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Publisher: MacPlay    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.2.5    CPU: G4 @ 700 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

Aliens vs. Predator 2
August 15, 2003 | Nat Panek

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Hard to believe it’s finally here. Two years after its initial release for the PC platform, and after more than a few false starts and delays, Aliens vs. Predator 2 has finally landed on planet Macintosh, courtesy of the Omni Group and MacPlay. The natural question on the minds of many is: is the final product worth the two-@#$&*!-year wait? The answer, I’d have to say, is yes, with some caveats. How’s that for decisive?

For those of you who have forgotten what this title is all about over the past two years, AvP2 is a first-person shooter based on the Aliens and Predator movies that allows you to play the game as a Predator, an alien, or a colonial marine. All three player types are more or less balanced, each with different equipment and/or abilities. We’ll look at each in turn shortly.

You don’t need to have played the original Aliens vs. Predator game to be able to follow the storyline of the sequel, and that is mostly because the original game didn’t have much of a storyline to speak of. What plot there was, was conveyed through hilariously bad video clips of (and I would lay money on this) people who were almost certainly coders put in military-looking shirts and given hastily written lines to read into a camera. The sequel’s most obvious and most welcome improvement over the original is its complex storyline, which is conveyed non-chronologically and from three different points of view (and entirely within the game engine--no more video “experiments”). Think Pulp Fiction in space. There are actual characters with actual names and personalities, along with plenty of dialogue, which serves to advance the plot toward gruesome climaxes. Playing as a marine or a Predator, you can also find and read various messages on paper and computers, adding further depth to the world of AvP2.

First up, Harrison, the marine. Plunked down with your squad on an isolated world called LV-1201, it is up to you to discover what has gone wrong at a research facility owned by the Weyland-Yutani corporation. To avoid nullifying a huge part of the game’s value, I won’t get into details about what you will end up doing, but focus instead on how you will do it. As a marine, most of your strengths clearly lie in your weaponry. Mostly, your gear consists of the same stuff as in the first game: handgun, pulse rifle, smart gun, flamethrower, minigun, and rocket launcher, and most of it works as you would expect, with dual fire modes, usually. There’s also the old standby, the motion tracker, which I didn’t often find that useful, but at least it’s there for the sake of completeness. New additions to your arsenal include a sorely-needed shotgun, a grenade launcher with four different types of grenades, and a sniper rifle. You’ll also make extensive use of two other tools, a cutting torch and a hacking device, both of which will get you through otherwise impassible doors or other openings. Finally, flares and the image intensifier also return, although the latter is made more or less redundant by the new shoulder lamp, which works better and drains battery power much more slowly.

Harrison will be squaring off against Predators, other humans, and plenty of aliens, of which there are several varieties: the omnipresent drone; the runner (based on the dog alien from the Alien 3 movie); the praetorian (very fast and tough); and the PredAlien hybrid, which actually seemed slightly wimpier than the praetorian. That’s what happens when you water down genes, I guess. The human foes you’ll encounter generally aren’t too much of a challenge, but they do add to the variety of combat. The Predators can be a pain to deal with, mostly due to their cloaking ability and tracking plasma cannons that can finish you off in one or two hits. It also takes a lot of firepower to bring the ugly things down.

There are parts of the marine campaign that require more stealth than muscle to get yourself through alive, which adds a little more variety to the game. And, as in the previous game, you will find yourself in plenty of dark places surrounded by lightning-fast, hissing nightmares--the atmosphere of the marine campaign conveys the willies very nicely; I recommend playing in a darkened room with a set of headphones for full immersive effect.


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