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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Zono

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

July 2003

 

 

- Control is great
- Pretty snazzy graphics
- Streamlined resource management
- Alien vs. Predator games are just cool
- Save anytime, anywhere

 

 

- “Funnel” level designs
- Hair-pulling fog-of-war
- Distinct lack of cutscenes
- Pathfinding is hit and miss

 

 

Action Figures: Predator (Movie Maniacs)

Review: Commandos 2 (PS2)

Review: Aliens vs. Predator 2 (PC)

Review: Red Alert 3 (360)

 

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Aliens vs. Predator: Extinction

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

aliens vs predator extinction xbox review          aliens vs predator extinction xbox review

 

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 outset.

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.

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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

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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.

 

aliens vs predator extinction xbox review          aliens vs predator extinction xbox review


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.

- Omni
(August 24, 2003)

 

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