Wednesday 26th January 2022,
XP4T Brave.Bold.Banter.

32 Years of Alien Games (Part 2)

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But seriously, this is the AvP game we’ve all been waiting for… on the Atari Jaguar, ahaha!

At last, 1994! Compared to the last few years, this was a quiet one for Alien games (though no less momentous), giving us just two to consider (apart from the previously-mentioned May release of Probe Entertainment’s Alien 3 on the SEGA Game Gear). The first of these was another AvP arcade cabinet, this time from Capcom, using their still-new CPS-2 board (of Super Street Fighter II fame). The story for this one features a California town over-run by Aliens, a pair of cybernetic Colonial Marines teaming up with two Predators and an explosive finale that once again proves the game franchises have been at least a step ahead of the films for most of their time.

If the games were one step ahead of the films, then the comics were always two steps ahead of the games and the films, because it was Dark Horse Comics’ 1990 Alien vs Predator series which sparked off the entire AvP concept, films, games, branded lunchboxes and all. But despite the numerous AvP entries in Alien gaming history up to this point, it’s arguably UK developer Rebellion Developments’ AvP games that we think of, when we think of ‘AvP games’. The first of these was developed for Atari’s Jaguar console, a short-lived 64-bit machine that, sadly, failed to reinsert Atari into the hardware market. Apart from anything else, just one year on from its 1993 North American launch, it suddenly found itself in competition with SEGA’s equally short-lived (but perhaps better-remembered) Saturn, as well as the mighty PlayStation, all three of which are part of what we now consider the 5th Generation of gaming consoles. Of course, SONY’s little grey box did for both SEGA and Atari’s console ambitions completely, and the rest is history.

But back to Rebellion. Founded by Jason and Chris Kingsley in Oxford, England, in 1992, Alien vs Predator was the company’s premier game, and was originally slated as a Jaguar launch title (although it was delayed several times). The Jaguar Alien vs Predator was an FPS that forged the template for the series to come, with its familiar three campaigns, one each for Marines, Aliens and Predators. The distinctive look of the game’s characters is largely attributable to the fact that Rebellion bought, painted and digitized high-quality resin model kits of the Aliens and Predators, then animated them in the computer. (For the Marine, they obtained a costume from the Cameron film, dressed up their graphic designer Lance Lewis, and digitized him!).

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Quick, you jump on his face, I’ll bite his arse…

Now, looking at the screenshots above (or the top two rows of a GIS), and even accounting for image resolution and yadda yadda technical gubbins, the reasonable response is ‘Wow, looks good’, or even just acknowledgement that it’s something a bit different from the usual bunch of Gigeresque, Cameronian pixels. That’s today. But imagine that you were looking at those screens in a magazine in late 1992, or even running on a display model Jaguar in a store, and it’s reasonable to expect that your mind would have been somewhat blown. I don’t want to belabour the point (but I’m going to anyway, of course), but that first AvP was something of a watershed in Alien gaming. At that point, early-to-mid 1990s, technology was finally getting to a point where, in terms of entertainment purposes, it was finally able to really properly convey our stupid dreams and pop-culture fantasies with something even approaching ‘realism’. In this game’s case, any (relative) weaknesses in the Jaguar’s hardware – combined with the necessarily mostly bland palette and a well-implemented soundscape – only served to heighten the oppressive atmosphere. It seems too, that one decade on, Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation has turned another corner in conveying ‘realism’, not only with its graphics, but also with its mood, atmosphere and feeling.

When Rebellion’s Alien vs Predator was finally released, on October 20th 1994, a lot of gamers and critics felt the same way, rewarding the fist-time devs with good scores in the magazines and strong sales. Twelve years later, in 2006, GameTrailers even placed it on their list of ‘Top Ten Scariest Games’, as one of only two pre-1996 games to make it. There are a few more entries in the ‘official’ AvP series, including the 1999 PC version, a sequel (Alien vs Predator 2, developed by Monolith Productions), an expansion pack to the sequel (Aliens versus Predator 2: Primal Hunt, developed by Third Law Entertainment and serving as a prequel to the sequel!), a modern upgrade of the original (Alien vs Predator Classic 2000), as well as a proper ‘third’ game, commonly known as Alien vs Predator (2010) to avoid confusion. But before we even get to the first of those, Rebellion’s legendary 1999 PC version of their own AvP, we have three years to get through, giving us one return to the scene by Alien 3 maestros Probe Entertainment, and two total oddities, including The Worst Alien Game Ever…

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About The Author

Old London geezer, now resident in the Polish hinterland. Linguist, committed Trekker, old-skool D&Der and gamer since the Colecovision was cooler than yo-yos...

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