Currently scheduled for release sometime in 2010, Aliens vs. Predator is a first-person shooter that will feature no fewer than three story-driven campaigns in addition to multiplayer features. Earlier today, during a behind-closed-doors meeting with developer Rebellion, we were afforded our first look at the colonial marines campaign and then, at Sega's show-floor booth, we checked out a great demo of the predator campaign.
The marines campaign, we're told, takes place some 30 years after the events of Alien 3, but it was immediately apparent that the game draws much of its inspiration from the previous movie, James Cameron's Aliens. The gist of the story is that "the company" has colonized another planet and, sometime after colonists are settled there, a pyramid is discovered in which predators used to breed alien xenomorphs to hunt for sport. It's not clear exactly what happened next, but the colony interior is more than a little reminiscent of the one in Aliens, complete with large holes where acid blood has burned right through, and motion-sensing gun turrets that the marines have deployed to establish relatively safe areas.
Your mission--on this, your first drop as a rookie marine--is to rescue any surviving colonists, but based on what we saw today, we're not sure that you're going to find many of them. Xenomorphs can seemingly attack at any moment, coming out of holes in the walls, lurking on ceilings, hiding in shadows, and often almost impossible to see without the aid of your flashlight or a flare. You have a motion sensor on your pulse rifle, of course, but if you've seen Aliens you'll know that the noise it makes (which is re-created perfectly here, along with other sounds from the movies) isn't necessarily one that you want to hear.
The demo room in which we saw the marines campaign demo was equipped with an impressive surround-sound setup, which in concert with the ambient noises and the yells from other marines established a near-constant state of tension. Hearing a squadmate shout that the aliens are testing the perimeter lets you know that trouble is on the way, and when that's followed by a cry of "They cut the power!" you know that trouble has arrived.
Aliens are a single-minded species, but they're not stupid. Sure, they'll charge at you occasionally, and you might even have to fight them off with melee attacks from time to time. But for the most part the xenomorphs that we saw in the demo were quite adept at hiding in dark corners, and at remaining motionless to render the marines' sensors useless until they were ready to pounce. The marines campaign will likely be the most traditional of the three, not only because of the weapons at your disposal, but also because you can expect to be facing overwhelming odds at almost every turn. It's perhaps not the most exciting campaign of the three, but if nothing else it looks to be a great counterpoint to the predator campaign that we checked out afterward.
Presumably set around the same time period, the predator campaign will afford you access to many of the cool abilities and weapons that made the deadly hunter a hit with moviegoers more than 20 years ago. We were told that the focus when designing the campaign was to let players experience "the thrill of the hunt" while playing as a creature that's both athletic and cunning. Many of the abilities in the predator's repertoire are exactly what you'd expect: camouflage, thermal vision, and a shoulder-mounted plasma caster with a cool three-dot laser sight that marines will notice on themselves if you don't kill them quickly enough.
You'll have some far more interesting and unusual tricks up your sleeve as the predator as well, such as a visual zoom that doubles as a directional mic, which lets you eavesdrop on marine conversations and even record them so that they can be played back later to provide distractions. You'll also be able to jump great distances with precision, though perhaps the most interesting and unusual thing about that is the way that the controls work. To jump between any two points, you simply target the spot where you want to land and, provided it's within range, tapping a single button is enough to get you there. If your targeting reticle has a ripple effect surrounding it, that means you're going to make some noise when you land, though, so the ability to jump around without any danger of falling doesn't mean that you don't still have to think about what you're doing. Stealth appears to be one of the most important weapons in the predator's arsenal, and we saw it put to great use as the E3 demo moved out of the jungle and toward a marine compound.
The compound was well defended, with enough regular patrols and sentry guns in and around it that even Solid Snake might think twice about attempting an infiltration. After successfully locating a guard whose patrol route took him far from his colleagues, the predator entered camouflage mode and moved in close for an especially indulgent kill that we later learned was a "trophy kill." Like all hunters, predators like to collect trophies, and when they're not skinning marines and hanging them from trees in the jungle, they apparently like to collect heads from their prey and, on this occasion, said cranium still had a length of spinal column hanging from it. Rebellion isn't ready to reveal what purpose these trophies will serve just yet, but the reps made it clear that there will definitely be some incentive for you to collect them.
Inside the compound, the predator had still more tricks up its sleeve. Before draining the power from a switch that would both unlock doors and replenish the energy used to power its weapons (though not its stealth ability), it tossed a trip mine into an area that any approaching enemy would almost certainly fall victim to. Then, stealthily moving through the open door, the predator made its way to a control room where, by interacting with (read: destroying) a couple of laptops, it was able to both switch off the gun turrets and cut the power to the electric fence surrounding the compound. That didn't go unnoticed by the xenomorphs in the surrounding jungle, and moments later the marines found themselves under attack from a number of them.
To trigger the end of the demo, all that the predator needed to do was escape from the compound back into the jungle, which wasn't too difficult given that the xenomorphs and the marines were keeping each other busy. There was the small matter of a locked blast door to get past though, which could be unlocked only by using the head of the marine commander to bypass a retinal scanner. You can probably figure out how that went down for yourself at this point, but we will say that the way that the predator caressed that commander's spinal column was pretty special.
It probably would've been possible for the predator to just leave the compound once the door was open, but the xenomorphs' senses render camouflage useless, so the predator stuck around to take care of them beforehand. The predator is a vicious melee fighter, but it's not so powerful that it can withstand too many attacks from multiple enemies, so it chose to pick off a couple of the aliens with its plasma caster before getting up close and personal with the last one.
Upon leaving the compound it became clear that the E3 demo wasn't quite over yet, at least not until the predator was confronted by a "predalien" hybrid. If you're not familiar with this particular abomination of nature, just imagine what happens when xenomorphs capture a predator hunting party and impregnate them. The result is a xenomorph that has not only some of the trademark visual traits of a predator, but also its abilities. It's a deadly adversary, and one that we're told will appear in multiple boss fights.
Even at this relatively early stage of development, Aliens vs. Predator shows a lot of promise, and we can't wait to see what Rebellion has in store for both the xenomorphs campaign and the game's multiplayer component. We look forward to bringing you more information as soon as it becomes available.