Name: Aliens Vs. Predator
Medium: 1 CD
Publisher: GT interactive
H R Giger's Alien design is one of the true horrors of science fiction. Unlike most of the horror films of today, which are simply men in white masks who are mightily pissed of with young teenage girls, the xenomorph is a pure force of evil, with no motive except to wipe out enemies and reproduce. Four films, endless fan novels and comics, a whole host of phrases that have entered pop culture (This, this, this and this and endless video games spinoffs is not a bad haul for one little franchise).
Equally, the concept of the Predator, a vicious humanoid which seems to mercilessly kill humans in a variety of unpleasant ways for entertainment, is in some ways even worse, because it's here, on earth, not millions of miles away on the Nostromo. But of course, as any goddamn money grabbing capitalist knows, two highly disturbing horror stories go together well to make a high selling game.
But seriously, furious capitalist bashing aside, whoever first put the universes of the Alien and the Predator together (I think there is an arcade game with the same title) deserves some sort of award.
AvP is quite possibly the scariest FPS game ever. No matter whether you play as a Marine, an Alien or a Predator there is a very real risk of death. You are always fiercely outnumbered by someone, with either superior technology or superior speed. Often, a good tactic is to simply run very fast, because at least that makes it harder for anyone to catch up with you. But just as each race has weak points, each race also has benefits. Some can restore health, some can hide, and some can deal out large amounts of damage. But choosing which to play does not make the levels easier or more difficult, because each of the three races has their own set of levels to go through, designed to take advantage of each race's abilities. Each race has such a different playing style etc. that it doesn't make sense to talk about them together. Hence:
The game has excellent graphics for it's time, and it is also very kind to your system - my decrepit old PC runs it nicely at top resolution (1024*768) and the only other new(ish) game that can boast that is System Shock 2. The levels are truly huge, especially the Alien ones, but then again there is very little environment detail, so I guess it's a case of swings and roundabouts. The models and textures on the enemies are very nice though. The AI for the enemies is great, but you do get the feeling that occasionally they notice you when you really shouldn't have been seen - mostly when you are cloaked as the Predator.
The game originally had no save game feature while you were playing a level - you had to do it all in one go. This made it truly agonising as players ended up in a pool of their own cold sweat, as the tension of the game gets to you. Later on, a patch was released which allowed you a limited number of saves per level, and there was a huge online argument about whether this ruined the game. Either way, the game is still super scary, with or without saves.
There is quite a wide variety in the settings and enemies you will encounter. The locales you will take in include the original crashed ship from Alien, an iron smelting works, a research plant where an Alien is being cloned together with a Predator (to create a Predalien), and the original Colony on :V-426. Enemies range from all types of Aliens (from Facehuggers up to the Queen and everything in between), all types of Humans / mechanical inventions (Civilians, Androids, Marines, Sentry Turrets, and finally the dreaded Xenoborg, a sort of gun wielding Robot Alien. I've only met one of these in the game, and I have no desire to meet another). There are, very rarely, Predators to fight against, but this is so difficult I am glad it's rare.
As well as an exemplary single player game, there is also a good selection of Multiplayer games, such as all out Free for all deathmatch, Species-teams deathmatch, (marine players v. predator players v. alien players), Swarm levels (where you play as either Marine or Predator and have to fight off a never ending stream of AI controlled Aliens). These game types can be played over a LAN or the Internet, but alas, I have never managed to get it to work. A fast PC and Broadband or a lot of patience are required to get a mutliplayer game of AVP up and running.
Overall, though, if you can live without multiplayer, this game will satisfy all your single player FPS needs for a good long while. There is a sequel, Aliens Vs. Predator 2, but I have not played it as of now.
As well as the first release, there was a Gold Edition and a Mac version. The Gold Edition was pre patched with the save game feature (which no doubt annoyed a whole load of people) and had extra multiplayer levels, but getting them to work is beyond me (Gold is the version I have, but apart from the patch and extra multiplayer levels, there is nothing else new). There is very little info on the Mac version available - GameFAQs says it was released by Mac Play in October 2001, but there is nothing else there. Mac World.copm comes to the rescue with an article about Mac Play buying the license to publish AvP Gold Edition for the Mac, as it is "one of the most frequently requested titles for the Mac platform." This happened because apparently Fox Interactive, who published the game first time round, have recently pulled out of game publishing and are working with other publishers to get their games out. This meant that the market for a Mac version publisher was open, and Mac Play jumped in. The article says the game will come out "September 21 2001", which is only 10 days off the GameFAQs date. This can be put down to distribution problems, or good old fashioned slipping. If an Mac gamers out there have info on whether this version is substantially changed from the PC version, please let me know.
Zerotime says "I dunno about "scariest"... it was pretty tense at times, especially as the marine, but They Hunger and Clive Barker's Undying scared the pants off me." - I personally have never played Undying but I'll agree that They Hunger is pretty scary. I would still say that the true master of scare-em-ups is System Shock 2 though...
And now Zerotime wants to change his answer to the Rob The Cradle mission in Thief: Deadly Shadows. He's so crazy!!! Or he might not be, I dunno, I havent got around to playing that game yet. Bleh.Sources:
Playing the game
Thanks to amib for additions and leading me away from cheap digs.
Thanks to wertperch for a formatting correction.