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AvP: The Facehugger

Before I go into the side-by-side comparisons of each campaign, I want to talk about one specific feature in the human and predator campaigns: the facehuggers.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Xenomorph lore, a facehugger is basically an alien larva that looks like a spider. It latches onto the face of its victim (typically a human or predator), wraps its tail around the victim’s neck to knock it unconscious, and then dumps a Xenomorph embryo into his or her chest.

That sounds like solid material for a horror movie, but here’s how it works in AvP1.

There’s this tiny creature that’s hard to spot if you’re not expecting it. It quickly scurries around on the ground, and if you’re close enough for it to pounce on you (it has a pretty long jump distance) then it instantly covers the screen and kills you. There is nothing you can do about it if you didn’t manage to spot and shoot the tiny little target beforehand. Just POOF! Dead.

That’s less fair than quick-time-events. That’s less fair than the creepers from Minecraft. That is the fucking epitome of unfair. The only saving grace is that its crawling sound is fairly loud, but that doesn’t help you if it’s waiting behind a wall or if you’re too busy being attacked by an army of aliens to notice (and you usually are).

And yet I could see people defending this design choice by saying that that’s how it works in the movies.

I’ve seen this tendency a lot among gamers; defending horrible gameplay by explaining the justification in the context of the story or setting. One acquaintance of mine tried to justify FEAR’s complete lack of genuine scariness by saying, “Well, it makes sense that you’re a super-powerful badass, since you’re Alma’s daughter.” When Yahtzee pointed out how much more fun Fallout 3 and New Vegas would be if they had a fast-travel system that didn’t break immersion and force you to skip content, such as a car or motorcycle, people objected against that idea because the Fallout world apparently doesn’t have working cars.

Probably the most notable example of this, from my perspective anyway, was something I said in that Fallout post I wrote forever ago (take a shot). I asked why Vault 15 needed to exist in the first place, and many people responded by explaining the setting to me. The thing is, I already knew that, and I felt that those people had sort of missed my point, though that may have been my fault for not specifying in my post.

Story perspective: The denizens of Vault 13 don’t know about Shady Sands because they don’t actually know that civilization exists outside of the vaults. For all they know, the entire world is now a howling wasteland devoid of human life. Therefore, the only advice they can give is that Vault 15 might have what you’re looking for.

Okay, I can buy that.

Gameplay perspective: Go to Vault 15. Oh, you didn’t stop at that one town along the way? Well, too bad! You need a rope to get in! Go backtrack. Oh, you got the rope? Good, because this vault has nothing of use for you! Ha-ha! You idiot! You went on a fetch quest and wasted some of your precious 150 days just to run into a dead end! We’re all laughing at you! Black Isle is smarter than you!

I take solace in the fact that Black Isle no longer exists.

See, this is the problem I have. I like it when the gameplay and story are in harmony, but in so many of these cases we get games where the story causes problems for the gameplay.

I’m not saying story doesn’t matter, but when the story is causing problems in the gameplay department, something needs to be done about the story. In the case of Fallout 1, here’s a few alterations to the story that would have made the gameplay less time-wasting and stupid.

Instead of having Shady Sands and Vault 15 be two different settlements, make Shady Sands into a village that was built around the ruins of Vault 15. Say that they decided to build the settlement there because of easy distance to the leftover supplies from the Vault. Or maybe you could remove Shady Sands and instead make Vault 15 a town itself. Say that the original Vault 15 denizens decided to open the gate and learn to farm just outside. Vault 15 goes from being an enclosed vault to being a peaceful little town. Like Shady Sands, but underground.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah! Aliens vs. Predator.

Thankfully AvP2 fixed the facehugger issue. If a facehugger grabs you when your health is low, then it’ll insta-kill you, but if your health is modestly high, it’ll deal a bit of damage and then you grab it and throw it off of your face. They’re still threatening this way, but the penalty for failing to spot and shoot the tiny target is far more reasonable.

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9 responses

  1. The thing is, Fallout 2 DID have a working car and you find it’s ruins in New Vegas. Plus a lot of other cars are shown to have working nuclear fuel cells, they just lack wheels and they’re easy to blow up. But if you armoured one and replaced the tyres, a character with sufficient repair skill should be able to get a working vehicle. It’s like Mad Max, but fuel is a non-issue.

    October 24, 2011 at 4:59 PM

  2. vukodlak

    Fans of the original Fallout tend to get a bit… religious… about the game. Fallout is the truth by which all others are judged – if something was not specifically mentioned in the first game, it cannot exist. A schism from these orthodox views led to the formation of a splinter-group who include the new testament of Fallout 2. While the two groups co-exist in relative peace, individuals who openly profess their love for Fallout 3 are anathema and considered to be dangerous heretics by both groups.

    October 24, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    • That’s because Fallout 3, like other Bethesda games, just isn’t good. ;)

      October 25, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    • JPH

      I never thought of myself as a dangerous heretic, but yeah, I could see that.

      October 25, 2011 at 1:07 PM

  3. Gorman

    The proper way to deal with facehuggers is the flamethrower.

    You hear skittering, you burn everything. Then you nuke from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

    Do you have unlimited saving on? Just curious.

    October 25, 2011 at 4:26 PM

    • JPH

      I didn’t see an unlimited saving option. Is that a cheat?

      EDIT: Also, I stopped using the flamethrower because the first time I used it I somehow caught fire.

      October 25, 2011 at 4:51 PM

      • Falcon

        Yes, but your face remained safely unhugged. I consider that a win.

        Gorman I like where your heads at. You are a person whose head shall remain pristine and unhugged as well.

        October 25, 2011 at 7:41 PM

        • JPH

          Getting caught on fire does a friggen lot of damage in AvP1. Almost as bad as getting facehugged.

          Also, there’s no flamethrower for Predators.

          For the Marine I found my favorite weapon to use against facehuggers was the grenade launcher, though that’s only good if they’re a decent distance away.

          October 25, 2011 at 7:53 PM

  4. Gorman

    Best weapon if you don’t have the flamethrower (or are too chicken to use it) is the M56 Smartgun, which is also best for everything else.

    Seriously, the smartgun…

    When you see Aliens you see the Smartgun working for a bit and you know firing it would make you happy.

    You play AvP, and you know you were right. That noise is like Christmas and violence had a kid.

    As for the save option

    “By launching the game with -unlimitedsaves in the command line, players can now save as many times as they like, rather than being restricted to a set number of saves per level. To set your command line options, please right-click on the game in Steam My games browser and select Properties and then Set Launch Options. Alternatively you can edit the command line options directly if you are using a shortcut to the game exe.”

    Makes life a lot easier.

    October 26, 2011 at 12:18 AM

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