Aliens Vs Predator: Extinction

Aliens Vs Predator: Extinction

Written by Charles Husemann on 8/29/2003 for Xbox  

Aliens Vs. Predators…those simple words send shivers down the backs of fan boys everywhere. It all started with the second Predator movie where the films creators showed an Alien skull as Predator trophy onboard their ship at the end of the movie. Dark Horse comics then ran a great comic book series to further expand on this theory and ever since people have been clamoring for anything that brought these two great franchises together (you know you’ve got a good thing going when one of the bigger fan boy films of the year combines these elements with Batman (link to Batman film)).

The two Aliens vs. Predators first person shooters released a few years ago were excellent in the way they incorporated elements from all three of the races (Xenomorph, Colonial Marine, and Predator) and it gives users a good feeling for the nuances of each species by creating three fairly distinct game play modes based on the strengths of each species. With this high standard in mind, EA and Fox Interactive (check this along w/developer) decided to create Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction.

Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction takes place on LV742 (verify) where a joint mining operation is underway between the WeyYuen (verify) and the Colonial Marines and they have run into some seven foot plus tall alien type problems. Unknown to either group, a Predator hunting party is also on the planet and looking for some new trophies (and they aren’t looking for cheesy bowling trophies either). For some reason the Predators like to decorate their houses with the skulls of their enemies (which is probably why you never want to sign up for “Trading Spaces” with your Predator neighbor unless you are into that kind of thing or your name is John Yan). Any hoo, with everyone competing for the same space, you know there’s going to be a little conflict and that is where you, the player, come in.

The game comes with 21 missions (seven for each species), as well as a series of tutorial missions to introduce you to the game and a few sample missions to walk you through how to play each species. The tutorials are well done and provide a basic introduction on the ins and outs of how each species works. Given the different way each race plays (more on that later) this is extremely important to get users off the ground. The tutorials do not cover any of the advanced units and the game does not do a good job of introducing the more powerful units during the game, they just show up. This is where the bestiary comes in. Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction also provides you with a bestiary of all of the units available by species. This provides along with a list of their capabilities, weaknesses, strengths, and mini-description of each. These can be accessed at any time and you can pause the game to get the details on something that’s just attacked you (and there are a lot of things that can attack you).

The game allows you to control one of three races. The type titles races as well as the colonial marines. Each species comes with upgradeable ten units as well as some added goodies.
The colonial marines are your token human species, based on the marines from the second and fourth Alien movies. The marines do not have a fixed base but instead are based around the Comm Tech. Comm Tech’s are critical since they are the only ones who can order new units and then have them delivered via drop ship (money is earned by repairing Atmospheric Converters (ATMO’s)) While this is a little bit of a stretch, it almost kinda works in the context of the game. The rest of the units are recognizable from the movie with basic infantry, flamethrower units, and smartgunners making appearances along with some other units that are derivatives of things in the film (the battle-suited trooper is reminiscent of the military version of the loader suit that Ripley used at the end of the second movie).

The aliens (Xenomorphs for the hardcore out there) are a little more complex. The aliens start life of as eggs which contain facehuggers. You know the drill from there. You have to find fresh bodies for the facehuggers to lay eggs in. The host you select determines the type of alien created. Eggs can also be modified to generate Queens which in turn can lay more eggs. The problem lies in finding hosts in which to gestate more aliens. Since most people aren’t going to be willing hosts (especially since the process is fatal to the hosts) you have to have other drones go out and collect them. Hosts don’t have to be human or predators. There is plenty of wildlife in the area that can serve as hosts until you have enough drones to go after bigger fish. A nice feature is that after a battle you can set your aliens to collector mode where they will drag back corpses to the nest. This allows you to focus on other things rather than having to individually select aliens and bodies to be dragged back for impregnation.

The final race is probably the most fun to play as they have the most goodies to use. The Predators possess all of the cool little goodies from the movie franchise as well as some new things (XX verify this XX). The Predators are based around a shrine. The shrine can call the orbiting mothers ship to order new units. New unit costs X amount of honor points which are earned when you kill another unit. Bonus points are earned for collecting trophies (the skull of the fallen enemy). The harder the unit to kill the more honor is earned by killing and collecting. Like the aliens, the Predators can be set to collection mode where they will automatically harvest trophies without you having to pick a predator and body to harvest from.

The background graphics Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction are decent but not something to write home about. This isn’t necessarily a knock against the artists because the world these three species inhabit isn’t exactly a bright and colorful one. The unit models aren’t much to look at either, as it can be difficult to discern between some of the units (especially with the Aliens) unless you are using the close zoom mode. This can be frustrating especially in larger battles when you are trying to find a specific unit for a task. That said, there are a lot of nice graphical touches that help pull you into the game. Each species has a unique user interface and there are some nice effects tossed into the game (each species bleeds the right color which is a nice touch).
While the graphics in the game are a little lacking, the sound is actually pretty good. All of the sounds from the movies are in place and work well. Everything, from the predator vision mode sounds to the motion detector sound, is in the game and it works very well to set the mood of the game. The only gripe I have is that when you’re playing the predators and you have a lot of skulls to pickup the trophy skull scream they issue can get a little old after the third or fourth time. The music is also solid, featuring the score from a successful series of movies never hurts (just ask LucasArts). This is certainly no exception. The music for the Marine missions is pulled directly from Aliens and really helps to set the mood when you are hunting bugs and Predators. The only knock I have on the sound is that the same voice over is used for all three races and it would have been a nice touch to have a different voice for each species…it’s a nitpick for sure but it would have added a lot to the game.

The controls for Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction are where things start to fall apart. Like most RTS games there are a lot of things to do from controlling your units on the map, ordering new units, navigating around the map, and monitoring multiple units around the map. On a PC, this wouldn’t be a problem, between a mouse and a keyboard there isn’t too much of a problem. However, when you are limited to console controller, you start to run out of buttons fast. The developers did a decent job with what little they had but the controls still fell short.

The primary navigation is using the left thumbstick. This allows you to move around the screen and the map. With it, you can select troops using the A button (either individually or in groups using the Left trigger as a modifier). You can also hold down the button and a growing circle will appear so that you can select multiple units. I would have preferred the ability to hold down and drag a square around the units (the RTS standard) as the circle method can be a little frustrating. You can create groups by selecting a series of units and then holding the white button and pressing a direction on the D-pad (thus providing you with 4 groups of units). In addition, you can assign a unit to multiple units which, while a cool feature can be frustrating, you want to remove a unit from one group and assign them to another group (you have to reselect the entire group, then deselect the unit, then re-create the group). Some people might like this but it was a turn-off for me. You can hold down the right trigger when you have one or more units to select to assign its mood, Defensive, Aggressive, Hold Ground and Do Nothing. This determines how they will respond when they see other units on the screen and is pretty important as if you set it to aggressive they will sometimes override the location you want them to go in order to hunt down an enemy unit. This combined with the poor unit path finding can cause massive headaches, as you’ll sometimes find units wandering away from the group to attack a unit and then getting killed by a mob of enemy units. The black buttons activates a unit’s special abilities (such as the cloaking and healing abilities of the Predators). If a unit has multiple special abilities, you can toggle between them with the left trigger (while the unit is selected).

The B button performs the default action for a unit or group of units, either to move to a place on the map or attack a enemy. For some units, this can also involve picking up items (skulls, bodies, etc) or repairing an item (ATMOs for the Comm Techs). Waypoints can be set by holding down the right trigger and clicking on several spots on the map. The X button takes you back to your base (very handy if you’re stuck on the other side of the map) and the Y button will take you to any event that pops up (such as a unit being attacked). Finally, the right thumbstick can be used to move the cursor around the mini-map allowing you to quickly navigate to a particular place on the map. As you can see, there are a lot of things to memorize and in the heat of battle it can be difficult to get the right group to do the right thing at the right time.My other big gripe about the game is the lack of multiplayer. While it would be difficult to play split screen, the re-play value of the game over Xbox Live would be pretty damn impressive as the twenty-one missions go by quickly.

One thing that is actually impressive about Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction is the performance. I didn’t experience any real frame drops or stutters while playing and the load times for the levels where really quick.

Overall, Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction is an OK console title but it probably would be a decent PC title due to the controls. If you’re a fan of the movies, then you’ll probably enjoy parts of the game. For everyone else, this is something you might want to rent over a rainy weekend or pick up from Half.com in a few months.
There’s some solid game play buried in the game but the controls and the path finding get in the way.

Rating: 7.5 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom.   I have been a Microsoft Xbox MVP since 2009.
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