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In the world of video games, the Alien film franchise has been on a lot of minds of after the recent release of Gearbox Software’s Aliens: Colonial Marines. Unfortunately, the console-based first-person shooter, highly anticipated and supposedly acting as a true sequel to James Cameron’s 1986 film Aliens, has received some pretty terrible reviews.
But all is not necessarily lost for Alien fans, at least in the mobile sphere. Aliens vs. Predator: Evolution from Angry Mob Games is on its way, and it lets you play as one of two of the deadliest killing machines in the world – the sleek, insect-like Alien (also known as a xenomorph), or the vicious, honor-driven Predator. It’s a video game matchup we’ve seen before in a number of PC and console games. Up until now, mobile gamers have only had Predators, which coincided with the release of the 2010 film with the same name starring Adrien Brody. That game, of course, was missing an important ingredient. Aliens and Predators go together like peanut butter and chocolate, if those sweet treats were sentient and programmed to hunt each other.
I got a chance to go hands-on with AVP: Evolution for a few levels, playing as both sets of creatures. The game definitely is primed to scratch your itch for both franchises, although it was marred by some control issues on my older iPhone 4. Before I dive into the the game’s story and features, here’s an official trailer:
An Alien tale as old as time
Like the Aliens vs. Predator games we’ve seen in the past, AVP: Evolution follows two parallel stories, one concerning the aliens and the other the predators. For the aliens, the goal is to break free of a human research facility, free a queen and liberate a hive, all while avoiding marines with their iconic pulse rifles, and eating the brains of your victims. This is definitely a game for mature audiences.The first xenomorph level starts out with players controlling the larval facehugger, and requires a little bit of stealth action in order to sneak up on and “impregnate” victims. Aliens are encouraged to move through vents and sneak up on enemies, and before long, you’ll find a human to turn into an incubator and transform into the snake-like chestburster. Just as before, dodging enemies and finding less obvious ways through levels is key to survival.
Later in the xenomorph campaign, players will take on the role of a fully grown warrior, and that’s where the real fun begins. Controls for Evolution are pretty straight-forward – a virtual control stick moves players around levels, while there’s a button for lunge attacks and another for swipe attacks, with the camera giving players a third-person perspective. Taking out enemies requires a combination of quick movements and avoidance, as you can lunge to close the gap between you and bad guys, then slash to finish them off. Do enough damage, and a finishing move icon pops up over the enemy’s head. By tapping that, players can activate a swipe-based execution move that restores health.
The latter part of the final xenomorph level included some climbing on walls and fighting off different enemies, both carrying guns and melee devices. Completing executions is key to staying alive, especially at the end of the level, when you’ll have to flee a hovering marine dropship as it unloads machinegun fire on you. The trick to that level is to let the dropship clear the way of enemies and debris so you can make a run for it.
Flipping the script
The predator storyline concerns two factions of extraterrestrial dreadlocked warriors. Players take on the role of a member of the clan being dominated by the other, and work toward defeating the xenomorph threat and rival clan. In the first level, you run through a predator ship as it’s being destroyed. Afterward, the game skips onward to the marine facility, where you’ll have to fight soldiers and the like.
Both the predators and the aliens handle in a fairly similar way – both have swiping attacks and lunging ability. Aliens can switch between using their claws or their spear-like tails, and predators find more and more of the weapons seen in the films to use against their prey. Also like the aliens, predators can execute enemies to restore health, taking the head and spine as a trophy just like in the movies.
The preview build I tried looked pretty great and invoked a lot of the imagery seen in the film franchises, down to the style of doors and architecture in the Weyland-Yutani facility through which most of the build takes place. Nailing the look is pretty key to the enjoyment of any Alien or Predator game, and Evolution seems to have that part well in-hand.
On my iPhone 4, the major trouble with the game was some controls that weren’t very responsive, like the swipe-based execution moves. Given that it’s an early build played on an older iPhone, it’s possible the control frustrations I felt are actually a minor concern, but hopefully developer Angry Mob Games will give the controls a little extra attention.
Small annoyances aside, it seems like fans of Aliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator have something to look forward to. AVP: Evolution looks as though it could be a solid mobile take on a well-loved series of games, but we’ll have to see just how well the transition gets made.