One of the most memorable scenes in the movie Aliens comes when a highly trained squad of marines is reduced to a rabble of whimpering nervous wrecks after their first encounter with the eponymous xenomorphs, running for their lives in total confusion and firing random bursts of gunfire into the shadows as hideous HR Giger designed monsters drop down from the ceilings and emerge from the walls. After playing ten minutes of Aliens vs Predator 2, you will know exactly how they felt.
And within the next two weeks you will be able to find out for yourselves, because a demo version of the eagerly anticipated first person shooter is about to be unleashed on to an unsuspecting public. We got our hands on an advance copy of the demo and took it back to medlab for further analysis...
I'm Still Collating
The demo sadly features just a single mission and no multiplayer support, but what little we have seen of the game so far has certainly whet our appetites. In the demo you take on the role of a marine sent to investigate a ghost-town colony, with your squadmates exploring the complex and looking for survivors while you head for the control room to reactivate the power.
The game oozes atmosphere, and although it perhaps relies a little too much on darkness at times, the overall effect is impressive. The colony is a typical Weyland-Yutani shake-and-bake affair, much like the one featured in Aliens, and developers Monolith have done a good job of capturing the film's artistic style. Creeping along the dark corridors is enough to get any movie fan's heart pumping, with your flashlight playing over the damaged walls and the sound of your motion tracker echoing in your ears.
When the aliens finally do put in an appearance, tumbling through ceilings and smashing their way through air vents, the suspense shatters and the game becomes a fast-paced nerve-destroying experience. As in the movie, the only way to survive the initial encounter is to keep moving and keep firing; stand around for too long and the aliens will just keep coming until they overwhelm you through sheer numbers.
We're All Gonna Die
The full game will feature three interlocking story-led campaigns covering all of the major characters - aliens, predators and marines - with settings varying from secret laboratories and alien hives to the surface of a hostile planet with its own indigenous life forms. Meanwhile the addition of new tools such as a welding device for sealing doors and a hacking tool for bypassing computer systems should add some more variety to the action.
Multiplayer will also play an important role in the finished product, using a class-based system with ten different character types spread across the three races, and a mixture of deathmatch and teamplay modes being promised. All of this is powered by the latest version of the cheap and cheerful LithTech engine, and although it has been criticized in the past as lacking the eye candy and solid feel of the Quake and Unreal engines, it seems to have been put to good use here.
Level design is top notch and even though your path is fairly linear in the demo mission, you always feel like you are in part of a larger complex, with the game just gently prodding you in the right direction. If the rest of the game matches what we have seen in this demo, Monolith and Fox Interactive could be on to a winner. It's fun, it's good looking, and it's incredibly scary. What more could you want?