Retro Rewind: Alien vs. Predator Arcade
For what has been quite a long range of cross-over games, one of the first turns out to be one of the best. The Alien vs. Predators franchise is an odd circumstance, the Aliens and their good first few films (maybe 3, depends if you like the realism of people swearing non-stop in horrible circumstances and one large guy punching the hell out of an alien WHILE IT IS EATING HIM… awesome way to bite the big one) and the Predator series with its Schwarzenegger punching start to being out-foxed by Danny Glover and Gary Busey before returning to an odd sort of glory with the 3rd film in the series. The actual cross-over films have been rather… bad, in all fairness. But I’m not here to talk about films but we do need a little context.
So this time I’m taking a look over the not-quite best game of the series of cross-over games (which is the 1999 PC version for those wondering) and in this particular instance and in keeping with the theme of arcade games, Alien vs. Predator: Arcade Edition, made by Capcom. So you can guess from the outset that it’s going to be a Final Fight affair.
What you can’t guess however is just how focused and diverse the gameplay is from the off. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The game is based around the idea that everyone got the hell off Earth, bar a few idiots. There’s 2 androids (or humans, depends on the translation) named by the key human characters in Predator and one of the Alien vs. Predator films/books, I forget which and don’t really mind either way. Tasked with shooting and fighting most of the Aliens, which is why we can punch them… yeah I’m not buying that but let’s not get bogged down in details. Suddenly several Predators turn up and blow up a load of Aliens, then offer to team up with the human/droid protagonists to go kill the Alien Queen.
This makes up the first half of the game before the military gets the idea to use the Aliens as weapons, blah blah, messes it up, blah blah, can’t control it, blah de blah, with your mother in the bathroom, blah blah, escapes and needs to be killed properly, blah blah, padded gameplay and more levels.
The gameplay is the usual affair of picking one of four characters, our 2 humanish things and 2 different Predators, each with different levels of speed, power and techniques. So there’s something for the fragile quick movers with lots of attacks/moves, the slow tanks that hit hard, grapple lots and a few variations of “something in-between” which are the Predators ironically enough. So to relate it back to Final Fight, you’ve a Haggar, a Guy and 2 types of Cody.
What you also have are a sizeable mix up of special moves and attacks. Each character has a gun/blaster that over heats or needs reloading depending on the character. Melee combos and item pickups relate to further combos (except for the heavy-guy) and there is a mix of leaps, charges and attacks while leaping and charging. Oh and the female humanish character has fire energy blasts if she charges it up. Further variety comes from various move combinations that allow for special attacks almost similar to Street Fighter moves. Things like up and charge will launch a huge jump, while down and charge will sweep the ground for lower/smaller enemies, hitting both buttons at the same time does your desperation move and other moves can be chain-combo’d into gun attacks for further damage.
Graphically speaking, fans will recognize almost everything in this game as a throwback to the source material. Backgrounds that look like you’re on the LV-426 base, weapons and items that actually look like the weapons and items they’re supposed do. Weyland Yutani, as a further reference. The detail on the various enemies and aliens shows at least that the graphics artists were able to do show a great deal of competence.
Controls are nice and responsive as one would hope for in a game like this though the instances of timing to get some of the more impressive combos working are often over looked for the more simple, and effective, method of simply punching and hitting the enemies in droves until they’re not moving any more. This negates a lot of the thinking behind the fast-hitting character, whose range isn’t all that effective and leaves the players having to get a little too close to the enemies to really start being effective once again.
What brawl-em-up would be worth its salt without items to pick up however? Alien vs. Predator certainly takes the cookie on this one with a plethora of weapons based on all of the source films from Predator discs that return when thrown, huge bowie knives, the M41A assault rifle, the Smartgun (without the chest harness…) flame throwers, grenades, debris from the surroundings and grenade launchers. While other pickups are just confusing, what the hell would a Predator or human/android character really want with … gems? Though the roast pig works well for NOBODY as Predators wouldn’t have the same biological system to utilize the health and if the humanish characters are more “-ish” than “human” they’d not be able to process it so what’s the fu… nevermind. Its health and nobody questioned why Final Fight had people eating food off the ground.
There’s the extra element in that there’s a lot of different Alien designs, giving a bit of a selection for players to attack. Some new twists on the HR Geiger design, making for some intriguing boss fights and semi-boss fights before the Queen. Though the game takes a back-step once you get past the halfway point and the involvement of the military happens, when you’ll be fighting … standard marines with guns and knives. There’s the occasional different enemy with the Power Loader from Aliens and a “mad Predator” just to mix up the boss fights. Then the usual bullshit of Aliens escaping, so you’ll be fighting both sides at once, before the Queen escapes and you’ll fight that one again. It’s very cliché but it fits perfectly in the aliens world at least as that’s the formula that seems to happen in almost every film, comic, book and game. Aliens being used as a weapon… While it may serve as a nice reminder of why we don’t use (or not supposed to…) chemical weapons and viruses, it does make one wonder why nobody learns a lesson across decades of experience with Aliens.
Key lesson: KILL them and don’t screw around! Thankfully there’s plenty of ways to do that in this game that’ll warrant several play throughs.