Aliens vs. Predator
I’ve never really been exposed to the Aliens vs. Predator franchise before. Or rather, I’ve never really been exposed to the Aliens or Predator franchises before, because they are two separate franchises that happen to often hold crossovers. I’m not much of a film geek, and the original Alien & Predator movies came before my time. I remember watching part of the 2004 Alien vs. Predator movie, but I was pretty much bored the whole time. I didn’t really get into it.
But thanks to the wonders of Steam, I’ve recently dug myself into two games: Aliens versus Predator, and Aliens vs. Predator. Two games released almost exactly a decade apart by the same studio, and the second one is arguably a remake of the first. It doesn’t feel much like a remake, but I’m assuming it isn’t a sequel, since it has the exact same title. But to avoid confusing the titles apart, I’ve decided I’m going to refer to the 1999 Aliens versus Predator as AvP1 and the 2010 Aliens vs. Predator as AvP2. If nothing else, it sort of makes sense if you assume 1 is short for 1999 and 2 is short for 2010.
Anyway, this is basically my first time to explore the design and details of the Alien and Predator creatures, and I must say that both of them seem rather eerily familiar. The first Alien movie was released in 1979, and the first Predator movie came out in 1987, so I’ll be kind enough to assume that the two creatures invented or at least innovated their respective archetypes in their times, but we’ve seen both of them several more times by now.
The alien archetype can be described as a race of monstrous, mindless aliens that are controlled by a central hivemind and reproduce by feeding off of and/or taking control of other species, while the Predator archetype can be described as a hyper-advanced alien race that has tribal culture and cloaking technology, and yet insists on using melee weapons like swords or claws half the time. Standing in between them is an army of human space marines, firing their guns and spouting off one-liners while their friends get eaten alive or stabbed in the back.
The two game franchises that spring to mind are Starcraft (with the Zerg and Protoss) and Halo (with the Flood and Covenant). I asked Twitter what other alien races we’ve had that fit the Predator archetype and got several answers, including the Klingons from Star Trek, the Nox from Stargate Sg-1 (which I’ve never watched, so pardon me if I spelled something wrong there) and even the Nightkin from Fallout, if you’re willing to accept mutants instead of aliens.
I’ve never really been into Halo, but I find the Zerg and Protoss lore far more interesting than the Alien and Predator lore. The Predators seem far more simplistic than the Protoss; when you look at the history of the Protoss, they seem almost tragic, while the Predators are basically just a bunch of macho hunters who prove their manliness by committing genocide on other unsuspecting species. And the Zerg I find more interesting than the Aliens because of the way they were created, as well as the variety between all the different species of Zerg contained in the hive.
You could argue that it’s unfair to criticize them for being unoriginal even though they may have been back in the day. And that would be true, if I were criticizing the original movies. But the fact that they’re still trying to sell us these creatures that are now textbook clichés really smacks of unwillingness to evolve.
It reminds me of the people who criticize Gears of War and Halo for being about “dumb space marines” and then give that new Warhammer 40k game a free ride because 40k supposedly invented the trope (or at least brought the trope to gaming, since the trope had already been invented by 1959). That doesn’t make it any more interesting. You have to make it interesting. You have to bring something new to the table, or else it gets stale.
Whoops, got a little off-track. So, Aliens vs. Predator then. I know I haven’t yet discussed the gameplay or design of the AvP games, but I intend to in later posts. This is actually a great opportunity for me, considering what I tend to do on this blog. I usually play an old game, talk about it, and try to imagine what that game would have been like if it were released today. But I can’t actually see what the game would be like today, because different studios have different tendencies and games tend to vary quite a lot in terms of quality. I can make big blanket statements like “they generally don’t do [insert design choice here] anymore,” or “it probably would have had regenerating health,” but nothing is really set in stone.
However, in this case, I have a game from 1999, supposedly the “Golden Age of PC Gaming,” and another game from just last year. They’re from the same studio, and like I said before, you could argue that the second one is a remake of the first. So in this case I can compare today’s industry directly to yesterday’s industry. No nostalgia to fog my vision, no differing studios to serve as extraneous variables.
If all goes according to plan (by which I mean if I can actually stick to a plan for once), then I’ll write one post about each of the creatures’ campaigns and compare the two games side-by-side. I’ll compare the Predator campaign to the Predator campaign, and the Alien campaign to the Alien campaign. I might not do so for the marines, because the marine campaigns are just too damn boring. After that I might give a Final Thoughts post about both games taken as whole packages.
Needless to say I’ve pretty much already made my mind about which game I think is better, but I don’t want to spoil that for you. Not quite yet.