He lurks in the shadows, waiting to pounce upon the unsuspecting victim, utilising all manner of hi-tech gadgetry to locate the nearest heat-source. As the hapless lackey walks on by, he springs into action, making the kill before retreating back to the safety of the darkness. No, this isn't describing the latest exploits of Mr S. Fisher, but instead, that of the Predator; master-hunter from another world.
Predator: Concrete Jungle is a stealth-action title that puts you in the role of one of the Predator tribe. During a hunt on Earth in 1930 our nameless-hero is injured and has to call home for rescuing, but not before setting off a large bomb to prevent existence of the Predators being known. Naturally, having to call for help (and somehow surviving the blast that levelled the city) does not fit well with the honour system they live by, and so it is decided by the elders of the tribe to banish him to another planet, and leave him to his fate (which translates as either surviving in the hostile lands or be killed). Skip forward 100 years, and the elders return. Apparently, despite levelling the city, enough of the Predator technology was left behind and discovered by those pesky humans. And we all know how much we love to tinker with new toys. The impact of the strange technology on the people means that the city he returns to is very different, with gangs roaming the streets in possession of all manner of fancy weapons and gadgets. Your mission then, in order to redeem yourself to the tribe, is to be dumped in the city to essentially sort it all out. Make much sense? No, it never really does.
Progress through the game is mission based (of which there are 27), each comprising of a number of objectives. Much like the hokum story, the missions are also confused. Take the first level, for example. Set in 1930 you are after an Irish gang-boss. Why? I don't know, and the game doesn't see fit to tell you, either. Or a few levels later, where you have to interrupt a weapons deal, before killing some muggers, and then seeking refuge in a church. Again, none of these objectives seem to make any sense, and to make matters worse, mission objectives are not explained to you at the outset. Instead, you need to enter the options menu and read them from there. It's fair to say that the mission structure is pretty broken. Indeed, there isn't even any continuity between levels, as the game sends you back to the menu screen and asks if you want to go to the next mission, rather than just doing it.
'Credit Eurocom for at least making you feel like you could be the Predator'
Before that, the game lets you play through three training missions, giving you a feel for how things control, and more importantly allows you to get a grip on the moves and gadgets available to you. Once into the game proper you'll find that you do use the various techniques and technology often, with missions often requiring a liberal dose of running, jumping, scanning and killing to progress. Credit Eurocom for at least making you feel like you could be the Predator, too, with the range of moves and tech you will employ - you'll use three vision modes, a cloaking device, various combat sticks or claws, bombs and the trusted shoulder-mounted Plasma cannon whilst cleaning up the city. And whilst on the subject of plus points, the game has some nice FMV, there are some additional game modes and unlockables to play around with and there are a fair few execution-style animations to discover (if that's your thing).
It's not a big list, though, and it feels as though the game does its best to annoy and frustrate you at every turn, rather than amaze you with brilliant set-pieces or story. For example, the Predator moves as though somebody thought it would be fun to simulate running around an ice-rink all the time. Combat is simple and unfulfilling, and the stealth mechanics are horribly broken, giving you absolutely no idea when you are in full view or not, seeming to rely on an arbitrary rules that are never explained. When coupled with some very unforgiving gameplay and random difficulty spikes you have a game that is hard to enjoy. A special mention must go to what is possibly the worst auto-camera, ever! True, you can control it yourself, but to constantly have to play with your view is frustrating and unforgivable in 2005, and whoever thought that not having any mid-mission checkpoints was a good idea should be shot. Yes, this means that failing any part of a level grants you the pleasure of attempting the whole thing again. Thanks.
Technically the game is unremarkable, and certainly doesn't push either system to any degree, what with pop-up and invisible barriers evident. And whilst the Predator character model looks okay, the city and various inhabitants wouldn't be out of place in an early-gen PlayStation game. Well, okay, maybe that is a little harsh, (there are some nice effects in there), but the graphics just seem very generic. Sounds are no more than passable, either, and the voice acting is less than stellar. Helping to justify the '18' rating the script has a fair dose of swearing in it which seems to be there just for the sake of it, rather than helping to build any kind of atmosphere in the city. Not that swearing is clever, kids, but sometimes it can add to the gritty and dark nature of the world that is being portrayed. Well, that's what Hollywood would have you believe, anyway.
Once all is said and done - and to be blunt - Predator: Concrete Jungle just isn't very good. Whilst on paper it does a job of letting you be a Predator, in practice it just resembles a confused mess, and feels broken. There is a good concept in there, and the fanboys of the Predator franchise may lap it up, ensuring another game is produced. And who knows, given a few attempts we may have a decent Predator game somewhere down the line. Don't hold your breath, though.