Call it Freudian if you like, but I'm a bit of a wet lettuce when it comes to chitinous murder-beasts that impregnate people with their foul spawn, and an ill-advised trip to the Trocadero's Alien War at the tender age of 13 did nothing to endear me to Geiger's scampering Xenomorphs.
Lucky, then, that SEGA demonstrates Rebellion's latest Aliens vs. Predator title in the bright and airy Eurogamer demo room, which is totally lacking in vents, ducts and other things for evil to lurk behind. Even more luckily, we're booked in for a karaoke session afterwards, so I know this won't even be the scariest part of my day. Anyway, it turns out that what I'll largely be witness to is the gangly bastards meeting squishy, plasma-related ends in the Marine and Predator sections.
The sheer awfulness of the movies has tarnished the reputation of the Aliens vs. Predator crossover in recent years, but Rebellion has excellent AVP pedigree, knocking out 1994's Jaguar title and 1999's PC version - both of which impregnated the hearts of many gamers without the need for forcible tentacular throat-rape. This then is perhaps a chance to redress the balance and produce a game that fits more snugly with the generally excellent comics and graphic novels.
Rebellion's set about doing this by returning to the approach that made the PC first-person shooter so lovable, essentially crafting three very different games, with each playable race offering a distinctly different approach. First off, we're introduced to the creepy, underhanded Predator: all fleshy dreadlocks and hi-tech gadgetry as he stalks into a xeno-infested military post in the jungle. He's there to contain the outbreak: an abandoned hive disturbed by foolish humans mining the planet for ore.
Many of the Predator's abilities will be familiar to anyone who's played the previous game or seen the movies. The iconic wrist-blades are there, satisfyingly chunky and nasty-looking, and the shoulder-mounted plasma-caster shimmers its three-dot aiming laser through the trees. Key amongst the Predator's abilities, however, is his nifty cloaking device, which conceals him from the Marines - unless they happen to be carrying a motion-detector.
Aliens are also unfazed by this optical trickery, instead sniffing out their target. A lot of the time, though, you'll be sneaking around when you're playing as the Predator, attempting to get close enough to perform gruesome "trophy kills". For Aliens this can mean tearing off the extendible proboscis from their mouths as they attack; for unfortunate Marines it usually means some invasive dentistry and a gruesome decapitation. The showboating isn't just for kudos in the family album either; towards the end of the demo we see a dismembered head used to operate the retinal scan on a security door.
Another new ability is a floating jump reticule, acting like a grappling hook to leap to branches and walls with pinpoint accuracy. An approach from height seems to be a definite tactical advantage, offering cover and the all-important element of surprise. It also allows you to indulge in a little bit of skullduggery, zooming in with binoculars and recording snippets of enemy conversation.