AVP: Evolution Preview
The gaming world is still in shock over the subpar Aliens: Colonial Marines, and while that title disappoints on several levels, at least iOS and Android fans have AVP: Evolution to look forward to. Currently in development at Angry Mob Games (makers of Predators), this FOX Digital published effort once again pits the Alien and Predator against each other in a winner-take-all fight to the death. With a Q1 launch quickly approaching, we went hands-on with a pre-release build to see whether this hack-and-slash adventure will somehow manage to rise above the mediocrity that came before it. So far? Maybe.
Our demo began on the Predator ship, as the developers took this opportunity to walk us through the third-person controls. It was obvious from the get-go that the 3D camera would probably become a nuisance, as it often zooms in for no logical reason and needs readjustment. That said, the camera is quite functional in its current state, and you can always change direction by sliding a finger across the right side of the screen, similar to other mobile/smartphone games. Of course, this was before heavily armed marines continued to shoot the Predator in the back.
In addition to the camera, the controls work as expected. The left analog stick handles movement, while the A button instructs the Predator to attack with its wrist-blades (once we picked those up) and the B button serves two functions: blocking at close range, and executing a dash from a distance. There's also a C button that activates the creature's cloaking ability that, like its shoulder cannon, requires energy to use.
After exiting the ship, we found ourselves on a strange planet with one primary goal: retrieve the aforementioned shoulder cannon. This involved wandering through what appeared to be a research/military compound disposing of both gun-toting humans and androids, identified with either red blood or the familiar milky substance, respectively.
For the most part, combat is a mindless (and welcomed) button mashing affair, with the bonus of waiting for a skull to appear over a victim's head, signaling the option to perform a critical attack by tapping a corresponding skull on the bottom right corner of the screen; this is similar to the Alien. Do this, and the monster disposes of its prey in a more brutal fashion, preferably ripping the person/droid's head from its body, but not before having to swipe in a specific direction on the screen. Fail to do so quickly enough, and you'll need to repeat the action.
Roughly eight to 10 minutes passed before we acquired the cannon, and in a weird twist, the game made us backtrack through previously explored areas. As for the shoulder cannon, it's a bit difficult to use, and we're not sure how we feel about the targeting, which is slightly awkward and tough to employ against multiple bad guys without taking damage.
During our travels, we also ran into Facehuggers that jumped all over the place attempting to latch onto the Predator's ugly mug. If that happens, you'll need to swipe in a certain direction to get it off, whereupon which the character stomps the multi-legged parasite.
From there, we transitioned to controlling a Facehugger contained within a glass tube, with the objective of tipping the canister over to escape. This was frustrating, largely because tilting the container and mashing buttons (combined with the spastic camera) made the process drag on longer than necessary, but once we freed the bugger, we enjoyed scurrying along the floor, through air ducts and eventually, implanting some poor scientist who served as the host for the eventual Alien that burst from his ribcage. Not a bad way to introduce the game's other half.
In full control of the xenomorph, we set out to slaughter as many soldiers as possible, pulling off critical kills with ease (inner jaw to the forehead) and crawling along walls, an Alien exclusive ability. The game also let us swap between claw and tail attacks, thanks to a button on the top right corner of the screen.
The Alien portion also includes a thrilling segment involving a marine drop ship. The goal? Escape before the vehicle blows the character to pieces, using boxes as cover and dodging red marks along the floor that signify incoming missiles. Later, we took on more marines and eventually the drop ship returned, forcing us to go through a similar segment, this time with soldiers (even one with a flamethrower) in our way.
We put the game down following a Predator stage on a slow-moving elevator. This marked the first time the Alien and Predator squared off, and the experience was definitely rewarding, particularly the critical strike that saw the Predator ripping off its adversary's long head for a trophy kill.
On a side note, the game does have a Store that carries a variety of upgrades for both characters. The Predator comes with such items as armor, masks, plasma guns, gadgets (think the smart disc and net gun from Predator 2) and different melee attacks. With the Alien, expect different body types, tails, heads and attacks. It appears you need Honor Points to buy everything, and certain items are only available once character levels have been reached.
Ultimately, we feel AVP: Evolution is a solid action game with a couple potential flaws, particularly the camera and shoulder cannon, but considering FOX has yet to announce the official release date, there's still time for the developers to tweak the experience in the days and presumably weeks ahead. If that happens, there's a good chance AVP fans will receive the quality title they deserve.