Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: July 29, 2003
The title says it all: two of the most well-known extra-terrestrial forces are back in the new and upcoming movie, Alien vs. Predator: Extinction. Before the arrival of the movie, however, console owners will receive a nice little treat in the form of a teaser on how the movie storyline might evolve. Let’s go kick some extra-terrestrial butt.
Once you pop in the game, you will immediately notice that the game is an RTS instead of an FPS. If you have ever played Total Annihilation, you will have a slight understanding of how this game works: you control a selected group of men and pound on your enemies from a top-down view. Unlike Total Annihilation, where you can only manage a small amount of units, this game actually allows you to build more units. The building style is different compared to other RTS games in that there are limited types and a set quantity of buildings and units that you can create. Each race has approximately eight units with varying power and strength, forcing you to perform a balancing act to create the perfect team. Depending on the mission, the actual unit count can fluctuate, but the standard is around 24 total units. As you can see, with eight different types of units and a few non-human units, keeping a total of 24 is quite hard. So ensure that you choose the correct squad wisely, or else you can be eliminated in a matter of seconds. The aliens are the only ones that break this exception, allowing for quite a few more units. Instead of creating units, the aliens must harvest them, forcing them to require more units than the rest.
As previously mentioned, each race has its own set of units. In order to complete some missions, certain units must be used because of their special abilities. For the Marines, the most important unit would probably be CommTech, since this is how you order more units to join your offensive or defensive fronts. It is also used to take over mines, providing you with necessary money to pay for the reinforcements. The second most important unit would likely be the Synthetic because in a few missions, there are mission-critical items that only they can carry so it is essential to protect him well. They also give an early warning system to show the location of nearby enemies. Then there is the Medic, which heals the units; the only downside is that it doesn’t always automatically heal the injured players. Those are probably the three most crucial characters need to survive the missions for the Marines. The other available units are mainly used for attacking units, ranging from short- to long-range: Infantry, Flamethrower, Smartgunner, Sniper, and SADAR. Lastly, there are the support units such as the ExoSuit, which is a large robotic suit capable of dealing massive damage, and Sentry Gun, which is automated defense, good for protecting your mining facilities.
Unlike the Marines, Predators are more focused on raw strength. One major difference between Predators and Marines is that they can heal themselves, as well as keep cloaked for stealth kills. For this reason, they are the hunters and are always on a “hunt.” Like the Marines they are also balanced out with different types of units, both short- to long-range: Brawler, Hunter, Spear Master, Stalker, Disc Master, Vanguard, Hydra, and Blazer. Most are melee units, with perhaps three units which are long range. Also like the Marines, there are two non-infantry units: the PredGun which is much like the Sentry Gun, and the Shrine, equivalent to the Marines’ CommTech, and consequently the most important item to the Predators. Like the CommTech, the Shrine is mobile and has its own set of defenses. Predators get their money from their kills: human skulls are their currency.
The final – and perhaps most intriguing – race would be the Aliens. Their build structure is the most sophisticated. As I said before, the Aliens harvest their army instead of creating it. As a result, they are allowed more total units than anyone else. The Aliens do not have that many attacking units, and harvesting takes time and effort, so a majority of the units are used for “harvesting.” Such units would be: FaceHugger, Egg, Queen, and in a sense the Carrier. Unlike the Marines and Predators, where the units come from the original source of the egg, the Aliens’ original source doesn’t produce the units most the time, with the exception of the Praetorians. You must either create Praetorians from the eggs, which also have harvesting abilities for more advanced units, or use FaceHuggers, which cause instant death to the enemy and changes it to an alien of your own. In order to create these units, you must have the Queen, the most important unit for the Aliens. Aliens have a nice little feature called gather, which allows them to move all the dead bodies from one location to another and makes for a quick and automated method to create a massive army. Once you have these automations down, you can start harvesting your attacking units: Runner, Warrior, and PredAlien. In order to pay for the eggs and upgrades, you must gain credits. Like the Predators, the Aliens gain money by killing off enemies or harvesting (infecting) them. Aliens will rarely have money trouble because most units do not require credits to create so don’t worry about money and concentrate on creating a powerful Alien force. These units might require a lot more work, but like the Zerg in Starcraft, a massive army is a strong one.
Having gone through each unit, there is one more option that makes them much more balanced: the ability to upgrade their weaponry. Upgrades for Marines are located in the CommTech, the Predators’ Shrine, and the Aliens’ Queen. Make sure you snag upgrades when they become available, or you may be faced with extreme difficulty.
There are a total of seven missions per race, ranging from slaughter to rescue. Each mission has a different objective, but each race has a sole focus for its objectives. The Marines lean more towards research on the Alien and Predator races, while the Predators are almost always on a hunting mission to prove that they are truly strong. Finally, the Aliens always seem to be having a harvest mission.
While the missions allow for plenty of variety, the graphics make this game feel repetitive and are not at all on par with what the PS2 can handle. The graphics are quite grainy, and the background feels the same, even when you change levels. This may be because of the aerial view, but the developers could have at least put in more detail into the game. Character models could have used a major revamp because only the different uniforms distinguish one unit from another. There is also no zooming option, which is greatly appreciated in C&C Generals, since you can get a close-up view of what’s going on during the battle. The battle graphics are actually pretty decent. It’s great to watch a scene with swinging swords, the attack of the claws, or the firing of projectiles going on all at once. The only area with truly awesome graphics was the introduction, which included some really nice character models and actions, but they are nowhere to be found for the rest of the game. If they had added cut scenes for winning a mission, gamers would have appreciated it a lot more.
The sound for the game isn’t anything to write home about either, as it’s almost non-existent. You rarely hear the in-game music over the war cries of the units and other battle sounds. If you are the Marines, you will get to enjoy the very annoying and persistent beeping that keep coming from the stupid CommTech. There was also no obvious theme song or soundtrack, which would have been quite nice. If they do come out with a sequel, I would suggest the addition of more music.
The controls for the game are actually fairly well thought-out. Playing an RTS game without a keyboard and mouse can be quite frustrating. The keys take some getting used to, but after playing a few missions or just running through the tutorial, you get the hang of it. I highly suggest that you go through the tutorials because playing Aliens on the fly is difficult. I did it and couldn’t figure out how to make a single unit until I played the tutorial.
Overall, the game had some really nice concepts, and being put into the RTS genre was an interesting change of pace. However, there are a few key factors that must be improved in order to make this into a truly great game. A few additions that would bring this game a whole new level of entertainment: improvement in graphics and sound, the addition of a multiplayer option, and reworking the AI.