Alien vs Predator. I've had my eye on this title for a few weeks now. Every time I step into a computer retail store, I hold the box in my hand, examine the screenshots, and then put it back. Another FPS ....
But I broke down this weekend, and purchased it. I immediately installed the recently released patch, which provides in-game save functionality. After a laborious key configuration process, I was immersed in the world as an alien xenomorph: climbing on walls, making trememndous leaps, and gnawing on the heads of the poor humans. The single-player portion is - so far - quite engaging. It's a quality game engine, and it allows me to play part in a world I've long been a fan of.
The multiplayer options, while unique, left me feeling somewhat cheated. Alien Tag and Predator Tag sound like interesting forms of multiplayer (certainly better than traditional deathmatch), but only in context of a LAN party. I wouldn't want to play Alien Tag with complete strangers on MPlayer, for example. Likewise for Last Man Standing - as marines are eliminated by the host alien, they respawn as aliens; the last human receives bonus points, and the game starts again.
Cooperative mode is what I most wanted to play. I envisioned my friend and I being a Colonial Marine fire team, sweeping through darkened halls to secure installations from alien infestation. I was all geared up to assume the role of Cpl. Hicks, screaming and taunting the digital aliens on my monitor as we progressed deeper and deeper into the game.
No such excitement was to be had. Cooperative mode in Alien vs Predator is nothing more than the human players stuck on the level fighting an infinte horde of aliens (and / or predaliens, praetorians, etc). There is no objective other than survival. But there's no where to go. Get weapon, shoot, get health, shoot, die, repeat. After 10 minutes as a colonial marine, and an alien frag count well over 100, I realized I was incredibly bored. No strategy was involved in any way. Whether one runs, or one stands still, the same results will occur. There's no capacity for strategic movement, or stealth, or inventory management. No capacity for cooperative teamwork in the attainment of a goal. The only goal is survival; and your teammate can't help too much with that.
Perhaps the designers see the Alien vs Predator world in a different light than I do. Perhaps they want to stress the visceral nature of a fight for your life. Perhaps they want to stress the constant chaos of a fight against alien xenomorphs. But this just doesn't interest me. The levels are small, and generally circular in design. There's no real Point B to make it to. You just run, and shoot. Mindless. Mind numbing.
I hope that Rebellion and Fox can envision gameplay from a more cooperative point of view. Whether it's colonial marines trying to secure a landing zone, or predators vying for a xenomoprh skull trophy, or aliens protecting the hive - the game needs a stronger cooperative function.