If there is one classic rivalry from the realms of fiction that should make a great video game it is the long running feud between Alien and Predator. The Aliens, or Xenomorphs as they are properly known, have been locked in a clash with the Predators for years now, and their conflict has filled comics, novels, games, movies and a wealth of fan projects. Tarzan, Godzilla, Batman, Judge Dread and Superman have all been drawn into the fray at some point, which started with a quietly received Dark Horse Comic in 1989.
The monstrous match-up only really captured the public's attention a year later, when in the closing frames of the Predator 2 movie Xenomorph skulls were clearly visible on a trophy cabinet in the background. Since then perhaps the most famous spin-off from the extraterrestrial conflict came in the form of the excellent Alien Vs Predator games, developed by Rebellion, which are sighted by Paul Anderson who directed the original Alien Vs. Predator film in 2004 as part of his reason for bringing the combined license to the big screen.
Considering its role as a curator of the brand's main game iterations, and owner of an important comic book publisher, Rebellion is without doubt best suited to again take the reigns as Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem hits the silver screen.
Judging by the excellent cinematic trailer, the celluloid return of these two savage beasts is more violent than ever, as it sees a Predator spacecraft overrun by rampaging Aliens crash into the outskirts of a sleepy present-day town in rural USA. Released in the opening weeks of 2008, the film appears to be full of soft, pulpy humans being impaled, sliced and lacerated by Alien tail spikes, disk blades, and that concrete-dissolving green blood Sigourney hated so much. The results make for a perfect game scenario, as Middle America's diners and sidewalks are overrun with ungodly creatures, but unusually in this case you play neither the humans fighting to save their planet, or the marauding Xenomorphs.
Instead, you step into the claws of a lone Predator, with the rather surprising task of sorting out the whole mess. In fact, those who know the licence well will know that despite their propensity towards skinning humans and destruction, Predators are actually a species driven by a commitment to honour. They can never kill pregnant humans, and only engage in violent acts against deserving enemies. They are known to team up with mankind, and are actually admirable and misunderstood, unlike the Xenomorphs, who see any soft flesh as nothing more than a nest for their unborn young.
The nameless Protagonist you play is a 'cleaner' Predator, equipped with a full arsenal of the species' mainstay weaponry, including the infamous shoulder mounted rocket launcher. There's no point pretending Requiem is anything more earth shattering than a typical third-person action-adventure, but the world of the Predator feels almost designed to allow for workable gameplay mechanics integral to both the plot and game genre.
The iconic vision the Predator has for example, is the stuff of film license game designer's dreams. In a similar focus on the function of goggle switching as it appeared in the superb Syphon Filter PSP release Dark Mirror, in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem there is a constant emphasis on tactical use of your various visionary enhancements. A traditional heat vision setting can be used to see humans through obstacles and objects, and pick up on cracks in walls where hot air is escaping, but does not let you see the more dangerous Xenomorphs as they take cover. Luckily an 'Alien vision' setting allows for this, though it often becomes washed out as you near their seething hives. 'Tech vision' also allows you to pick up on hidden objects and Alien technology as you progress through each world.
Despite the importance of technology and weaponry, it appears that fundamentally, Requiem actually shares a lot in common with the traditional roaming beat-'em-up. Watching as the developers demonstrated the game, a great deal of time was spent in hand-to-hand and tooth-to-claw exchanges, though it does seem a comprehensive set of controls to allow for this is in place.
Most interestingly, there is a gameplay structure central to the game based on the Predators' insistence on honour. The worthy kills you make as you progress contribute towards rewarding you with new upgrades and weapons, while killing unarmed humans seriously diminishes your honour rating. Happily, human grunts with machine guns are fair game, while defending the innocent from Aliens will boost your rating immensely. There is also an energy bar than runs alongside the typical regenerative health bar. This secondary bar can be depleted to replace health or to permit the use of more powerful weapons, allowing for a small amount of on the fly strategy and decision making as you choose between your own well-being and destructive power.
It is a shame there is no option to play as a human, and there is a rather empty looking arena battle game added on that seems to be of little worth, but really the lack of an option to assume the role of a merciless Xenomorph is the only true disappointment already apparent. Otherwise, Requiem is looking like a tidy release, though as always only hands-on time will really prove the release's worth. It is certainly very sharply presented and looks reasonably high-end as PSP releases go, and includes some meaty sound effects that should do wonders through the handheld's impressive headphone output. With three different paths through 15 levels, and occasional additions to the plot of the movie, it is looking every part the fully-fledged PSP release.