Updated: Feb 16
In PC space, only my parents can hear me scream…
Genre: First Person Shooter
Released: Oct 22nd 2001
Nostalgia Factor: I have plenty of time to bleed for this one
You might say this one is a bit of a cheat, as it’s not a direct adaptation of a film from either franchise but if you’re OK with the criteria being “based on a movie/franchise” then this one fits the bill and oh boy did it ever.
Released all the way back in 2001 this game is definitely one of the oldest on this list but also sticks in my memory the most in terms of sheer delight. Whether you are chest bursting your way through some poor souls anatomy as a Xenomorph, sticking fools with the combi stick as the Predator perched on a tree or holding forward on the keyboard and refusing to look at the screen as the Marine just in case you screamed again, there was plenty for fans of either franchise to love with AvP2.
What Do I Remember?
A lot, I played the hell out of this one, some dubious sequels aside I’ve always loved these movie monsters and never was there a more perfect medium for these two to duke it out. The game came with three separate campaigns that interconnected to tell a larger, mostly generic story but what this game lacked in story telling it more than made up for with the three modes of play. So let’s dive in, I’m going to separate out each campaign Alien, Predator and Marine, with a then and now approach for each segment.
Incredibly unwieldy controls with satisfying human munching gameplay, playing as the Alien never quite felt as good as the other characters. It’s lightning fast movement made running too and from enemies a chore, oftentimes ending in me bouncing into walls and getting stuck in geometry because the running jump I tried to make made me fall literally flat on my face only to be shot in the back by a marine seconds later.
The alien was, even on normal, punishingly difficult at times. But sometimes, maybe once per level, they’d nail it, taunting powerless npc’s around a map, being able to hiss at them to make a bad move and run away from safety only for you to come barreling out of an air vent and create a mini mouth sized hole in their cranium was always super satisfying.
You know what I gave the Alien a lot of flak in that last paragraph, I’ll admit! Such a fun nod being able to start the game out as a face hugger scurrying along the floor, finding your victim and then actually being able to chest burst your way out of him in the next section, what a way to start! Once you get to control the fully grown Xeno you’re off to the races, scurrying along the walls, into gaps in the ceilings, there’s a really powerful leap mechanic that hilariously explodes enemies if it lands and I even forgot that head biting restores health!
What was the biggest thing that hit home though? God. Damn. Saving. I’ve picked up bad habits in the modern era of auto-saves and checkpoints it seems, there is literally none of that here, if you die it’s back to the start of the level and the Alien is the weakest of the three. That leap I mentioned? Ya mistime it and pray to all the gods that you saved recently because you will die and if you’re like me and bad at video games that will happen a lot…
What’s changed you ask?
Not much honestly, my memory has held true so far, very awkward to control the Alien still but those opening levels hooked me in a way they didn’t before, I had utterly forgotten that it happened and there is something so satisfying about being able to zip up walls on a whim.
Insert Predator Theme while reading - Switching visions and spending an inordinate amount of time watching a hapless npc from the trees. Clicking through each weapon, deciding on the most satisfying kill method. Maybe I’ll use the distorted voice of a murdered goon to lure that heavy marine class away from the group so I can rip his spine out to add to my collection? Or maybe I’ll just use my spear gun and separate his head from his body clean off.
These are the moments I remember, a feeling of absolute power over my situation in each level and the complete opposite feel to that of the aforementioned Alien. You are in control. An impressive array of gadgets and weapons at your disposal, the more open ended level design of the predator lends to that feeling too, you can strike from anywhere and while jumping in guns (laser cannons?) blazing might seem like a good idea, the game could punish you for not planning ahead, remember, a predator hunts and stalks its prey and you should too…
Oh man...Oof...Ya I really wasn’t digging the Predator this time around fellow casuals. I know that must be some sort of blasphemy but it just wasn’t that fun. Maybe I was suffering from Alien controls whiplash but the predator is a lot slower and as a result I think the game really shows its age.
The giant leap is awkward to get used too, so leaping from tree to tree trying to capture those movie moments in my mind actually ended up with me just jumping really high in the air missing the flat blocky branch and landing in front of a marine and awkwardly figuring out how the hit detection works with the Predators wrist blades.
What’s changed you ask?
Everything. I tend to like being able to take my time in a game if the situation calls for it. As you read above earlier the Predator is all about the hunt for me and taking the time to line up the perfect shot. Going back I just felt frustrated, every movement feels more sluggish. There’s a weird system to using energy and replenishing it for your weapons which isn’t explained at all and the wrist blades really are that annoying, you’ve got to be right up in their faces and I did NOT feel like a “goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus”.
Full disclosure, I got about 4 levels in before dropping this, outside of casual being in the name I don’t believe in beating a dead horse. I wasn’t having fun with this one. Now I do think there were definitely moments I was fusing my memory of this AvP game, with another and that is certainly my mistake. But even after checking myself in that department I found that I was really only gearing up for the main course...
Fear. That ever increasing blip on the motion tracker, where are they coming from? Why on earth would I agree to this and what the hell was that noise just behind me? Playing as the marine was an exercise in torture. Slowly walking down another dimly lit Weyland-Yutani corridor ripped straight from the set of Aliens, pulse rifle firmly in my character's hands while my own slips on the mouse after wiping the sweat from my brow….again.
This might have been the first game to truly terrify me as a kid. What I remember is the right balance of terror mixed with tense FPS action set pieces. This campaign had a great sense of pacing more so than the Alien or Predator and I have no issue saying it was my favorite. I love it when a game can make you feel powerless but resourceful and the Marine campaign had it in spades. Excellent building of tension with a crescendo of horror, bullets and acid blood kept you on your toes. Hungry for more but scared of what exactly that might be. The main enemies here are the Aliens and they swarm and overwhelm you and your fire team relentlessly and you’ll often find yourself alone without back up and low on ammo. Perfection.
Fear. As I write this now, it’s just past midnight and having spent a few hours as the Marine I am much too freaked to sleep. It’s still got it where it counts! After being a bit dejected coming out of the Predator I was worried. It’s always a dangerous thing, trying to relive the glory days as it were and I would argue that is especially true of video games, they sometimes do not age well..at all.
What’s changed you ask?
Nothing! I could not believe how engrossed I felt walking down those dimly lit corridors, tossing flairs and checking those corners. You hit the ground running, split up from your team and on the trail of a predator. Followed swiftly by a jaunt through your first Hadley's Hope style knock off getting the power back online only to be swarmed by aliens as you make a mad dash to regroup with your team and get the flock out of dodge. I was at the edge of my seat, the sound design (Pulse Rifle is the best sci fi weapon ever, don’t @ me) is excellent. The use of lighting, for a game that is nearly 20 years old is astounding, my heart was pounding out of my chest from motion tracker blip one!
So…..does it hold up?
That’s the question right? For me, absolutely, I was so happy to play this again and to still actually enjoy it and in some ways even respect the game more. What that development team accomplished all those years ago still holds up and while it hasn’t aged gracefully, it’s still an excellent achievement.
For anyone looking for a trip down memory lane, the bad news is you’ll have to dust off your old copy and if you are new well then...borrow it off the old guy who remembers floppy disks as well. Case in point, this was a great way (personally) to kick off this nostalgia binge, but what do you think? Got any memories you want to share? Would love to hear your thoughts below and I hope you join me next time!
All gifs were captured in-game by me and uploaded right here
All images were sourced from the AvP 2 press kit found here
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