It’s got the tone and atmosphere down, but Evolution’s gameplay leaves much to be desired
Short of radio dramas, Aliens and Predators have waged war in pretty much every medium imaginable. The battle began in a series of comicsâ€”a few of which had the chutzpah to throw Superman, Batman, and The Terminator into the mixâ€”but books and games were quick to follow (the films came much later). While all of these things are worthy of discussion, we actually only review games at this site. Bummer, right? The good news is that Alien vs. Predator: Evolution is a game, and I’m primed and ready to talk your ear off about it.
First of all, it’s worth noting that Evolution has no affiliation with Aliens: Colonial Marines. That was developed (mostly) by Gearbox, whereas this game is an Angry Mob Games joint. They’re best known as the developers of Muffin Knight, but they were also behind the Chillingo-published Predators. Suffice to say, they know a thing or two about the mythology.
And that knowledge paves the way for a pretty interesting narrative. Evolution tells the story of Jungle Hunter Predators struggling under the regime of Super Predators. The Super Predators are being total jerks, and have enslaved the Aliens in an attempt to do away with the Jungle Hunter clan. This forces the Aliens and Predators to wage war against one another in the hopes of saving their respective races.
You, the player, are placed dead center in this conflict. Will you assume the role of an Alien, or do you sympathize more with the Predators? It’s a bit of a moot point, really, since you’ll be playing as both. Half of the game’s levels put you in the (probably slimy) shoes of a Predator, and the other half have you playing as an Alien. Curiously, there’s very little difference between the two: regardless of who you’re playing as, you’ll mostly be running around and killin’ dudes.
And while it’s no surprise that combat is an integral part of a 3D action game, it feels a little bland here. Both species begin with very few moves in their arsenal, and it takes quite a bit of time to unlock more. This problem is intensified by the lack of enemy variety; most encounters are between you and Colonial Marines, frightened scientists, and Combat Androids. You’d think a creature as powerful as an Alien or Predator would have no trouble laying waste to these generic soldiers, but that isn’t the case. Taking out an enemyâ€”especially a Combat Androidâ€”requires quite a few melee attacks, which leaves you feeling like less of a badass than you probably should. Evolution tries to remedy this with the addition of execution-style attacks, but it trips a bit in its attempt: during the animation where you’re executing someone, enemies can continue to attack you and drain your health.
The level structure doesn’t help much, either. More often than not you’re running from area to area and taking out mini-swarms of soldiers. There was at first a joy to be gleaned from laying waste to everyone in sight, but the disappointing nature of the combat ultimately ran that well dry. To be fair, though, some of the later levels in the game have a more interesting structure to them, as do many of the sidequests.
Another issue in need of fixing is the camera. While you can toggle it as you see fit by swiping around on the screen, it has a tendency to default to awkward angles. It’s not a game-breaking issue, and you get used to it after playing enough, but it was another unfortunate bullet point on the list of reasons I didn’t feel as powerful and in control as I should have.
Thankfully, the visuals and atmosphere somewhat make up for what the gameplay lacks. Evolution has a really nice look to it, whether you’re roaming narrow corridors or slaying scientists under the night sky. It’s just a shame that you do so little in most of these locations.
Worse than all of these issues, though, is the game’s tendency to crash. There were multiple occasions where, for no reason whatsoever, I would be booted back to the home menu. There are checkpoints in each level, so I never lost that much progress, but it was frustrating all the same. At one point, during one of the more difficult fighting sequences, the game crashed three times in a row after I killed the last person. It was incredibly frustrating, and forced me to walk away from the game a bit. Your mileage may vary on this particular problem, though, and it’s possible it will be fixed in a future update.
Alien vs. Predator: Evolution‘s heart is in the right place. You can tell its creators sincerely love and care about the fiction and universe. But its gameplay leaves a lot to be desired, and its technical issues damage the experience even further. Much of this can be addressed in future updates, though, which is why I’m unwilling to say it’s a game we should all ignore. With the right attention, and future content that offers more compelling gameplay, Evolution just might turn into the AVP game we all want it to be.