AvP 2010: Predator
The Predator's campaign essentially weds two distinct styles of player together: when you're fighting Marines and Combat Androids, the game is a stealth puzzler where you're intended to use your superior mobility plus your cloaking technology to isolate and quietly murder individuals out of the immediate awareness of their fellow troops. When you're fighting Aliens, the game is a 3D first-person beat-em-up sort of game. In both cases you have some ability to decide you don't feel like engaging with the game on the 'correct' level and simply Plasmacaster an enemy, burning energy to 'solve' a sequence fairly directly.
Things unfortunately break down a bit as you go forward, as the Disc and Combistick weapons dramatically undermine the core gameplay, as I'll be covering more detail further down, but overall the Predator's campaign is fairly fun, and if you want some real challenge you can just reduce your reliance on those two weapons. My main criticism of it would have to be that if it were up to me I'd probably have had fewer combat sequences against Aliens and more stealth sequences against Marines and Combat Androids: for the Predator, Alien fights are all overly-alike, where stealth sequences can mess around with terrain, enemy quantity, placement, and even to an extent behavior to add some variety. Exacerbating this is that it feels like water breaking your cloak is a bit of a missed opportunity, as there's only one sequence that tries to really incorporate this difficulty in a stealth sequence puzzle and in actuality you can essentially ignore the Marines wading around in swamp water and let them die when your actions cause an Alien attack wave to spawn in. Again, you can force yourself to play sub-optimally to enjoy the challenge, and an argument can be made that letting the player tune their own difficulty is advantageous, but it's still only the one sequence.
Still, the Predator campaign is probably the most consistently interesting of the three campaigns, so much so that I'd actually like to see Rebellion make a game that's more specifically focused on the Predator. AvP 2010 is, I would say, more about Predators than it is about Aliens or Marines, but the burden of having to give all three species a campaign means that each individual campaign feels a bit incomplete, and I can't help but imagine that a truly Predator-focused game from Rebellion would manage to bring out the potential that AvP 2010's campaign hints at.
Focus Mode serves three purposes: it lets you perform long-range/high-height jumps with precise control, it highlights all collectibles (Including power nodes), and it can be used to initiate a leaping attack on an enemy. It also has a little gimmick where it'll give you information about enemies, where that information is a rating of their threat level in melee and a rating of their threat level at range, but this isn't very useful unless you're having trouble telling the acid-spitting Aliens apart from the default melee-oriented ones.
The game does a somewhat poor job of explaining the Focus Mode jumps, as it makes it sound like there's fixed locations you can jump to. ('Jump markers') It doesn't help that the tutorial arbitrarily does make only a small section a place you're able to jump to, as does the very first Focus Mode jump of the first proper level. In actuality, you can jump to anywhere within a certain distance that seems to be roughly a sphere centered on you: you can't perform Focus Mode jumps too high, too far horizontally, or even target them too far down (Even though you're perfectly able to use a normal jump any distance downward: the Predator has almost no concept of fall damage, only arbitrary bottomless pits that instantly kill you and the occasional height that will briefly knock a tiny bit of health off to be instantly regenerated), and the game tends to not let you target Focus Mode jumps onto areas that are on your height level and fairly close to your current location, but overall if you can stand on a location you can perform a Focus Mode jump to that location. The 'jump marker' the game refers to is merely the icon showing where you'll currently jump to if you press the jump button: it's just a targeting cursor for Focus Mode jumps.
That said, there is an element of arbitrariness to Focus Mode jumps, in that parts of the map that really look like they ought to be passable can be entirely inaccessible for no good in-universe reason, and more egregiously some Focus Mode jumps are arbitrarily one-way: you can jump down from a cliff, and then not back up it, that kind of thing. For the most part though, if you can stand on a location it's at least theoretically possible to Focus Mode jump there.
The collectible-highlighting has two caveats: it has a maximum range, and the game doesn't seem to actually load in rooms until it's ready for you to actually enter those rooms. The former means you can't just perform a sweep of an area and assume that if you didn't see something it doesn't exist. The latter means that even though it sees through walls, you may find that it's not showing you something you'd expect to be able to see because you haven't actually unlocked access to that region of the map yet. On the flipside, there's a case where you can see a Trophy Belt through a wall where it's completely impossible to access that location until after you've looped around to back to that location, and there's a different case where a Trophy Belt is placed high up in a room where you can see it but can't access it until you've gone through a different room that takes you high enough up to reach it. As such, while Focus Mode is really useful for simplifying the process of finding Trophy Belts and Health Shards, if you're sloppy with it you're still going to end up missing stuff.
The leaping attack is, as far as I can tell, pretty useless. I don't think it can be blocked, but it can be interrupted (Though admittedly the AI will almost never do this), and it has a bad habit of falling short of your target and doing no damage. I usually prefer to do a jump and start fighting after I've landed.
Using the contextual action key, you can select a Marine, then select a location you want them to move to within a certain distance of their current location. Enemies that are on alert will ignore this (Enemies that know you're there are 'on alert', and sometimes enemies that have previously seen you will remain alert indefinitely), but if they aren't on alert they'll obligingly walk over to the indicated location and politely wait for you to Stealth Kill them. Eventually they'll decide they must be hearing things and get back to their normal route, but Distraction will leave them idling for a surprisingly long amount of time, and no matter how many Marines wander off by themselves and never come back the remainder will never start wondering if maybe following the strange garbled voice is a bad idea. They also won't turn around once they've arrived at the designated location until they decide to get back to their business, paranoia apparently forgotten. (Unless they see you or hear you, of course)
It's a weird mechanic I sort of like the idea of but am not a fan of the execution of, as it's honestly largely ignorable unless you're super-dedicated to doing a pure stealth run, and the final shape of it is fairly ridiculous in implementation, plus it's somewhat redundant with how you can distract enemies with ordinary noises. I do like that it's a callback to how in the Predator movies the Predators record and play back human words, and prior to playing this game I wouldn't have thought that bit could be meaningfully put into a game, but I wish it was better.
It's particularly frustrating how it uses the same key as Stealth Kills. I've had cases where I accidentally issued a Distraction command because I started mashing the button trying to execute a Stealth Kill before the enemy noticed me. You can contrast this against the Alien, who has no equivalent risk, and whose stealth play is just a lot smoother in general in part as a result of this.
Strangely, Distraction doesn't work on Combat Androids. This is terribly inconvenient if you want maximum points, but in a 'normal' run the Combistick renders it a bit of a moot point, so much so that it didn't even occur to me to check if it was possible until my Nightmare run.
The Predator runs somewhat faster for a short period, and then has to wait about a full second before they can do it again. For the duration of the Sprint, the Predator can't do much of anything except move, with the exceptions of changing visor modes, adjusting zoom level, and entering/exiting Focus Mode.
Sprinting is low-utility for the Predator. If you want to go somewhere quickly, a Focus Mode jump will generally cover more ground in less time, and there aren't very many situations you'd want to do it anyway. There's one boss fight where Sprinting can be an okay way of getting some distance between you and them, as the arena is designed in a way where you might not be able to Focus Mode jump at any given moment, and a few other situational uses, but you could be forgiven for forgetting about Sprinting entirely.
Unlike the 1999 version of Aliens vs Predator, the Predator only has three visor modes: one for spotting humans and androids, one for spotting Aliens, and the default light-vision, which in this game is the best vision mode for navigating your environment. The Alien-vision mode will also show you locations Aliens can spawn from, though many of the holes marked in this way are functionally fakes, as the game is not actually scripted so that every such hole has the potential to spawn an Alien. The thermal visor's secondary utility is that Sentry Turrets and power nodes are highlighted on it, in addition to humanoids.
Note that humanoid corpses never vanish or cool off in AvP. This can lead to situations where a corpse happened to land such that you mistake it for a live human standing up, and in turn once you've gotten used to that you might accidentally dismiss a live human as a corpse, particularly if they're in an area you already know a corpse is at. Decorative corpses can also show up on the thermal visor, which can be really frustrating for a first-time player. Alien corpses don't provide an equivalent problem, as they eventually fade and decorative Alien corpses are very rare.
Note that you don't get the Alien-seeing mode until partway through the campaign. Also note that thermal vision and 'electromagnetic vision' (The Alien-seeing mode) are handled in a way that means anything they don't highlight will frequently blend into the background. This was true in the 1999 version of AvP, but that version had environments with almost no animation in them and very few sound effects, making it fairly easy to spot the 'wrong' enemy type in them. This version of AvP is fond of grass that waves in the wind, trash fluttering down through vents, light reflecting off of water, and a variety of sound effects to imply a living ecosystem around you. As such, it can be very dangerous to be using thermal vision when Aliens are about and same for using electromagnetic vision when humans, androids, or Sentry Turrets are about. Worse, in boss fights paying attention to your environment is generally very important, so it's a dangerous idea to actually use either of your alternative vision modes against the handful of bosses in the game.
My own experience in fact was that the Alien-spotting visor mode was almost always an active impediment, even when fighting Aliens: maintaining awareness of your environment is just too important when fighting Aliens, and they're not that hard to spot even in relatively dark parts of the map.
Like the 1999 game, the Predator can zoom its view in on distant targets. Unlike the 1999 game, this isn't very important: in Classic, the Predator's vision modes other than the default light vision imposed a fairly harsh fog effect an arbitrary and not very far distance out, meaning if you wanted to snipe with thermal vision or something you needed to use zoom levels. In the 2010 game, while the alternate visor modes are inferior for navigating your environment and for detecting enemies they don't specifically highlight, there's no fog effect. Zoom is thus restricted to the usual shooter utility of helping the player move their targeting cursor more precisely, and unfortunately even the strongest zoom level isn't actually that significant a zoom. When I'm sniping I'm usually at the default zoom level and still landing the hits perfectly. Additionally, the 2010 game's campaign is fairly hostile to sniping anyway, with the majority of mapspace being close-quarters in the first place and the exceptions often undermine sniping potential one way or another. (eg spawning Aliens only once you're basically right on top of their spawn point)
Perhaps worst of all, there's only two weapons that can snipe at all, one of which is your last weapon in the campaign and can be spammed unlimitedly at no risk to yourself while the other outright has a lock-on targeting effect. By contrast, the Speargun in the 1999 game is a fantastic sniper weapon whose limited ammo cannot be recovered, encouraging you to be extremely precise in your shots.
At least the zoom has some neat visuals?
Cloaking is completely free and has no disadvantage whatsoever. You can be invisible as long as you like with no consequence. The only 'cost' is the half-second it takes for the cloak-activation animation to play, during which you can't attack. Cloaking is key to pulling off stealth sequences against Marines and to a lesser extent Combat Androids, and otherwise doesn't really matter: Aliens will completely ignore the effect, as will Sentry Turrets. If you're confident no humans or Combat Androids are in your area, you don't have to bother, but equally if you want to always have it on just in case that's fine too.
Note that the cloak will break if you touch water. There's two times in the campaign this matters: once in the Jungle, when you're expected to sneak through a wet area patrolled by Marines, and another time in the Ruins where a key object is guarded by a Marine standing in water, making it difficult to pull off a Stealth Kill on him. Slightly more important is the point that Combat Androids produce an electromagnetic burst a few seconds after they die, and if you're hit by this effect it will break your cloak. Aliens hitting you in melee also breaks your cloak, though being shot doesn't, strangely enough. This can be dangerous in cases where Aliens are mixed in with Marines or Combat Androids if you forget about it or get caught up in the moment while trying to get closer to the humanoid fighter, but if you're engaging enemies more or less as you encounter them this usually won't crop up as actually matter.
On an AI note, Marines and Combat Androids are actually coded to behave semi-realistically in regard to your cloak in that if eg you break your cloak, then initiate it and duck into nearby cover, they'll usually continue to pour fire onto the last location they saw you. This can be disconcerting if you don't realize that's why the AI is shooting you when they shouldn't know where you are, but it can also be useful in that you can often sneak around behind enemies with no fear that they'll abruptly turn around.
You can carry up to 3 Health Shards at a time. You generally start with one or two on a mission, with more scattered across the map. Using a Health Shard fully restores your health, breaks your cloak, and makes a noise that humans and Combat Androids can hear. You also can't fight while the animation is playing, though you can walk about. Ideal play involves never using a Health Shard, and in fact the game both has a 500-point reward if you pull this off in a mission and also penalizes you by 50 points for each Health Shard you use. (Which means your first Health Shard is costing you 500 points)
Note that points don't actually do anything in-game, so the penalty doesn't really matter unless you're interested in the challenge of shooting for perfect play by the game's standards.
Also note that, while it's far less blatant than the Marine, the Predator does have a segmented health meter that can regenerate small amounts of damage at no cost. The most obvious illustration of this is how ineffectual acid-spitting Aliens are: they fire their shot infrequently, on an easily-avoided arc with no attempt to predict your trajectory, and when they do hit you it doesn't remove a full segment and so generally doesn't matter at all. Or as an example of more competent game design, usually if an Alien manages to sneak up on you it'll get in one swipe and so long as you're quick enough on the draw there'll be no long-term consequences. Pretty much any other threat in the game does enough damage to instantly do permanent damage: don't let bosses hit you, don't let Marines and Combat Androids shoot you, don't let Sentry Guns see you.
Your basic melee weaponry. They break cloak if you hit an actual enemy (You'll stay cloaked if you punch a destructible environmental element), and they're restricted to melee range, but they don't run on Energy or anything.
You can do a Light Attack, Heavy Attack, Block, and you can also perform leaping strikes using Focus Mode. Light/Heavy/Block is a rock/paper/scissors dynamic: Block will absorb a Light Attack and open up the attacker to a retaliatory strike, Heavy Attack ignores a Block attempt, while Light Attack is faster than and will interrupt a Heavy Attack. This is the core of the melee minigame. Ideally, you'll do your best to ignore this minigame, but early on this isn't practical.
Note that Heavy Attacks can be initiated from out of the enemy's reach and then hit them as they're closing if you're good at timing. Against most targets, it'll knock them to the ground, at which point you can perform a Trophy Kill to finish them off instantly. This is especially helpful on higher difficulties where enemies take more hits to go down, but still die instantly to a Trophy Kill.
Generally speaking, the safest strategy is to Block, as if your reaction time is okay you can drop the Block and initiate a Light Attack before an Alien's Heavy Attack can complete. Also note you can actually interrupt your own Heavy Attack with a Light Attack, such as if you think an Alien initiated its own Heavy Attack just before you started your own.
Marines and Combat Androids are restricted to Light Attack and Blocking, but this doesn't really matter because you can't Block bullets. The 'safe' option in melee combat with them is to initiate a Heavy Attack from just out of their range so they don't get the chance to interrupt it with a Light Attack: the actual safe option is to not do the melee minigame with them at all. Yes, you're way better at melee combat than they are, but why aren't you just Stealth Killing them, or taking them out with one of your ranged attacks?
Note that the game gives you bonus points for Stealth Kills and Trophy Kills, and also gives you a smaller points bonus for Wristblade kills. None of your other weapons provide points bonuses: as far as the game is concerned, the perfect Predator is one that never uses anything except his Cloak and his Wristblades.
Also note that Stealth Kills and Trophy Kills break your cloak. This is particularly relevant to Stealth Kills: it's not good enough to get behind someone and rip them apart with a Stealth Kill, you need to be sure no one else will be able to see you once the Stealth Kill starts or else you're going to take fire. Stealth Kills are mechanically silent (Even though they're often quite noisy as far as what the player is experiencing), so it actually is possible to do stuff like sneak up behind a pair of Marines on patrol, Stealth Kill the one in back, and then move up and Stealth Kill the next one before they realize their buddy is dead. Also, while you might intuitively expect Stealth Kills to require you be under cloak to initiate them, in actuality you just need to be behind an enemy who doesn't know you're there. And even that has some wiggle room: sometimes an enemy will speak up as if they've noticed you and begin turning and you still manage to kick off a Stealth Kill successfully. Once, I had an enemy turn all the way around and the Stealth Kill still went through.
This is your basic 'secondary weapon'. It burns energy when fired, either one unit for an uncharged shot or three units for a charged shot, If you don't have enough energy, attempting to fire a charged shot will result in an uncharged shot that uses one unit of energy. Note that energy does not recharge on its own: you have to drain a 'power node', which are placed on fixed locations on a map. Most power nodes are good for one drain, forcing you to ration your energy carefully, though a handful will fix themselves after a bit. In any event, draining a power node results in a complete recharge of your energy, no matter how low: if you're expecting to drain a power node soon anyway, such as because a mission objective demand you do so, consider finding a good use for the Plasmacaster before you do so. Similarly, if you're down to two units, consider using those last two shots to maximize the utility of whatever power node you're going to drain.
Initiating a charged shot will produce a laser sight: Marines and Combat Androids can see the laser sight and will be alerted to your position as a result. This limits the Plasmacaster's effectiveness at extremely long ranges, as the shot travels slowly and usually the victim will have moved far enough to at least only be caught by the edge of the blast, but at closer ranges the Plasmacaster will have killed your target before they have a chance to properly react. Moving the laser sight over a target will initiate a lock-on that will then hold for as long as the target remains in your vision, which is particularly useful against Aliens, which are prone to moving in ways that are difficult to predict.
At extreme ranges -which crops up occasionally- Marines and Combat Androids won't actually start shooting you if they become aware of you. Depending on the environment, they may simply stop moving and stare at you, guns pointed your way. This makes it bizarrely easy to snipe them in these cases.
Uncharged shots skip the laser sighting, but they're also very weak and have no or nearly no splash damage. A charged shot will instantly kill a Marine or Alien (Though on Nightmare occasionally an Alien will survive what looks like a direct hit) if it lands a direct hit: it takes 4+ uncharged shots to kill the same, even though that's more energy demand than a single charged shot. Charged shots also have significant knockback/knockdown, with even the splash damage usually forcing enemies to the ground, which buys time to line up additional shots, escape to a new location, Trophy Kill an Alien, etc. Do note that the splash damage on charged shots can hurt you if you unleash it too close to you, and the damage isn't ignorable. Aliens in particular will explode into a spray of acid blood, with the combination of the two potentially removing 3 units of health at once.
One use for uncharged shots is letting you 'cheat' the melee minigame: they come out fast, are unblockable, and interrupt whatever animation the enemy is in by knocking it down, allowing you to immediately follow up with more attacks. The damage contribution is barely there, but the knock-down is so useful on its own it doesn't matter, at least prior to acquiring the Disk.
Against Marines, an uncharged Plasmacaster shot will knock them completely down. This can be a quick setup to a Trophy Kill, if you're not confident of your ability to get a Stealth Kill for any number of reasons, and can also be used to get you some 'space', such as knocking down a second Marine so you can finish off the first one unmolested. It's also extremely energy-efficient for getting kills, which is important in the early game on higher difficulties. A fully charged Plasmacaster shot will also knock over any Marines in its blast radius, but generally if that's happening you've gotten a miss. Speaking of: Aliens will attempt to dodge fully charged shots with a short hop, limiting the Plasmacaster's utility against them at even modest distances. If you've got a group of Aliens the shot may well do plenty of damage anyway, but against lone Aliens you need to let them dangerously close.
Note that when you're performing a lock-on, the shot isn't actually fully charged until the lock-on effect has completed 'attaching' to its target. (All three sides of the triangle have appeared and are as close to the target as they ever get) If you fire off a shot before it's done, it'll be an uncharged shot, regardless of how impressive your shoulder cannon's glow currently is. Another signal that you're done charging is that you slow to a walking pace, unable to move any faster.
Strangely, the scoring system doesn't like you using the Plasmacaster. If you never use the Plasmacaster, you get 500 points. I don't really get why the Plasmacaster is the one being picked out here, given how the Disc and Combistick are far more ridiculous of weapons.
Another oddity is that you can't charge a shot if you have less than four units of energy. Even though a charged shot uses three, so you'd expect to be able to use it at three. It's an odd oversight.
One final note: your maximum energy rises as you advance through the game. The game never calls your attention to this, and it's easy to forget about the Plasmacaster and Mines as you get new, shinier toys that don't burn energy, but you can actually overall be freer about blowing energy in fights as you get deeper into the game.
Like the Plasmacaster, Mines burn energy when 'fired', though unlike the Plasmacaster they don't have variable usage. Just clicking the secondary weapon button will toss a Mine a somewhat respectable distance -far enough out that you can potentially be standing in tossing range of a Marine who's looking at you while you're cloaked and they still haven't noticed you- which will arm a second or so after impact. Once armed, if an enemy gets within its radius it detonates for... surprisingly poor damage to all enemies in its radius, but it also automatically knocks all such enemies down.
The obvious utility of Mines as a trap is only particularly useful if you already know the enemy scripting well enough to place Mines before enemies spawn in, and so for a new player they're fairly close to useless at this job. Once you've been through the game once, you can be a bit cheesy with them and set them in places the AI is scripted to head to: even though Marines will notice Mines and endeavor to not walk into them, if they have some special scripting telling them to walk to a particular location they will do so no matter how many Mines they have to walk through to get there. Hilariously, Marines can be Distracted into Mines, though obviously this requires the Marine is not on alert, and it's not very efficient at damage.
Overall though it's probably more useful to think of Mines as grenades. Sticky grenades: they'll latch onto an enemy if you land a direct hit, ensuring the victim can't escape. They're also the only Predator weapon that properly arcs (The Combistick has an arcing flight pattern, but its targeting mechanics work out to this largely being an inconvenience with no advantage), giving them edge case utility, unlike the Plasmacaster it's nearly impossible to completely waste the energy involved (If you miss the throw, just bait Aliens into the Mine's landing site), and if you can catch a cluster of enemies they can perform shockingly well. Since tossing a Mine doesn't break cloak and doesn't activate your laser site, it's also a perfectly stealthy form of attack, weirdly enough.
A weird advantage Mines have is that if you're shooting for maximum points they're the only energy-using tool you have that doesn't interfere with getting points. In fact, Mines having poor damage can be a positive here, since Stealth and Trophy Kills are how you get maximum points, not Mine kills.
One other notable single-player utility is that in the final boss fight you have an unlimited supply of recharging energy and are fighting a boss that is insanely dangerous in melee and yet also bounces around such that your ranged weapons are all difficult to actually land on it. Planting Mines is one way to fairly safely and consistently get damage in on it, with the caveat that some of the platform chunks will be destroyed by a Mine's detonation and so you need to be careful to not get yourself dumped straight into the instant-kill lava because the boss jumped on top of you shortly after you'd set a Mine.
You can actually manually detonate all your Mines by holding down the Mine selection button, though I'm not really sure what the point of this is, as Mines distinguish between enemy and ally and their proximity effect is fairly reliable. It would be one thing if the game had allowed you to turn off their proximity effect and then activate the Mines manually, so you could try to maximize the number of targets to catch, but as-is I really don't know what the functionality of this is intended to be.
The Disc's first and foremost feature is letting you essentially ignore the melee minigame. It's completely free to throw, always comes back eventually, instantly kills Aliens if you manage to land a headshot, and even clipping them often knocks them down. If you hit a limb, the limb is gone: in the case of a leg, the Alien is now stuck slowly dragging itself toward you, with basically no ability to actually threaten you. The disc also goes right through enemies without slowing down, in confined spaces it will frequently end up slicing through the same enemy multiple times as it bounces off walls, and it can even do damage when it's making its way back to you. As such, the only extent you which you need to engage with the melee minigame at all is fending off any Alien that gets into your space while you're waiting for the Disc to make its way back to you.
In stealth sequences, the Disc is slightly less ridiculous. While it's free and doesn't actually break your cloak to use it, it does force your laser sight to activate for its entire travel duration (The Disc will attempt to follow the laser sight), alerting enemies to your position, and it's actually even slower than the Plasmacaster's shots. As such, while it can still be used at close-to-mid-range to kill a Marine without exposing yourself to all the other Marines in the area, generally it's better to go for Stealth Kills if that's practical. In particular, you'll ideally be lobbing the Disc from behind them anyway, so that it hits them before they've turned around and started shooting at you as well as shuffling around and potentially dodging it. At that point you're already in a position to Stealth Kill them.
The Disc is only an instant kill on Marines if you catch them in the head, just like Aliens, and Marines can't actually lose limbs to the Disc. This is inconsistent on a lore level, but it's not terribly surprising if you're comparing this against the 1999 game's more lore-consistent approach: in AvP 1999, humans instantly die if they lose any limbs, and of course pretty much all the fearsome attacks of the game remove said limbs in one hit. AvP 2010 wants you to actually employ stealth in killing your enemies, though, and so Marines are able to tank hits, with shortcuts generally coming with caveats.
An odd couple of quirks with the Disc: when you've thrown the Disc, you're forced to a walking speed until it gets back to you... but you can still Sprint, and in fact Sprinting will end this forced-walk state prematurely. I'm pretty sure this is a bug/exploit, but hey, it's useful.
Where the Disc pretty much kills off the meat of Alien-fighting, the Combistick turns 'stealth' sequences into glorified shooting galleries. The Combistick is, like the Disc, completely free to use and doesn't break cloak; unlike the Disc, it has no laser sight to give away your position. If it hits a non-boss target, that target is almost always dead. In spite of being a thrown weapon, it has no range limit I've ever encountered, simply arcing higher to reach whatever location your cursor is 'sitting' on. (On the flipside, unlike arcing weapons in most games, the Combistick cannot be fired at a target behind a wall, precisely due to this quirky behavior, while still retaining the problem of getting caught on overhead terrain elements) If you do miss your target, their usual reaction will be to get confused by the noise, turn to face where the Combistick landed, and stop moving, allowing you to line up another shot.
It has the 'flaw' of having an extremely slow projectile, but this just means you wait until your target stops moving for a moment before you attempt the throw. This isn't a problem when you're invisible and no one has spotted you anyway.
Of course, the thing that makes it a gamebreaker is how the AI reacts: inexplicably, Combat Androids that observe one of their own take a spear to the face and explode don't go into an alert status and organize search parties, or anything that would allow them to menace you. They just carry on with their business as if nothing happened, bar perhaps staring at the sound for a few seconds.
In the thick of combat, by contrast, the Combistick is fairly questionable. It's a nuisance to actually hit an Alien with the Combistick successfully, and it's not really worth it when the Disc can easily kill multiple Aliens in a single throw. The primary advantage the Combistick has is that it'll instantly kill an Alien for most possible impact points. (I've clipped an Alien in the tail, and while this knocked them down it didn't kill them) It might be worth the effort to hurl it at a boss, if you're confident in your predictive ability and all, but mostly the Combistick serves to make a joke out of stealth sequences.
Curiously, if you hit a Combat Android with the Combistick, they instantly do their death EMP explosion... and then after a few seconds do it again. I suspect this is some kind of bizarre glitch or oversight.
Notes on difficulty
Difficulty does not affect enemy quantity or placement that I can tell. It doesn't seem to affect AI behavior either. It just affects damage/durability, such that it takes more to kill your enemies and less to kill you as you go up in difficulty. (Also: Nightmare difficulty disables checkpoints, forcing you to restart a mission entirely when you die) In the first couple of missions, this has an especially pronounced impact due to your limited tools.
Against Aliens, on Normal difficulty you can get away with just flailing melee attacks fairly wildly and burn a Health Shard when low on health.
Against Marines, on Normal difficulty you can spend the early game being only half-stealthy, often relying on just punching people to death, potentially even when under fire. On Hard difficulty you basically have to do proper stealth, you're just too fragile and it's compounded by Marines taking an additional punch to kill.
Past those first missions, however, the Predator's play experience is nearly indistinguishable when comparing Normal and Hard. The Disc lets you essentially ignore the melee minigame, and can be used as a pseudo-stealth ranged kill unlimitedly against Marines. When Combat Androids show up, you've got the Combistick, which pretty much completely removes any illusion of challenge in stealth sequences.
Nightmare difficulty ups Alien danger level enough that it's possible to be chained from full to nothing by a single Alien if you don't manage to properly disengage or win the melee minigame for even a second. Ideally you minimize melee combat with them entirely, relying on your other tools to avoid the fighting, and if you just want to beat Nightmare difficulty it's worth considering simply running past the encounters that aren't necessary to fight.
Even so, much like Hard the difficulty spike overall goes down as you progress, as your new gear options really do have that dramatic an effect on difficulty.
The Predator is by far the easiest of the three species, campaign-wise, and if you're a new player I'd definitely recommend playing it first. The learning curve aspect will help keep it enjoyably challenging, and it acts as decent 'training wheels' for the other two species since the Predator encounters nearly all the same external elements (eg enemy types) as the other two species do, so you'll be able to learn much of the enemy behavioral patterns as the Predator and then apply those lessons when playing the other species. The obvious exception is Predators, but this isn't as meaningful as you might think as there's only a handful of Predator fights (Which are all boss fights) in the other two campaigns and different Predators fight differently outright.
Unless the current objective explicitly demands you kill everyone in the area, you don't actually have to kill everyone in the area. If you want maximum score, obviously yes you do (Time is not a part of your score, whereas killing people is), but otherwise? Nope. Often it's more convenient to just go around Marines, and there's a few situations where Aliens will end up fighting Marines and thus reduce the amount of work you have to do if you leave the Marines alone. This is particularly helpful to keep in mind if you're running low on resources and aren't confident in your ability to clear out the remaining Marines or Combat Androids, and in some situations it'll lead to Aliens that were going to spawn in anyway getting into combat with the Marines or Combat Androids, directly reducing your overall workload. (Though of course this is a Bad Thing if you're interested in the highest possible score for some reason)
On the other end, Aliens will pursue you relentlessly and always knowing exactly where you are once they're spawned or activated, assuming their initial AI isn't set to pursue Marines or Combat Androids. You still don't have to fight them, as a general rule of thumb, and depending on your circumstances you may be able to bait them into fighting Marines/Combat Androids, suiciding into a Sentry Turret, or simply out-pace them and eg reach the mission's exit point. For a first-time player it's probably better to focus on killing them all, but if you decide to take a shot at higher difficulties these options can make a big difference in your ability to even complete a mission.
Note that in the vast majority of situations Aliens will never spawn more than two at a time, even if the total number of Aliens you're expected to fight in a room is well above two. The primary exception to this is that in sequences where the Aliens will end up fighting Marines or Combat Androids: these sequences will frequently spawn 6+ Aliens and then handle the scripting so you only expect two of them to go for you immediately, while the rest die on the shooty people or at least take long enough to win that you should have already taken out the two Aliens headed your way. The final level is an exception and opens by throwing more than a half-dozen Aliens directly at you with no one else to take some of the heat off of you.
Getting used to timing the Heavy Attack so it lands just as an Alien is entering your reach is a big help for getting through the early game in higher difficulties. A secondary point worth noting is that since melee doesn't break your cloak until you hit, it's surprisingly practical to initiate a Heavy Attack under cloak to knock down a Marine, such as if you're a bit impatient and confident you can tank any damage that results and so don't want to bother with the stealth minigame: Heavy Attack and then Trophy Kill them.
|You can just barely see the Marine in the middle shooting at an unseen Alien|
A useful thing to keep in mind is that Aliens and Marines will fight each other spontaneously, as will Combat Androids and Aliens. While Aliens spawned specifically to attack you will frequently ignore being shot at to relentlessly chase you, letting Marines/Combat Androids take shots at them is still useful for wearing them down, or potentially killing them outright. It's especially worth keeping in mind that there are several cases where Aliens spawn in to attack you where you don't actually have to kill them to unlock the next door. Judicious use of Focus Mode jumps can get you far ahead of the pursuing Aliens with no real danger to you, and so long as you're under cloak Marines and Combat Androids generally won't see you if you don't get too close to them, making it really easy to bait Aliens into getting shot at. The utility of this climbs as you go up in difficulty, since it becomes more dangerous to engage enemies at all.
In open environments, rooftops are your friend. Marines and Combat Androids have no indirect-fire weaponry and even if the environment can give them a firing position on you, they don't think to head to such locations if you hide on a roof. Even with Aliens, it makes it easier to control and predict their directions and movements, and if you start feeling surrounded you can Focus Mode jump elsewhere fairly readily.
Marines and Combat Androids are surprisingly blind. They don't see very far out, and their peripheral vision is nearly nonexistent, even before you use your cloak to further hide yourself. You can frequently circle around and Stealth Kill someone in situations where you'd intuitively expect them to notice you out of the corner of your eye. This is somewhat made up by their tendency to look around, and even flip around and walk backwards for a bit. One of the more important tricks is figuring out what circumstances they drop their paranoia behavior and going for the Stealth Kill then.
Focus Mode jumps are bizarrely stealthy. Walking up behind an enemy is risky, as they'll frequently hear you or something, turn to look, and proceed to spot you and open fire. Focus Mode jumping behind them while under cloak is apparently completely silent, putting you directly in range to Stealth Kill them with no real chance to react, even if you jumped in a trajectory where you'd expect them to have spotted you passing through the air.
Unlike the 1999 game, the Predator will never have to deal with a Facehugger, which is probably for the best as the Predator's gear in this game is pretty poorly suited to targeting one successfully. They only show up in a brief portion of the game, and only in the form of unhatched eggs. If you're coming at this from the perspective of the 1999 game, or AvP 2, reduce your caution level; the only instant-kills are bottomless pits and the lava in the final battle. The eggs even instantly die to an uncharged Plasmacaster shot or a Disc hit, so if you're concerned about accidentally wandering close enough to active one it's not that hard or dangerous to clear out the eggs from a distance.
Doors locking behind you, preventing you from ever returning to a room, is not uncommon. If a door is conspicuously opening into a new major area and your energy is less-than-full, consider draining a power supply if there's one in the area, as it may become inaccessible regardless when you go through the door. By the same token, if you're injured, at max Health Shards, and there's a Health Shard in the area, go ahead and use a Health Shard if you don't care about score.
Doors locking can actually be helpful to you, though, as it'll trap Aliens behind you and whatnot. This is particularly useful to keep in mind on Nightmare, where Alien fights are legitimately dangerous enough that avoiding the fight entirely can be preferable to clearing them out.
For the most part you don't need to worry about Alien acid blood, as usually the damage will be less than a unit of health, but you shouldn't get too cavalier about it. Standing directly where an Alien's stump is pouring out acid blood can actually knock off a unit of health, and in the middle of a combat it can mean the difference between almost losing a health segment vs actually losing one. On higher difficulties unnecessarily losing health to acid blood can lay the groundwork for you dying down the line, and in particular Trophy Kills on Aliens are a riskier, as some of the Trophy Kill animations will get acid damage on you, potentially just barely under a full unit of health. In conjunction with Alien damage output rising, attempting a Trophy Kill in an Alien melee can easily get you killed on Hard and especially Nightmare.
Next time, I'll be covering the Alien.