So I've got myself in something of a situation. I find that I'm spending an increasing amount of time in the company of another who is not a gamer. In a world where everyone's something of a gamer, even if it's just a game of Farmville at lunchtime, or some Bejeweled on the mobile phone, this new friend plays none at all. We do not have this in common.
This means a front room that houses no tangle of game controllers protruding from the television. There's no room in the whole house possessing a heaving black box of hard drives and whirring fans. This person does not own a USB mouse. This is unfamiliar territory. I am scared.
But I can nonchalantly carry in a netbook. I'm writing this on it right now. It's an innocent-looking Trojan laptop, a small work machine. It's no use for gaming. It's sneered at by the likes of Steve Jobs for its inability to have its screen touched. It is, in fairness, a glorified typewriter. But just maybe...
Aliens vs. Predator first appeared in 1999. But that's not as cool a number as 2000, when the Gold version came out, which is presumably why the recently re-released version appearing on Steam clumsily calls itself, "Aliens Versus Predator Classic 2000". It's a splendid update, not only ensuring that it works on modern operating systems, but also boosting the resolutions to fit your gangly widescreen monitor. And as of last week, it's been updated to support multiplayer too.
I was slightly disappointed when the Aliens and Predator franchises made their joint appearance together on film. Not only because it was a terrible film, but because there was something great about the two separate stories having their crossover confined to the realms of videogames.
In 1994 developers Rebellion had released Alien vs. Predator for the Atari Jaguar. Remember that? I remember selling the things when working at Silica, in Debenhams, on Saturdays. "Look, you can play Doom on it!" Five years later they did the same, once more offering three campaigns, seen from the perspective of either an Alien, a Marine, or a Predator. It was essentially three games in one. And then with multiplayer to let them collide in the middle.
So when you're bringing in the innocent-looking netbook, it's probably quite important to remember a mouse.
AVP falls in the cusp between some of the older games that have been gracing these Sunday pages, such as Dark Forces, and more modern shooters with which we're all so intimately familiar. It's as smooth and refined as anything you might pick up today, the mouse completely understood by the end of that decade, and the HUD nice and clear. Which means once it's scaled up to a new-fangled resolution, with widescreen support, even the option to use a 360 controller, all its powers are once again in force.
And it has some powers. Most especially the sound. I'm tempted to argue that it is exactly that the music is not context-sensitive that makes this quite such a ludicrously frightening experience. There are more jumps than a kangaroo convention on trampolines, but it's the sinister swells of the score, at completely inappropriate moments, that ensure my heart is always on the verge of giving out entirely.
Which is a good look when crouched over a netbook in your girlfriend's front room as she attempts to work on biological research statistical analysis. Your fingers desperately sweeping at the mouse pad, back hunched at the small screen, squinting at the darkness, the crescendo somehow timed to switch to diminuendo about three seconds before an alien leaps from nowhere directly in front of me forcing a less than manly squeal.
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