A shoulder-mounted plasma cannon, spear and razor-tipped disc provide ranged options, and indeed so plentiful are the approaches available to the player that it can be initially overwhelming. It"s not helped by occasionally clumsy controls – wrestling the Predator through treetops and scoping a kill is never quite as smooth as it should be, and it"s not helped by map design that"s often stubborn in what it will and won"t allow. As as result sometimes it"s hard not to turn the most calculated killer in cinema history into a ham-fisted dolt, but when it does click it"s immensely satisfying, and devising then executing the perfect kill from afar is always a thrill.
But to see Aliens vs. Predator really bare its teeth it"s necessary to get up close and personal. Trophy kills, triggered when attacking an unaware opponent, are gleefully gory as Rebellion invents countless ways to do nasty things to someone"s head. The Alien gets the most creative options, using its tail to poke someone"s eye out, thrust down their throat or give them a vanilla decapitation depending on which mood takes them.
The Alien"s main ally is its agility, it"s ability to cling to any surface proving equally empowering and disorienting. It"s also subject to the shortest and arguably the weakest of the campaigns - no surprise given the difficulty of thrusting a compelling story onto a mindless killing beast, though Rebellion does try its best and the campaign comes out looking not too silly.
What"s more awkward are some of the loops that players are forced to jump through when playing as the Alien. Occasional switch puzzles put the Alien in a quite ridiculous situation and show that ideas are thin on the ground in this section of the game, at least compared to the wealth of content that fuels the other campaigns.
It"s far from a disaster, however, as the stalking and killing is at its best when its served up straight. It"s best highlighted in several arenas that pop up through the campaign"s brief duration that feature a horde of Marines to take down. The light and dark mechanic that makes the Marine sections so chilling is flipped on its head, with the best tactic to destroy the lights and skulk in the shadows, using the Alien"s heightened senses to pick out a kill.
A melee system is the glue that holds all three species together. Both the extraterrestrials have heavy and light attacks, while the Marine has just a light, and a block move is shared across all three. It"s implementation is hardly graceful and when species go toe-to-toe the ensuing fight often has all the flair of a 11pm showdown in a pub car park, but the frenetic nature lends itself well to multiplayer.
A natural beneficiary of the species" fundamental differences is multiplayer, which while not the measure of the game"s topping Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Steam is nevertheless quirky enough to ensure it will have its own dedicated fanbase.
The three clashing skill sets present a balancing problem that Rebellion hasn"t quite got on top of – at least in traditional deathmatch – but it"s sidestepped out by some of the more inventive multiplayer offerings. Predator Hunt pits a single assassin against a horde of Marines – bag scorpion face and you can take his shoes. Infestation puts a similar spin on multiplayer: a group of Marines face off against an Alien and as each one is slain they switch over to become a Xenomorph, until one man is left standing. When it runs smoothly it"s a riot, though if the matchmaking issues that have plagued the demo persist with the retail servers it could prove problematic.
Visually Aliens vs. Predator is underwhelming throughout, but the rough edges are smoothed out by the deft use of those enviable assets. The Alien model in particular deserves special praise, and although the animation can be erratic it"s still a wonderfully disgusting creation. With the graphics failing to impress it"s the audio that does most of the legwork, and a fine job it does too. Both the Motion Tracker and Pulse Rifle are not only present but are recreated gloriously, and they"re joined by other instantly familiar sounds ported over perfectly; the elephantine scream of a shotgunned Alien, the insect click of the Predator and the flash of his visor present in all their splendour.