Aliens Vs Predator 2
Be honest, how many really trap film sequels have you seen in your life? Now this is only going to work if you're ruthlessly truthful, which means (and I hate to have to break this to you), including the likes Karate Kid 2. Close one I know, but it's gotta go on that list, sorry. Anyway, take your time. No hurry. In fact, while you're having a think, here'sa reminder of a couple that bear more than a passing relevance to this preview. For starters, how about Predator 2? What the hell was that all about? Following on from the non-stop action of its predecessor, which brilliantly cast a group of ultra-fit commandos against a seemingly invincible alien warrior in the claustrophobic and humid jungle, came... Danny Glover. For the majority of the film, Mr'I'm too old for this shit' Glover looks like he's about to keel over and die from excessive sweating, even when faced with a relatively untaxing task. Like getting out of a chair. Alien 3 wasn't much better, providing us with about as many thrills as an afternoon visit to an incontinent auntie and engaging in a three hour conversation about crochet.
Hopefully by now you've come up with enough films to justify my incredibly sweeping statement about sequels generally being rubbish. As with the Predator and Alien films, it's obvious that not even the near irresistible lure of brain-eating, rabid creatures with acid for blood and hugely powerful and technologically enhanced aliens can guarantee success. And, of course, the same can apply for games. However, before you start panicking that the follow-up to one of the finest FPSs of all time is going to turn out to be a turd the size of Bognor Regis, let me put your mind at rest. AvP2 definitely won't be falling into the same pit of mediocrity inhabited by its celluloid counterpans, because it's looking incredible. No, actually I lied, it's looking nothing short of stunning.
The reason I'm being so cocksure about this game is because I got to play it first hand (smiles smugly, gets kicked in by reader lynch mob). From the moment you enter the first level, it's obvious how much work has gone into the three character types, which are as dynamic and exciting as they are varied. You're immediately struck by an atmosphere of unseen fear and rising tension - created by all-new subtle audio tricks and masterfully erratic lighting effects - which take the FPS genre to new psychologically scarring heights. In fact AvP2 is so terrifying that it will no doubt lead to months of intense therapy sessions for scores fat insecure American teenagers - and a few hundred moistened Mrs Tiggywinkie pyjama bottoms for soft boys the world over. Be warned now, AvP2 won't be for you if you're the kind of person who cries when they see a wounded bird with no beak lying in the road having its brains strained, out of its ears by a passing lorry. You'll need iron balls (or the female equivalent) if you're going to survive this horror fest.
Here's The Interview Part
As well as playtesting the latest build of the game (for the lowdown on the multiplayer side of things, check out the Multiplying The Carnage panel), we also caught up with the team from Fox Interactive. We grilled David Stalker, the producer, about what we can expect in the finished product and the exclusive demo we'll be running. We even managed to get some info out of him about a possible AvP film. Another exclusive perhaps? Well, would have been if he'd actually said anything conclusive. Anyway, here's what he had to say for himself...
How do you think you've improved on the original game?
We started AvP2 by carefully looking at the things we dug in AvPl, then looking at what we didn't like, then what we thought would've been cool but didn't make it. When we discussed this stuff with Monolith, they clearly had a lot of similar thoughts as well as their own whole fresh perspective that we knew would bring a lot of energy to the game. So we definitely see this game building on the first.
The LithTech engine technology allowed us to create much more detailed worlds (including some gorgeous exteriors) and characters than before, which is really great when it comes to depicting such well-known movie monsters. Trying to create the feeling that you were in an Aliens/Predator movie was one of the major goals.
There's also more subtle stuff, like how the game draws you in, growing more challenging in a gradual way rather than just dumping you in at the deep end (which, admittedly, the first kind of did).
Then there's the story. AvPl relied mostly on the atmosphere of its locations and your previous acquaintance with the universe. This time we have a story of our own, which will really help the player get into their character (and their species). We're using in-game cinematics to help communicate this story - the FMV budget for the kind of stuff we're doing with the engine would've made it totally impossible.
There was no storyline in the original game. Will there be a storyline in this sequel and if so, what will the plot be?
Whaddya mean there was no storyline? It was there - you just had to look really hard for it and use your imagination... a lot. AvP2 is definitely much, much stronger in the storytelling department.
The story takes place on the planet bearing the designation LV-1201. Events transpire which bring all three species together during one six-week period, with everyone fighting for survival. Recently, LV-1201 was discovered to be home to an Alien hive of indeterminate age, as well as to ancient structures clearly belonging to some other extraterrestrial species. A gigantic expedition, led by Dr Arnaud Eisenberg (lone survivor of an earlier expedition) is sent to study the Xenomorphs, the hive and the mysterious structures.
At some point, things go awry and a passing Marine destroyer is diverted to investigate what happened to the expedition. Unbeknown to the humans, LV-1201 is periodically visited by Predators (what with the ready supply of Aliens for game) but, upon arrival at their familiar hunting grounds, they are incensed to find humans there as well. All three species are on a collision course with each other.
Having selected which species to play, the player will play through a complete story of connected 'missions' as that species. However, the story will only become fully clear as they play the other two species and see that there are three intersecting stories and that only by playing all three can they fully grasp what happened on LV-1201.
AvP was famed for its use of lighting. How is the new Lithtech engine improving on this?
Monolith has been hard at work on their lighting models to make AvP2 even more impressive than AvP1. This includes 32-bit animated light-mapping and dynamic light sources to make for some great effects - like shadows cast by lights behind fans and light spilling out of doorways as they open. Let's not forget all of the different vision modes the different species have that render the world in different lighting conditions. You've also got muzzle flashes, explosions, shoulder lamps, flares... is that enough lighting for you?
Not bad, not bad at all. How many weapons are going to feature for each of the three sides and what are they? Do any of them have a dual fire mode?
Many weapons have a dual fire mode. The Predator has modified versions of his equipment from AvP1 plus he has some new items such as the much-requested Net Gun and the Combi-Stick (the telescoping spear). The Net Gun is great (especially in multiplayer) because it bundles the victim up in this big net. allowing you to close in for the kill. The Combi-Stick allows you to do close-up damage, similar to the Wristblades but with greater reach.
Similar to the Predator, the Marine has almost everything from AvPl but improved and upgraded. Some of the weapons we've added are a knife (think about it: Net Gun, knife), a pistol and a shotgun. We've also added the functioning shoulder lamp, a Welder and the ComTech (or 'Hacking') Device. The Welder lets you open certain doorways and ducting (remember to seal them behind you) and the ComTech Device is the little tricorder-style thing Hudson uses to run a bypass and open the big door in Aliens.
With the Alien, we wanted to try and keep it as intuitive as possible and not twist the character so that it suddenly stopped feeling like an Alien. So you still have the jaw, claw and tail, but we've refined what's there and added some more control options (such as allowing you to toggle wall-walking on or off). We're also giving the Alien a really great pouncing ability that can be useful for both attacking and navigation.
AI is the Holy Grail in first-person shooters at the moment. What advances have you made with AvP2 and how have you adapted the AI to suit the three distinctly different species in the game?
Our main focus lias been to make sure that the species feel real and yet intuitive.
On the real front, we focus on the AI's senses. If an AI can cheat all the time and you can never trick it, then it isn't going to be much fun. Our Als really 'see' and 'hear their enemies and allies. Lighting, distance, field of view, cloaking, sound volume (and more) all affect the senses. This has gone a long way in providing a sense of life to our Als. And by the way, they will fight their enemies as well as fighting you.
Multiplying The Carnage
While it's always fun to blow away hordes of alien scum, it's even more fun to shoot hordes of your friends instead. I was lucky enough to spend around an hour trying out the multiplayer side of the game.
The first level was a massive open arena with buildings towering in the night sky all around me. As an alien I traversed one of the walls, camouflaging myself in the darkness before pouncing on an unsuspecting developer who yelped like a three-year-old girl who's just found a dead rat, as I rearranged his internal organs. But before smugness could set in, another adversary picked me off from a distance with the Predator's devastating shoulder-mounted laser.
The next level I tried out was set in a science lab, with a huge balcony looking down on the level. Playing in this more confined space, the gameplay wasn't too dissimilar to Unreal Tournament, only infinitely more terrifying. Because the action is fast (but not ridiculously so like in Quake III) you have time to think of how to use the environment and your character's strengths to your advantage. Using the alien to dodge bullets by running onto walls and ceilings may be disorientating at first, but once you master it, it's a deadly skill. And it's this kind of innovation which makes the multiplayer games in AvP2 stand out from its rivals. As an alien I hid in high corners and waited for my prey to pass under me. However, as a commando, I found that staying in open areas was the best way to play, in order to make the most of my massive arsenal of weapons without the threat of being ambushed. Finally, I gave the Predator a whirl, but he proved to be the least complete (in terms of programming, not ability) character of the three. However, I still got to pummel someone's head in and pull off a couple of fantastic (if hugely flukey) shots, so I was pretty satisfied with what I'd seen of him.
From the 60 all-too-brief minutes I spent playing the multiplayer game, it's clear AvP2 is going to be a cracker - in fact it could have the most versatile and original multiplayer action ever to grace a FPS. In order to get a clearer idea of what to expect from the multiplayer games in the finished version, I had another brief chat with the lads at Fox, who revealed the following...
Will you be able to create your own deathmatch levels and if so, how?
One of the nicest things about LithTech games is that players are usually able to get their hands on the actual game creation tools fairly soon after the game comes out.
What other multiplayer game types will there be?
We're planning around 12 maps (with, we hope, many more on the way) with a variety of play modes, including: Deathmatch, Team (Species) Deathmatch, Hunt (a tag game similar to the one in AvP1) and a couple of others with saucy names like Overrun that are still being worked on. You will be able to choose from a large number of different player characters and these can impact what you can do in the game.
Are there going to be hots you can play against without going online?
Right now this is beyond our reach, so it will not be in the shipping product. However, with a game available online for continuing play, I like to think there are always possibilities of later additions to do this stuff in the future.
Will there be co-operative play against the computer?
There won't be any co-operative play against Als at release in the single-player or multiplayer maps. Trying to get multiple players through levels designed for a detailed single-player story was not possible at this time.
Sounds scary... What new sound techniques have you used to heighten the atmosphere?
The biggest thing that's been added has been a specially adapted version of Direct Music to create a soundtrack that both fits in with the movies and the previous game but is also context-sensitive to what's going on around the player at the time. The goal is to give players a much more visceral response to situations they encounter since, after many years of movies and TV, we're all attuned to what soundtracks tell us is about to happen.
Can you tell us about all the different types of Aliens that will be in the game, and what their roles will be?
There will be some Aliens of slightly different physical shapes and abilities, usually based on which species they were hosted in. This plays out as different speed, strength, resilience and so on.
With the success of the AVP games, what do you think is the likelihood of there being an AvP film?
I think it's safe to say that (as far as I know), it's being seriously considered. I think it's got a better chance of happening now than it's ever had before. I think with the standards and the success of the games we've done, we've been able to demonstrate to the chaps in feature production that bringing the two together can actually be done without being cheesy, and that moreover, it can be scary and thrilling.
How many missions does each side have in the single-player campaign?
There are seven missions in each species' storyline. Obviously, each campaign isn't as big as a single dedicated game would because that would take triple the time to get done. We look at this as being one nicely proportioned game with three incredibly.
What can our readers expect to see in the exclusive playable denio we'll be running on a future CD?
Were releasing a single-player demo to give a sense of how that experience is going to play, and then we're looking at releasing a multiplayer demo later as well so they can see that side of the game too.
What is the current shipping date for the game?
When it's done. No really, it will be out before Christmas - not sure of the exact date yet. What plans have you got for the AvP licence next? Do you plan to take the Alien or Predator universe into any other genre?
My take on AvP is that it means the three different species in conflict with each other. The first-person games are just one expression of this three-way conflict concept. Don't be surprised if you start hearing about another game soon.
I don't know about you, but after what I've seen and been told, I can't wait until the end of the year when AvP2 hits the shelves. In fact. I've already started stocking up on man-sized 1 luggies and portaloos. Until then though. I'll just have to while away the time by saving injured sparrows from unobservant drivers. Gotta go now... (I'm welling up again, don't let the readers know guys)... You bastards.
Download Aliens Vs Predator 2
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