Sega released a multiplayer demo that features one map and one mode, Deathmatch, but with all three sides playable.
So far, the demo has met with some very mixed reactions. Is the criticism valid? Or are fans being hyper-critical because of the reverence they hold for the series? Read on and see...
The main thing Aliens Vs Predator has going in its favour is the concept. Whichever side you're playing as, watching a marine trying to fend off an alien as it closes in for the kill or seeing the trademark red shoulder-cannon laser of the Predator suddenly cutting through the corridors is an awesome sight. It helps that Rebellion has paid extra attention to the atmosphere - you can throw your voice as Predator or hiss as the alien, while the map pulses with moody lightning and claustrophobic metallic corridors.
Despite some reports of struggling to find matches, something we didn't experience ourselves, the netcode holds up pretty well. Although players frequently dropped out when they were getting their arses kicked, there weren't any instances of losing connection to the host or lag spikes during games. There also seems to be a lot of unlockable options and customisation, so replay value will definitely be there too.
One of the biggest problems is that the demo feels unpolished. This can be excused somewhat by the disclaimer at the start of the demo that it's an old build but still, it's being put in the public eye to be judged and there's no denying it's lacking some spit and polish. We've played the full version, and it feels more solid, so it's a shame Rebellion couldn't rustle up some more recent code to entice players. The controls are also clunky, as it doesn't feel quite as slick as it should do given the pace.
The other problem is that in this straight Deathmatch mode it appears to be unbalanced - often aliens would fill the top three spots in the post-match leaderboard. Whereas in Team Deathmatch marines could team up and effectively defend against a wave of aliens with a wall of gunfire, when it's every man for himself the alien shock tactics seem the most potent.
Marines are the vanilla option of Aliens Vs Predator. Their pulse rifle is pretty powerful (and sounds just like the films), so they pack a powerful punch if either aliens or predators try to take them head on. They also have the motion tracker, which helps they get a good handle on their surroundings.
The coolest aspect of playing as the marine is how tense it is. They are arguably the most vulnerable to surprise attacks as they are the only group who can't see through walls. In a team environment rather than free-for-all deathmatch, marines will thrive as they should be able to watch each other's backs and prevent alien instant kills.
The hardest class to use. You have to find the spear, throwing blade and shoulder cannon as you explore the map and are otherwise forced to rely on his wristblade. The trick is to not get overwhelmed by aliens and marines while doing so, which is easier said than done. Once he does get the weapons, he's a force - the shoulder cannon and throwing blade are powerful one hit kills - but until he gets them, predator struggles.
Up close, Predator is the best at melee but in anything beyond one-vs-one, Predator is stuck on the back foot. This situation often forces him to cloak and run away, which means that you soon become used to the sight of Predator running away because he can't handle himself in a fight without weapons.
Arguably the easiest class to get kills with, thanks to their speed and instant kills. The key to playing alien is ambushing by attacking from odd angles and trying to get behind your enemy for the instant kill move.
You can also attack from the ceiling (tail whips will kill marines outright) and use your focus to spot other enemies on the map, figuring out your best plan of attack. In the 10 or so matches OXM played, the top three spots were almost always aliens.
Ultimately releasing this demo was an interesting move. It's old code, so it's not quite as slick as the full game and Rebellion is clearly saving the more interesting multiplayer modes for people who pick up the game on release. While that's sensible - you don't want to give away the best stuff for free - deathmatch is chaotic and the least structured of the modes, and it doesn't really play to the strengths of the full game and its three different species. As a result, Rebellion and Sega are wandering dangerously close to turning people off AvP as a multiplayer game. Of course, if you want the final verdict on the final game, you'll have to pick up the latest issue of OXM when it goes on sale next week.
We have the exclusive review of Aliens vs Predator, with multiplayer details, in the next issue of OXM, on sale February 11th!