Aliens vs. Predator 2: Primal Hunt Review
By Bret Ziesmer |
It's amazing anyone still cares. After Aliens and Predator, the fictions of both series' went into a terrible slump. Predator 2 taught us all how a cheesy movie without Arnold Schwarzenegger is an even cheesier movie, but it's the films in the Alien series after James Cameron's epic that stung the most. A bald Weaver and a preachy Roc made decent prey for a dog-born Xenomorph in part three, but couldn't save the fiction from being utterly desecrated in the obscene filth that was Resurrection, a movie we'd all very much like to forget, but need around to produce a few hearty, embarrassment riddled laughs from time-to-time.
If anything can wash the horrible taste of the goober alien being sucked out of the tiny shuttle hull breach at the glorious climax of Resurrection away, it's the PC and the UK. The British know crap when they see it. That's why the Queen Mother ordered the intrepid UK developers at Rebellion to create the first PC iteration of Aliens vs. Predator in '99 (note that the development house also brought a game of the same name and premise to the Atari Jaguar many years earlier). A cult hit and way ahead of its time technologically, AvP PC became an instant classic, either loved or hated by the general gaming populous, but never denied.
Falling on the love side of the fence, Monolith then set out to develop the title's sequel, a more mass market friendly LithTech powered game was created and suddenly the whole world saw that things weren't all sappy Sigourney and decrepit action hero Danny.
But AvP 2 had its limits, so in comes this Third Law developed expansion pack, Primal Hunt. Psycho Circus does not make the best of resumes, but that shouldn't stop the developers from taking the first game and just generally making it better, better, better. Right?
Go to a future dominated by Wayland Yutani, Colonial Marines, and vicious Xenomorphs. Now travel back in time from that point. 500 years ago a Predator discovered a mysterious artifact on LV1201 that would supposedly stave off the Aliens and even grant its user the power to control them. In using it, the fool got his dreadlocks caught in some kind of Pilot powered technological cross between a refrigerator and a pencil sharpener. For five centuries he lay dormant, unable to polish his pretty skulls and proudly display the spleens of his foes to prospective mates.
You know, Mary, I ripped that man's backbone out with my bare paw.
Everything was copasetic until a corporate mercenary named Dunya got out of the shower, deprived her boyfriend of sex (yes, this is a scene from the game) and inadvertently unleashed the Pred while grabbing the artifact. Now the race is on. Dunya's trying to escape with the artifact; the Predator is trying to take it back; and a hybrid PredAlien is trying to destroy it, thus preserving the sanctity of the hive. It's something like that, anyway. I don't really care to remember.
Once again, Primal Hunt incorporates three playable campaigns (one for each race and each consisting of a measly, but add-on acceptable, three missions). That's not much for a game, but it's plenty for an expansion. Add turret guns, deployable sentry guns, dual pistols, the Predator energy flechette (rapid fire energy weapon), four new multiplayer maps (including ancient Predator ruins), a new 360 degree motion tracker, Predator self-destruct for multiplayer, PredAlien rejuvenation through eating foes, and two new indigenous creatures, and you have quite the solid FPS add-on. Now ruin them all and you have Primal Hunt.
Gameplay is rudimentary, frustrating, and incredibly dry to say the least. Unlike the original AvP 2, Primal Hunt is all about leading players through claustrophobic caves, canyons and corridors, and then spawning no-gooders from behind. They immediately run right in your face and then jerk around like crazy. You shoot in every direction and sustain heavy damage. If still alive, the game proceeds. That is the entire gist of the Marine campaign and most of the Predator's. Our friend the Alien involves more insane running and precise attacking than anything.
I didn't complain about the limited and initially non-present saves in the first AvP because it kept people from succumbing to the thirty-second quick save temptation. But sissies couldn't handle the dark or take the scare. So in came AvP 2 and its more accessible arcade shooter style of play with far less fright and far more action. Still, it managed to be successful because there were ample dosages of both approaches, paced and spaced appropriately. Primal Hunt, on the other shunned hand, has one big fat syringe filled with bullet expenditure and lame enemy placement. Obviously, it also comes with a very unwanted side effect: F6 and F9 abuse. Save and load, baby. Save and load. Get your fix, sissy.
Indeed this is a far cry from a Rebellion made AvP that forced the marine to approach every new door and corner with caution, because what was around the other side was lethal and fast (it was still possible for that marine to overcome without resorting to embracing one of the most glaring faults of poor game design). Back then it was important to spin and seek, shoot and panic, flee and fight. Here it's a simple matter of rushing in, expecting and then meeting inevitable death, and then rushing your finger over to the quick load button.