Day Two: The Alien
See it in Action
Yesterday, we looked at the predator and some of the weapons from its arsenal. Today's profile focuses on a race that, with the exception of a grotesque exterior, is nearly the exact opposite of the well-equipped predator because it relies on its claws, massive tail, razor sharp teeth, and lightning fast speed to do most of the damage. The alien is probably the least powerful of the three races in terms of weaponry, but that's not to say it's completely helpless. In fact, in an effort to ensure that each faction is balanced, Monolith has given the alien a brand-new ability to help even the odds and has made the alien's preexisting skills a little more effective against marine and predator weaponry. But before getting to any of the alien's advantages over the other races, let's take a look at its basic abilities.
As in the original Aliens Versus Predator, the alien still relies on its trusty claws for taking a few scrapes at any enemies at close range. Though it's not an incredibly powerful attack on its own, the quick slashes let the alien get a few hits in before an enemy predator or marine can even get a single shot off. Its raw speed also enhances the alien's ability to perform hit-and-run strikes when the situation calls for it. Obviously, this wouldn't work well if the alien had to take on predators or marines head-on, so it has an additional skill of being able to climb the walls and ceilings much like an overgrown insect, lurking in the shadows and waiting for the perfect opportunity to pounce on some unsuspecting NPCs or players.
The wall-climbing ability definitely made the alien the most unique of the three races in the previous game, but there was no question that it was somewhat disorienting and thus difficult for beginners to become familiar with. One of Monolith's goals for Aliens Versus Predator 2 was to reduce the steep learning curve. The developers have done so by incorporating a level into the alien single-player mode where your only worry is crawling through the dark halls and airways of the base on planet LV1201. What's especially unique about this portion of the game is that you actually play as the small face-hugger alien that leaps onto faces and holds on with a vice-like grip. When Monolith demonstrated this area, the face hugger was able to scurry through the environments safely, out of the vision of humans walking around the facility--without question, it works well as a practice area for budding wall-crawling experts, but it also lets you become accustomed to the alien's own infravision--a special kind of sight that lets the alien see in the dark. Eventually you'll evolve from the face hugger to the miniature chest-burster alien and then finally to the full-grown alien with complete slashing abilities. This sequence also marks the beginning of the alien storyline, which--much like the movies--involves a corporate-owned facility that becomes overrun with aliens because a face hugger escapes from some cargo.
If you've played the original Aliens Versus Predator, wall climbing may be second nature to you, but the alien does have a new ability in the sequel that lets it pounce from and to objects in the environment.
No One Can Hear You Leap
A simple pounce may not seem like such a devastating attack on paper, but when you actually use it correctly for the first time in the game, it becomes clear that the pounce attack makes the alien an even more unpredictable and deadlier foe than before. The alien pounce can be used on the ground or while climbing walls, but in either situation, it's really used as a supplement to the alien's excellent ambushing ability. Dark corners within an indoor environment are perfect areas for an alien to hide and wait while enemies pass by, totally unaware that an alien is about to launch itself like a projectile from 20 feet away. During one multiplayer sequence, a marine was barraging an alien that was dashing across a wall, but thanks to its speed and new pouncing skill, the alien was able to successfully avoid most of the fire, leap from the wall, and devour the marine. A similar situation in the original game probably would've resulted in the alien falling dead to the floor.
Even in Aliens Versus Predator 2's large outdoor environments--which were noticeably absent from the first game--the alien pounce is just as effective as it is indoors. During a multiplayer demonstration, William Westwater, lead designer for Aliens Versus Predator 2, remarked that he was playing as a marine in an outdoor level that had a relatively large tower. He climbed the tower and looked around only to find an alien moving along the ground. A few seconds later, the alien performed its deadly leap and killed the marine in nearly an instant. It's one of the best additions to the game, and certainly makes the alien more powerful, but it does take some time to use the pounce properly. Like most other ranged weapons, the pounce is more effective if you lead the target slightly and then aim for the head--it's not unlike waiting to take a head shot with a sniper rifle in Counter-Strike.
To make the alien even more effective against groups of enemies, the pounce also lets you leap quickly from target to target. If you enter a room with three or four marines, you can target one of them, leap to it, and then if you time your attack properly, you can leap to the others. In addition, in one of our multiplayer sessions, an alien was able to kill both a predator and a marine at the same time by leaping from a wall to the ground--though there are still some balancing issues to be resolved, so the alien may not be able to do this sort of damage in the final release.
The alien is the one of the most interesting and enjoyable characters to play as, but at the same time the most difficult because it still takes some time to get accustomed to the rather unique attack abilities. But if you want to take the time to master it, the alien can be a formidable opponent in multiplayer deathmatch or in one of the specialized multiplayer modes like survivor or hunter.
Tomorrow we'll be taking a closer look at the most conventional of the three races, the marine.