How? How is it possible to multiply Awesome x Awesome and somehow still manage to suck? The recent release of the Aliens vs. Predator video game demands we address this longstanding question.
The first Alien vs. Predator story was published by Dark Horse Comics in 1990. In that same year, Predator 2 was released in theaters, and included a scene depicting an Alien skull as one of the Predator's trophies. And so stage was set for a legacy of awesome crossovers: The spotlights were primed, the actors were Aliens, the director was Predator, the humans were an audience, and Robocop was awesome (unrelated).The franchise was so enticing that it eventually spilled over into gaming, with Rebellion's First Person Shooter, Alien versus Predator. Basically, regardless of your preferred medium, you were getting violence boners left and right from an unparalleled degree of extra terrestrial on extra terrestrial on human carnage.
Sadly, each of these attempts would also represent the closest the franchise could come to not sucking horribly in every single respect.
While the '80s were best known for creating awesome things like Transformers, Return of the Jedi, GI Joe and badass alien movies, the '00s were best known for taking our childhood memories and doing horribly perverted things to them. The same held true for the Aliens v. Predator franchise.
Much like a peanut butter and bacon and strawberry jello sandwich with ranch dressing - some things are better enjoyed separately.
As often as fans have been burned by the franchise, the games have always proven to be a respite from the incessant fuckery. So heading into 2010, the latest release from the Aliens vs. Predator franchise was hotly anticipated. It was again being developed by Rebellion (the same folks who developed the original, ass-kicking FPS) and with modern technology, they could finally do justice to an awesome, if slightly retarded, premise like never before. Would the game expand on the original's story? How would they top the tension of the now classic games initial set-up? Would we see new characters? New gameplay mechanics?
Rebellion answered fans' questions with their own: What could be better than the original game? And the answer, of course, was nothing! So they just made the exact same game that was popular only 10 years ago! That's like remaking Matrix Revolutions shot for shot, only this time putting it in 3D and casting Will Smith. Even though we could just refer you to the back of the box for the first game, let's do a breakdown of the new one anyway:
And then setting it in a post-apocalytpic Hello Kitty universe, as implied by the cat statue on the right.
The player choices:
1. The Predator: Shoots lasers, turns invisible, can see heat and has weapons.
2. The Alien: A biological A-bomb. The perfect killing machine, with acid for blood and the creepy agility of a spider.
3. The human: Who enjoys long walks on the beach, Italian food, and getting constantly murdered by things that are way the fuck out of his league.
The Question Everyone is Wondering
So, if Final Fantasy can take dim-witted tween romance and feature eight-hour sub plots about raising racing chickens and still make the most popular video game ever, why can't anyone take the Predator, Aliens and Space Marines and make them into something not horrible?
Stay tuned for the answer at the very end! But first...
A Brief History of the Alien vs. Predator Video Games:
In 1999, the first person shooter, Aliens vs. Predator came out for the computer and it was, admittedly, pretty awesome. It contained three separate plots and objectives for the three playable characters - the space marine, the alien, and the predator. And though it didn't take many risks, it hewed to the various series' strengths. The Aliens were fast, quiet and agile - perfect for the Stealth gamer. The Predator was like if Conan the Barbarian could turn invisible and see through the walls - perfect for the Brawler. And the humans were delicious - perfect for the masochists too shy to wear their gimp masks in public. Then the sequel followed up in 2001, whose chief difference was that you could also play as the alien facehugger.
Yes! Finally I can be this guy!
Perfect for the small, yet emerging group of internet fetishists who have always yearned to role play as a character with a vagina instead of a face that hatches from a slime egg, has an active life of approximately 12 seconds, then spends the next three days perfectly immobile while shoving its penis down someone's throat before quietly dying off. Despite this new mechanic (or maybe because of it, depending on the game reviewers' subscription status to Chokeonmydickvaginaface.com,) the game was received warmly. This gave movie studios the ammo to create the first Alien v. Predator movie.
Right off the bat, AVP tells us that Predators, who are always looking for the most dangerous game in the universe (such as jungle tribesman, Rastafarian sword-wielding drug lords, and the deadliest game of all: Gary Busey,) made a game out of hunting the Alien creatures on Earth. That, apparently, is what eventually destroyed the Mayan culture - and also probably explains why their calendar ended so abruptly. Calendar-making is not exactly your highest priority when hyper-sexual vagina-mouthed throat-raping starbeasts want to start a game of Death-tag with your culture as the playground.
Then we flash forward to modern times: In Antarctica, a pyramid is discovered several miles underground. Some explorers get caught in the middle of the epic battle between 3 predators and 4 aliens, because that's just like a human to get caught in the middle of an epic battle. We're like epic battle cock-blockers, according to Hollywood science fiction. That's probably why the aliens hate us so much in the first place.
It's eventually revealed that it was the Predators who built the pyramid on Earth - a planet inhabited by humans - and created special safeguards to keep them safe from their fun-monsters. Although, in retrospect, if they cared so much for our safety and just wanted a place to hunt the aliens, they probably should have built it somewhere not inhabited by humans at all - like say, a moon in the Predator galaxy. That would've certainly also saved light years of travel and cut their Space Gas bill by a fair amount also.
They captured an queen alien to ensure constant prey production, and then froze her for thousands of years, like a Swanson dinner, only (slightly) more unappetizing. She's thawed out and starts to reproduce, so the Predators, who came to hunt the Aliens but did not bring their guns with them - because, let's face it, they're best at the Predating and not so much at the Thinking - are helpless until they can get their guns back from the humans, who took the guns from a tomb when they activated the shape shifting features of the you know what fuck it.
Just fuck it.
Same shit, different - no wait, just more of the same shit.
And that brings us to that answer we promised you earlier: Why can this series, whose parts are all hand-assembled by professional ass-kickers in an Awesome Factory, never seem to be any good? Because like all crossovers, the entire appeal of the thing is in the novelty of it. It was awesome the first time we saw Alien and Predator combine (way back in the first comic book,) but they have nothing more to say after that first initial hook-up. It's like an awkward one-night stand - the sex was rad, but you don't necessarily want to talk about their job afterwards, much less go to their Pilates class the next morning with the gin sweats and that Latino guy in the ankle-warmers keeps shooting you sideways glances because you get the feeling he's always been secretly into her. It's best to just duck out politely after you give the nerds their orgasm.
Look, if Robocop and the Terminator started duking it our in your front yard, you'd undoubtedly pull out the video camera and practice high-fiving for when you tell the story to your friends later. But if they were still doing it twenty years later, you'd just be pissed that you can't pull out of your driveway because Robocop's headlocking the terminator behind your car.