February 4, 2010

Aliens vs. Predator Multiplayer Demo - First Impressions

This ain't no Halo or Call of Duty.

Ready for download now is the promised Aliens vs. Predator multiplayer demo, giving us all 12 days to run, shoot, claw, and fire explosives in some other creature's space moccasins talons before the full release.  And Rebellion's multiplayer is very different.  And different is very good.

The obvious major difference is your ability to choose between three different species to duke it out.  The Marines carry damaging weaponry, the Predators have 1/3 of the Deathly Hallows (that's "cloaking" to the lay-muggles), and the Aliens are as fast and as disorienting as you'd imagine.  Each have their strong points and weaknesses.  I played about four or five 10 minute Deathmatches on the map Refinery (the only mode and map available in the demo) before I had to leave for work, playing as each species at least once.  I can't wait to actually gain XP during the real matches because once I'm done with the three campaigns and I've alternated from playing some BioShock 2, I'll be shooting monsters with green blood for a while.

Click below to read about my first impressions.

I don't mean to be misleading when I say "I'll be shooting monsters with green blood," implying I'll be a Marine or Predator.  I'll basically just rank up to try and get all the skin-types (which I believe is the ranking system here) for those creatures.  The Alien is where it's at.  Discombobulating?  Yes.  Melee only attacks?  Yes.  Deadly at all?  Yes.

My favorite so far is obviously the Xenomorph.  Memories of playing Rebellion's PC game of the same name played behind my eyes, but now replaced with similar yet better looking memories.  The Alien has no HUD (save for a health bar that appears above you when you're low on health), and is incredibly fast when you sprint by pushing in the left stick.  Nothing can hinder your speed, not even walls or crates too high for a human to jump over; holding down the RT allows you to crawl anywhere.  My one complaint is technical.  Some terrain allows you to flow easily, while others you have to jump off.  I ran and crawled over some forklift vehicle and couldn't take an easy one inch step off of the tire; I had to jump.  My only complaint thus far.

Finding better, out of the way spots to hide or crawl, if you want to leap off the ceiling or down a hole in the floor to an unsuspecting enemy below, the reticule at the center will change shape slightly to let you know you can.  While I didn't jump a whole lot (haven't mastered that yet), I imagine that once you get the movements down, jumping from wall to wall down a corridor in pursuit of a Marine or Predator would be downright unstoppable.  Also, if you're caught from behind or just get hit, and if you're able to get away, the Alien can run away like the dickens.  In the end, the Alien is a speed beast that is hard to track.

But he's not impossible to stop.  The Predator can track him with, I'm going to call it, his "Alien Vision" mode, a separate mode than the iconic infrared/heat vision the films centralize (I guess acid-blood makes the Alien body cool?).  Playing as the Predator is going to take a little more time and dexterity to become comfortable with, at least for me.  Every time I spawned I wanted to cloak, which is probably the way to go.  Once you're hit or you use an attack button your invisibility goes away and are exposed.  Mr. Crab-face is also pretty hulky, lumbering in a sprint, but powerful in jumping and wrist-blade attacks.  Holding LT shows you where you can jump, and RT is supposed to be the "Secondary Attack" or something, and here's where I ran into trouble.

As the Predator, you spawn weaponless, which makes cloaking all the more essential.  Weapons for both the Marines and Predator are scattered about (for no logical story-based reason other than it's multiplayer).  I picked up a shoulder cannon and some cog-looking things (?) and tried to switch to using them (the D-Pad, same for the Marine).  They didn't work.  I'm sure I was doing something wrong because others were able to use them.  It'll just take more time.

Easy to figure out was the Marine.  This is pretty classic FPS controlling here.  After playing as one of the non-humans I missed the vision modes.  The Predator has his infrared and Alien Vision; the Alien sees normally, but both Marines and Predators are outlined in a soft red glow at all times (which is why the Alien is so great.  You don't have to worry about switching "radars.").  The Marine has a flashlight, a motion tracker, and his trusty eyes.  And they suck in dark places.  It's hard playing as the Marine.  The Predator is a little weighty when you move, but the Marine feels like he's carrying five of Ripley's duct-taped Flamethrower/Pulse Rifle improv weapon at the end of Aliens.  He is REALLY slow, even in sprinting.  I guess this helps the survival horror that comes with playing as him, aided by the Catch-22 of radars, the motion tracker.  Since it's hard to follow movement and distinguish what's in the shadows, the motion tracker can help, but all it emits is fear-inducing "ping-ping* letting you know something is after you, and it's close by.  The tracker gives you direction with blips, but not above or below you.  The weaponry helps, especially if you pick up the Smart Gun and can lock-n-load like Drake or Vasquez.  But suffice to say, the Marine is tough, in more ways than one.

Beginning to play is somewhat unexplained and needlessly confusing.  Once you search for a match you have precious little time to choose a species, that is, if you can figure it out.  When the lobby "opens up" and you can see your adversaries, you have two horizontal menus to maneuver to set yourself up right.  Going up allows you to choose your species, the default menu your skins and the ability to invite friends (it'll make sense if you play it instead of read it).  It seems the matches have a limited number of Predators that are allowed, and I'll bet they fill up quickly.  Of all the matches I played, the Marine was the overall winner the majority of the time ... that is until I won twice, once as the Predator, the other as the Alien.  That felt kinda good ... it's nice to break away from the usual gun-in-the-bottom-right-of-the-screen to a new field of view and litany of attack skills.

I'm looking forward to playing it again when I'm able.  Maybe because it's new, and maybe because I wanted Ripley as my girlfriend at one time in my life (I was in Middle School, ok?), but it's really fun.  However, I don't know how much depth Aliens vs. Predator multiplayer will have once we've acquired all the skins.  Call of Duty has gigantic customization; Halo has modes and maps and rankings out the wahzoo.  When we're able to have the other game modes it should be more enjoyable.  I never got into free-for-alls, so playing alongside other Marines or Aliens will be great, especially Survivor Mode.  I felt weird shooting at other Marines this morning.  Who knows how long multiplayer will be popular, or what will change about it ... maybe a mode that involves the Queen or Facehuggers?

My first impressions are very positive.  The violence, while up close and graphic, lasts about 5 seconds and is gone until the next time you're able to push X behind someone.  The feel of the movies and the original games are here.  If you love the films, download this demo right away.  If you're curious, definitely give it a few tries.

Have you played it yet?  Are you going to?  Leave your thoughts below.

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