demand the player either get better at accuracy in general and body-part-aimed shots in particular or make up for a lack of such with superior Pistol skill, since you have less ammo to work with while needing more to actually take out a given target. If you got through Normal being a bit sloppy with your fire, this will force you to get better. If you were already pretty solid at efficiently killing enemies, you might find yourself swapping weapons a bit more due to running out of ammo in cases you wouldn't have in Normal.

It's worth mentioning that the Marine's levels are all long, partly through sheer size and partly through the Marine being the slowest and least mobile character. From what I gather, it's widely-agreed that the Achievement for completing a Nightmare difficulty Marine campaign is the single most difficult Achievement to get in the game, and I believe it. The final level in particular is flagrantly designed around checkpoint mechanics, but even in prior levels death comes rapidly over even minor mistakes and the resulting need to maintain a high degree of vigilance for more than 30 minutes in a row is just exhausting.

My own experience is that Nightmare difficulty is surprisingly tolerable. It's hard, and I hate the combination of 'play ultra-cautiously and thus slowly, thus dragging missions out' and 'and of course if you die at any point start over from the beginning', but outside androids being overly-lethal at range, you just need to tighten up your principles.

... except when you're being shot at by androids. If two Combat Androids have line of fire on you at any moment, that may well be an instant death on Nightmare (Due to Scoped Rifle lethality), and this is where the Marine sort of having vague pretensions of being a cover shooter but not delivering properly on that is really frustrating. Cover shooters make the whole 'you're in the open, so you're probably about to die' thing work by having the whole cover part of being a cover shooter. Aliens vs Predator doesn't even have a crouch button. This makes avoiding being killed by Combat Androids on Nightmare a frustrating prospect and it ends up feeling unfair because it's down to the game's mechanics not really supporting an appropriate playstyle. It's not as if the Marine has access to Stealth Kills and just gets way less opportunity to use them than the Predator and Alien: the game doesn't expect you to switch to a stealth puzzle style of play when Combat Androids are running around.

Ultimately, Combat Androids are why I didn't complete a Nightmare Marine run. They're just that obnoxious, and the Marine was always the least appealing campaign anyway.

General tips

The Marine is unequivocally the most difficult of the species, campaign-wise. You die fast, you have poor mobility, you don't see well in the dark and have limited tools to work around this, even killing an enemy can get you killed, and you have limited ammo and a need to reload periodically. This isn't even getting into the fact that the Marine's campaign is trying to build dread/fear in the player, and if it's successfully getting to you your competency will suffer. This is compounded by Facehuggers being a threat basically unique to the Marine's campaign, and while they're fragile they're also extremely damaging and a small enough target it's often harder to kill a Facehugger in real terms than to gun down a worker Alien, at least until you have a handle on Facehugger behavior.

I cannot emphasize enough that the Marine should endeavor to avoid letting things devolve into melee combat. If you're not Sprinting when you take a hit, whether you live or die basically comes down to luck/the vagaries of the Alien AI, as your character can be knocked out of your control for long enough that if the Alien decides to go for follow-up strikes fairly quickly you may find yourself killed without ever having a chance to do anything to prevent it.

By default you should be shooting Aliens while walking backwards whenever you can. Ideally you never end up cornered, but if you do find yourself getting caught on terrain, turning and Sprinting while you work out what the terrain is like can do you a lot of good. If things come down to you being cornered while an Alien is in your face, you should try to melee it to get it on the defensive and then run. Or just turn and run, period. This is particularly true if your current weapon is out of ammo: starting a reload animation means you can't Sprint and can't melee, and so starting a reload while an Alien is in your face can easily get you killed. Switching weapons is faster and doesn't prevent you from Sprinting, so that's an alternative point to consider when you're in trouble. In any event, do not just keep firing when an Alien is in your face or its acid blood is going to kill you. This is actually a case where the Pistol sucking is useful: firing a shot into an Alien will interrupt its animation if it's trying to melee or block you, no matter what specific thing it's trying to do, saving you from a hit without having to engage with the melee minigame and with it being virtually guaranteed to not get you sprayed with acid blood. This can give you the space you need to back off, turn around, Sprint, and then turn back around with a better weapon and start shooting them. Note that you can change weapons during a Sprint, and can therefore back off, change weapon while gaining distance, and be ready to turn damage on the enemy the instant your Sprint is over and you've spun about.

Alien spawn caps are erratic in the Marine's campaign. Some sequences impose a 2-at-a-time limit like with the Predator, but the campaign is fond of scripted sequences where you've got allies or at least a Sentry Turret that throw at you as many as a dozen at once and expect you to win. It's also got a few sequences where you're supposed to just run that, again, spawn more than 2 at a time, and most critically the Marine has to deal with Aliens whose activation is independent of any other Aliens, which means it's entirely possible to eg be on the run from a pair of Aliens and wake up a third one.

Related to both points above: in the vast majority of situations, you should only try to retreat to known terrain. Since plenty of Aliens spawn in or wake up based on proximity, escaping past an Alien to get some space between you and it is risking getting mobbed by a group you could've been fighting one or two at a time. This makes sequences immediately after a door locks behind you particularly dangerous, which can get a bit frustrating in its sheer arbitrariness.

Speaking of: the game will frequently lock doors behind you as you progress, far more often than with the Predator and the Alien. If you're not actively being chased/attacked, there's not any time pressure, even if it seems like there should be time pressure, so don't get caught up in the game and leave behind ammo you could've actually used. By a similar token, don't assume a gun you set down can just be picked right back up in a minute. It won't despawn, but you may cross a line and be locked off from it. Since these locked doors often correlate to checkpoints, even reloading your checkpoint isn't necessarily an answer.

Counter-intuitively, smart play tends to involve shooting Aliens in the legs. Their legs break more quickly than headshots will kill them, destroying a leg instantly cripples their mobility as they're forced to crawl awkwardly with just their forelimbs which has the bonus of tying up a 'spawn slot' where that's relevant and thus letting you often focus on one Alien at a time as a result, and it actually saves ammo because the Alien will eventually bleed out and die. If you can get good at reliably hitting Aliens in the legs, you'll find the campaign a lot easier. The Shotgun is particularly reliable here, as it doesn't require you to actually get your cursor on the relatively thin leg of an Alien: firing between the legs will frequently take out both legs, so long as you're reasonably close. This is easy to do on accident, in fact, as targeting a crawling Alien's head will mean you're actually firing between the legs if it gets on its rear limbs in preparation to melee you. Since a Shotgun blast to the head at close-quarters is usually instantly lethal, this is a pleasant intersection where you can be reasonably confident things will work out well so long as your own aim is adequate: you'll either hit the head and kill them, or you'll destroy their legs, both of which are victory.

Destroying an arm once one or both legs is gone will also actually slow the Alien down further, so if you've got a crawling Alien approaching and you've got limited space to work with, trying to take out an arm may buy you further space. This is important, because crawling Aliens make up for their lack of mobility by virtue of doing more than a full unit of health in damage if you let them grab you: this contrasts sharply with the Predator, who takes token damage and automatically finishes off crawling Aliens that latch onto him, making crawling Aliens only a problem for the Predator if their grab gives other threats a chance to get free hits on the Predator. Crawling Aliens are no danger if you don't let them reach you, of course, but the Marine's mobility is limited in general and many of your fights are occurring in tight tunnels that don't necessarily allow you to circle around the crawling Alien, so you can't completely ignore them.

Something that's not necessarily obvious is that Aliens that are on fire will switch over to the crawling behavior as part of their panic state, including that if you let them get too close to you at that point they'll automatically grab on for real damage. If you're careless while using the Flamethrower, you may well have an Alien grab you, rip off half your health meter, and then explode to finish you off in a spray of acid. On Nightmare in particular it might not be worth messing around with the Flamethrower if you're not confident in your ability to avoid the grab.

It amuses me that AvP 2010 is a game where I can say that playing with fire is both a thing you can do and a thing you shouldn't do, incidentally.

Unlike the 1999 game, Facehuggers are not an instant kill in AvP 2010, not even on Nightmare. They're still very dangerous, and in particular will always do permanent damage if they hit, but your Marine has the fairly silly quality of automatically catching them with one hand and tossing them away if he's got enough health to survive the hit. Treat them as a threat, especially if you're down to one health unit or are above Normal, but you don't necessarily need to have a heart attack because you spotted one a little too late. Facehugger behavior is also a lot more manageable: they don't move relentlessly like in the 1999 game, instead tending to move several feet and then stop and 'stare' at you for a few seconds before moving again. If you can keep focused and don't have any other pressing threats active, it's actually fairly easy to put two Pistol shots in them during their 'stare' phase, killing them with no fuss. In fact, they always stop and 'stare' at you prior to attempting to approach and leap, so it can make sense to let them get close-ish, and then back off while shooting them once they've stopped.

You can destroy an Alien egg before the Facehugger comes out and kill the Facehugger itself as a result. Ideally you'll use the Pistol for this (And not just to save ammo), and if you want to be reasonably confident you actually kill the Facehugger you need to target near the top of the egg. If you target lower down, the egg will be destroyed but the Facehugger will hop out in response to the egg's destruction. It takes three shots with the Pistol to destroy an egg, but this one of those cases where you shouldn't use secondary fire, as it's inaccurate enough one shot will usually go wide and force you to fire again. It's also prone to having the lethal shot not actually kill the Facehugger even if your reticule is dead-on due to, again, the recoil scattering it about.

Not all Facehuggers can be dealt with via careful egg destruction, though. Some of them will just be hanging about when you find them, or script-hatch from an egg without necessarily letting you destroy the egg first. When eggs are clustered, sometimes you'll wake up an egg you weren't even shooting, which is only really avoidable by blowing up the entire batch with a Pulse Rifle grenade.

Exploring is generally safer than heading directly to an objective marker. The route you're intended to follow is usually littered with Aliens scripted to spawn as you approach. The side passages are usually entirely lacking in enemies, and in addition to Audio Logs you'll find ammunition, Stims, and additional weapons. This is particularly important to keep in mind on higher difficulties: on Normal you generally get enough ammo to scrape by even if you don't explore, but on Hard this bare minimum often isn't actually enough. Even when exploring is dangerous, it's usually obvious ahead of time, such as a side passage visibly having Alien eggs at the end.

The game will give you a hint about Combat Androids having less protection on their limbs. What the game means is that Combat Androids can be crippled by destroying a leg. (As far as I've seen, their arms cannot be destroyed in the same way) Unlike Aliens, they'll never bleed out, but also unlike Aliens it completely immobilizes them. This is particularly important against Shotgun-wielding Combat Androids, as they're fond of charging into your face and can easily rip off half or more of your health in one shot when they're not even point blank! Weirdly, if you destroy both legs of a Combat Android, this instantly kills the Combat Android without regard to its actual health, which is particularly blatant/important in the final level. It can also provide a safe way of killing a Combat Android, as the leg may end up positioned such that you can get an angle on it while the Combat Android can't fire back.

The Motion Tracker partially distinguishes between hostiles and everything else. If something in range is actually hostile, you get the sound effect in addition to the visual ping. If it's a fellow Marine, you'll get the visual ping but no sound effect, and same for a number of other non-hostile movement, such as if you're knocking around physics objects like chairs. The sound effect actually triggers exactly when the first thing pinged is a hostile, so if you're paying attention you can do a surprisingly good job of keeping track of what's a hostile and what's ignorable just off of the Motion Tracker.

When the game asks you to hack an object, this usually is going to spawn Aliens to attack you, and so you should try to scoop up ammo etc before you actually initiate the hack... but if initiating the hack doesn't update your objective to explicitly tell you to survive or something of that sort, that particular hack is not spawning an attack wave. It may have spawned Aliens nearby you'll have to fight through, but they're still 'asleep'.

Some Alien spawns are actually partially randomized, and will re-randomize even when loading from a checkpoint. Don't get overly used to predictable enemies.

Sentry Turrets are mostly your friend in the Marine's campaign, unlike the Predator and especially the Alien campaign, but there's cases where a Sentry Turret actually is hostile to you. These cases are generally logically and contextually appropriate, but it's easy to get used to thinking of Sentry Turrets as friendly and then die the first time they're not.

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I think the 1999 game's approach to the Marine works better overall, and it seems a bit of a shame that they sort of halfway moved toward various modern shooter trends, but as I'll be talking about later I honestly suspect the devs don't know precisely what they want to do with the Marine other than try to scare the player.

Next time, I'll be covering the plot of this game.

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