Does anyone still care who would win in a fight out of Aliens and Predator? They should stop churning out these films and diversify, perhaps with a six-part BBC1 sit-com. Imagine the pitch: "Ian Predator and Steve Aliens are two neighbours from very different backgrounds. They get on like chalk and cheese, but they learn to tolerate each other's differences through a series of hilarious misunderstandings." Sort of like Love Thy Neighbour. Hang on, that's the racist one. More like To the Manor Born.
This is the kind of thing that floats through your mind whilst playing Alien vs. Predator: Requiem for PSP. The game is so bland and formulaic it leaves enough brain-room for all sorts of things to pop in and say hello. It's not frustrating, it's not ugly, it's not difficult. Nor is it engaging, pretty or rewarding. It's so mediocre you need hardly any concentration to play, and next thing you know you've conjured an image of Penelope Keith as an Alien.
Those who do still care about the fight thing will be aware that the new Aliens vs. Predator movie is hitting cinemas next month. It must be good because in the trailer someone goes "F*** you" then blows up an alien. The videogame tie-in is a PSP exclusive. It's developed by Rebellion, the studio that brought us Miami Vice. As Kristan observed Miami Vice is "one of those games that's not bad, but nor is it ever that good". Aliens vs. Predator appears to have been built using the exact same engine, and the exact same statement applies.
Born and pred
It's a third-person action-adventure in which you play a lone Predator. You have special vision modes for spotting enemies, alien technology and hot things. You can switch on invisibility mode, but you just go blurry rather than all liquidy like in the films. [Note to self. Plot idea for pilot: Ian Predator is annoyed at Steve Aliens's refusal to help clear snow off their shared driveway. He decides to shape the snow into an amusing (poss. obscene?) statue of Steve, using his invisibility to remain undetected. However - he's forgotten he's wearing a hat and scarf!]
Levels involve getting from A to B, shooting lots of aliens along the way. Sometimes you will have to overcome obstacles by pressing a single button to smash an electric switch or use a computer console or operate a lift and so on. In case you're stupid, there are big glowing red triangles and exclamation marks and arrows everywhere to indicate what to do next.
The aliens are not hard to defeat, even using the basic weapons you start out with. If they're at a distance it's just a matter of pressing both shoulder buttons to lock-on then firing away. Close-up you can melee them to death using your big old claw. As the game progresses there are other weapons, such as throwing discs and a hand cannon, to collect. None are very exciting.
You can upgrade weapons by earning "honour points", awarded for not killing humans and completing optional objectives like destroying alien skulls. There's no RPG element to it as the game automatically upgrades your weapons for you. With the exception of obvious upgrades such as single to dual cannons, it's hard to notice much difference.
The vision modes are rarely useful. It's not difficult to spot aliens when they're running towards you flailing and screaming, or easy to miss giant bits of alien technology left lying round high school gyms. The invisibility mode is good for sneaking past humans but that's about it.
The game's worst feature is the lazy camera. You continually have to press the shoulder buttons to make it follow the direction you're facing. When exploring this is mildly irritating. When in combat it can be infuriating, particularly if you're facing two or more enemies. You'll end up furiously mashing buttons, slashing and firing away while everything on the screen whirls around. Since the enemies are so easy to kill, however, this almost always works.
There's no variation in the way levels play out and little of interest to look at. Expect lots of jagged edges, bland backgrounds and oddly coloured lighting. Your character sports a decent amount of detail, as do the enemy aliens, but on the whole it's just dull.
There are three branching storylines but none take more than a few hours to play through. After that you're left with Skirmish mode, where you have five minutes to kill as many aliens as possible within one of the level environments. As the main game is about killing as many aliens as possible this seems a bit pointless. In multiplayer mode, you and a wireless friend run round killing as many aliens as possible - you can't take each other on. It's not much fun.
Which sums up Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. It's not a badly made game. With the exception of the camera, everything works. It looks all right. It's not the worst videogame we've ever played, and it's certainly not the worst movie tie-in. But it's entirely lacking in imagination and innovation. There's nothing that hasn't been done before and no incentive to keep playing. A month from now we'll probably have forgotten we've ever played it. But by then we'll be in negotiations with Peter Bowles's agent, obviously.