Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction Impressions

We checked out a near-final version of the Aliens Versus Predator real-time strategy game. Details inside.

Of the two-dozen-odd games shown at Electronic Arts' annual summertime press event, Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction was probably the furthest along in development--the game is scheduled for release later this month. We hadn't seen much of the game to date, but we got a good feel for it today based on what we saw and what we were told by one of the testers on the project. Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction is a real-time strategy game, reminiscent of games like Starcraft, only it will be available exclusively for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The game will only offer single-player scenarios, though it will feature three distinctly different playable sides: the aliens, the predators, and the colonial marines.

Each side is noticeably different and uses the sorts of tactics you'd probably expect it to if you're familiar with any of the movies that inspired this game--or any previous Aliens Versus Predator games, for that matter. The aliens faction has strength in numbers and is quick and deadly in close-quarters battles--even if killed at close range, aliens still gush acidic blood. Aliens may be vulnerable at the beginning of a battle and must always try to protect their queen. But, as they find human hosts for their facehugger creatures, they can rapidly multiply and then overpower their enemies.

The predators are the opposite of the aliens in many ways, and are individually very powerful, but you'll have a relatively small number of them at your disposal--probably no more than a dozen at a time. The predators' greatest boon is their ability to cloak themselves and stage ambushes, striking their enemies when they don't expect it. Predators also have a large variety of weapons. Being interstellar bounty hunters, these creatures earn credits by slaying and then beheading their victims. You may need credits to bolster your forces, but a predator may not have time to take trophies in the middle of a firefight, so this is another way that the predators' powers are balanced out.

The colonial marines are in some ways the most vulnerable but also the most versatile of the factions. They earn a steady income of resources by repairing and taking over certain types of structures in the environments, and they have access to powerful ranged weaponry, from pulse rifles to explosives. To avoid predator ambushes, marines can use motion trackers to detect these otherwise-hidden foes.

Fans of the previous Aliens Versus Predator games will find that the new game features some never-before-seen characters and technologies, including the extremely powerful military predators, the marine exo-suit, and the alien carrier, a creature that is home to legions of facehuggers. The settings of the game's battles will range from deserts to jungles to laboratories--the sorts of places in which aliens and predators alike seem to most enjoy killing things.

The dual-analog controls seem to do a good job of bringing the nuances of PC-style mouse-and-keyboard controls over to the consoles. The left analog stick moves your cursor on the main screen, while the right analog stick lets you quickly jump to a point on the minimap. You can select individual units at the touch of a button, or groups of units by pressing and holding the button as a circular "lasso" expands to encompass all units in the area.

Aliens Versus Predator: Extinction looks like it could turn out pretty well. For more information, look for the new screenshots released by EA, as well as our video interview with one of game's testers. And stay tuned for our full review in a few weeks.

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