Aliens vs. Predator made its debut at E3 in June, with both the marine and predator sections being shown in Los Angeles. However, developer Rebellion left out the alien gameplay until today, when it demoed some of the levels behind closed doors at GamesCom. We entered the darkness of publisher Sega's booth to find out more.
The main thing to note about the alien is how vulnerable it is when it's out in the open. As anyone who's seen the movies will know, aliens may have acid for blood, but marine gunfire will cut through them like butter. That said, aliens are deadly up close, as they're able to rip through flesh with similar ease. As a result of all this, you'll have to choose your battles carefully when playing as the alien, using the environment to your advantage and picking off enemies one by one.
As Rebellion points out, while the predator and marine characters are battle-hardened killers, the alien has far more primitive, animalistic instincts. Its main goal is to serve the hive, using humans to incubate new aliens and assimilating them as part of the nest. The game reflects this with regular goals to find humans to impregnate using facehuggers. However, you can't just attack the armoured marines--you have to hunt down civilians, such as scientists and workers, who have no such protection.
Ripping through the marine forces as an alien is a satisfyingly gory experience, as the alien has plenty of finishing moves at its disposal. If you approach enemies from behind, you can rip out their throat or puncture their chest with your tail, with blood spraying all over the walls as a result. If you approach them from the front, they'll wrestle with you, sometimes actually winning out and kicking you off before you can finish them off. However, if you're successful, you'll get a first-person view of you biting through their head. The potential harvest victims also put up a bit of a fight. In one section, they ran through a security area, and as we ripped through the door to try to catch them, they shot themselves in the head to resist being captured.
Of course, the one thing the alien really has going for it is its incredible agility. It can climb walls and run across ceilings at a breakneck pace, allowing it to get close enough to unleash its deadly melee attacks. Speaking to Rebellion reps, they commented on the challenges of wall running, especially as the level geometry has become so much more complex since the original Aliens vs. Predator. One feature they've implemented is the ability to quick jump to certain vents, which are highlighted in your vision with a kind of swirly vortex. If you look at something in the world with this vortex and press the jump button, you'll automatically leap to it, allowing you to get away from enemy fire.
While we didn't get to see the multiplayer in action, we couldn't pass up the chance to at least ask Rebellion about it. There'll be two main game modes--three-way and two-way, referring to the number of species involved. In both modes, there'll be support for up to 18 players online. There'll also be a four-player mode where you'll team up as marines and take on wave after wave of enemy--the team already compares it to Gears of War 2's Horde mode and Left 4 Dead.
The complete Aliens vs. Predator single-player game will offer 12 hours of gameplay, so expect a four-hour alien campaign. The game is set to launch in February 2010 on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, and we've been promised a hands-on in the next couple of months. Watch this space for more details soon.