Hissing, Clicking, and ScreamingAvP2 is a huge step up from its predecessor in terms of graphics. Using the LithTech 2 Engine as its base, the look this time is much more detailed, rendered, and animated. In the single player story, each Marine team member sports a unique look, with tattoos, weapons, and uniforms all being individualistic. Light, which plays a large part in the overall gameplay, is also well done, with a multitude of different effects being achieved depending on the light sources being used. Shoulder lamps provide a small spot of light in a concentrated area, while flares provide dim lighting, which flickers in a localized area. Emergency lamps, which glow red, seem to cast more shadows than they do light.
Character animation is also much better this time around. Some humans will swagger as they walk, while more reserved characters will simply stride. Charging Aliens appear to be all teeth, claws, and tail as they rampage around like the biomechanical darlings that they are. The Predators in particular look very close to their movie counterparts as they run and jump across various high places, their cloaked outlines shimmering as they go.
The sounds of AvP2 should be enough to get the heart pumping of any devoted sci-fi fan. The stutter of a pulse rifle, the clicking sounds of a Predator, and the hissing of an Alien as it runs towards its prey - all of the sounds are true to the movies and should be instantly recognizable. There's also an inordinate amount of speech in the game, with communication regularly occurring between various humans as they give orders, make observations, or hold casual conversations. The sound of a smartgun chattering is particularly near and dear to my heart, and it's still on my Christmas list every year.
As for music, its role seems to be mainly to scare the hell out of players, as it only kicks up when action is taking place. This is not a bad thing, as the stretches of silence only serve to enhance the overall scariness of the game as well as emphasize the various incidental sound effects. There are few things more unsettling than the sound of dripping blood. Well, except maybe for the screaming of the source of that dripping blood.
All-out WarAvP2 features a robust multiplayer mode that features a variety of game types, including Deathmatch, Team DM, Hunt, Survivor, Overrun, and Evac. Hunt pits teams against each other, where only hunters can score points. If a prey kills a hunter, however, their roles are reversed. Survivor is a complex type where staying alive earns a point a second, while dying or killing causes other players to turn into mutants, which get points for killing. Overrun has players attempting either to survive or kill off an opposing team. Evac is similar to Overrun, except an evacuation point is the goal for the defending team.
There are several subclasses available for each race, with humans further split up into both Corporate and Marine classes. Corporate suits can be either Heavy Weapons, AT Officers, Specialists, or Troopers. Marines also have Heavy Weapons and Specialists, but also feature Demolitionists and Snipers. Predators can choose from Regular, Assault, Heavy, or Light models. Aliens, interestingly enough, can start as facehuggers, with the type of drone they become depending on what they latch onto. The drone types include Standard, Runner, Predalien, and Praetorian.
I don't have any information yet regarding whether or not the Mac version of AvP2 will be cross-compatible with PCs, but of course I'm hoping that's the case. We'll know when the final version is released.
PerformanceMany readers have expressed interest in the performance of AvP2. While judging this based on a beta is unfair, I'll go ahead and include my findings here, though readers should keep in mind that these are far from finalized.
My current setup includes a G4/1.25 (GigaDesigns), GeForce 4 Ti, 1.5GB RAM, and OS 10.2.6. I chose to run AvP2 at 1024x768x32, with the overall graphics settings at the high setting (the default settings run from extra low, low, medium, high, and best). While this worked fine for the most part, the game would choke a bit when things got really hairy on the screen. Lightmaps in particular caused stuttering, which meant that turning on a shoulder lamp or tossing a flare would affect my performance considerably. I eventually went to the medium setting instead, and everything ran fairly smoothly after that.
What's nice about AvP2 is that it includes a huge variety of advanced tweaking options. The general list includes Texture Depth, Lightmap Resolution, Shadows, Detail Textures, Environment Chrome, Model Chrome, Trilinear Filtering, and so forth. There's also a separate Textures category that includes World, Sky, Characters, Weapons, and Effects. Each of these features a sliding bar for adjusting the level of detail. I found that experimenting with these options definitely helped the overall performance of the game.
However, I stress again that these are observations based off an unpolished beta. It'd probably be best to keep the complaints to a minimum until the final version is released and tested.
I Want My Smartgun Now!I've always been a fan of both the Predator and the Alien series. AvP alone was enough to sate my need to carry a smartgun around and blast Aliens into little bitty pieces. AvP2 looks to take the same formula and make it bigger and better in every way imaginable, adding a more convincing look, nerve-rattling sound effects, and enough new moves and toys to make the second time around more enjoyable.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed for cross-platform multiplayer compatibility, but other than that little worry, I'm more than ready for the final product to hit shelves.