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vs. Predator: Extinction
Score: 7.0 / 10
I wasn’t sure how a real-time strategy (RTS)
game would pan out on a console. There have been previous RTS console
games such as StarCraft (N64) and Commandos 2 (XB, PS2) but I’ve avoided
them. An RTS without a mouse and keyboard? Insanity! This is probably
why Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction (APE) impressed me so much at the
Zono did an awesome job cramming lots of control options in without the
control becoming unwieldy. After a few quick tutorials, there's no
looking back. Setting waypoints, unit behaviors, grouping units, etc.
it’s all good. If someone just explained the controls you might have
troubles but the tutorials are slickly designed.
Not everything is as polished though and
APE falters when it comes to level design, pathfinding and the
implementation of the fog-of-war, but more on that later.
The setup for APE is you basic, “fight for a planet rich in resources,”
with the mining humans touching off a very explosive three-way war with
the Alien and Predator species. The balance between the races is
actually very good even though the
tactics to win are different; however, there’s precious little in the
way of resource gathering.
The three species have their own way of producing “credits” for
additional units. For example, the Aliens are awarded Infestation Points
(i.e. credits) for killing enemies and impregnating hosts. Traditional
RTS conventions with base building would not have worked with APE.
Instead, the action is more mobile, focusing on moving squads around the
map, with no fall-back safety position. At times, this focus on movement
showcases APE’s erratic pathfinding.
As any RTS fan will tell you, there has yet to be an RTS with perfect
pathfinding. There are always a few units that go stumbling off on their
own making them easy pickings. APE forces you to be ultra vigilant
ensuring you designated units get from Point A to B without taking the
scenic route. This can be maddening if you’re playing as the humans and
your CommTech decides to play Rambo. This is maddening because he’s your
only link to the outside world – he’s the only one that can call in new
troops. Losing him is like losing a construction yard in a traditional
RTS. This led me to buy a CommTech with each new shipment of troops,
which can actually be a bad thing. (“Too many chefs, not enough cooks,”
sort of thing.) There’s an inability to keep the units in formation,
which would help immensely in 1) protecting the weaker units from being
killed and 2) preventing them from wandering off.
But none of the pathfinding is as unnerving as the persistent and
hair-pulling fog-of-war. For those that don’t know, fog-of-war is any
part of the map that is unexplored. Once an area is explored, the black
is replaced with the features; however, when you move on, the area turns
opaque and you can’t see any enemy units that might be in that area.
This might make sense with the Aliens and Predators but the humans? An
orbiting ship supplies them! You’re telling me they don’t have some kind
of radar? On top of that, most of your enemies hang just around the
fringe of your units’ line of sight. Why? I don’t know.
Level designs mostly rely on the “funnel” method. This wouldn’t be a
problem if it wasn’t so relied upon. Although it can heighten the
tension trying to fight your way through a slot canyon, it just feels
repetitive after a while (regardless the species), thogh the various
missions keep things from feeling completely stagnant.
All that said, APE’s still highly playable and fun. It’s certainly not
the most polished RTS, but Zono has done a great job sticking to the
source materials, while making a few additions of their own, and keeping
the action steady. The presentation gets high points for the most part –
lots of color, explosions, and audio is very good. APE even has a Pause
Time mode, which allows you to zoom in and rotate the camera for a
better look at the action. This has very little in the way of tactical
use since the fog-of-war is so intrusive – you can’t plan out attacks by
examining the explored environments. It should go without saying that
there’s more here for the Aliens vs. Predator fan, even though APE has a
distinct lack of cutscenes.
RTS games are in short supply in the console world, but Aliens vs.
Predator: Extinction bodes well for its future if someone can take the
torch and run with it (particularly if Microsoft ever decides to fully
support a keyboard and mouse combo). APE is quite tactical, the control
is good and it should keep fans interested, even with the fog-of-war,
funnel levels, and pathfinding problems – a good RTS entry.