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'Alien vs Predator' retrospective: No mere 'Doom' clone

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'Alien Vs Predator' Atari Jaguar screenshot

First Released: Atari Jaguar (1994)
Now Available On: N/A

The Atari Jaguar may have ended up as a huge black eye for its platform holder, but it did give us one of the best and most atmospheric first-person shooters of the 1990s in Alien vs Predator.

Developed by Rebellion and published by Atari Corporation in 1994, the game drew inspiration from the Dark Horse Comics crossover series of the same name as well as the Aliens and Predator movie franchises.

Alien vs Predator was no mere Doom clone, delivering scares and tension like few other games of its generation and encouraging tactical play at every turn. Players had a choice between three characters - Alien, Predator or Marine - each with their own skills and attributes.

'Alien Vs Predator' Atari Jaguar screenshot


The game offered three entirely different experiences. When playing as the Predator, the objective was to hunt down the Alien queen and claim her skulls as a trophy. Players had access to an impressive arsenal, could heal themselves with medikits and turn invisible at will - though honour points were lost for carrying out kills while cloaked.

Aliens were a more nimble species, offering greater speed and the ability to travel through air ducts. Xenomorphs could also lay eggs in the corpses of felled marines as a means of earning extra lives. The Alien's ultimate goal was to rescue its queen from her prison on a Predator spacecraft.

Let's face it, the marine - known as Private Lewis - was the least cool of the bunch, but he did have access to some of the same attributes as the other two. For instance, Lewis could use both air ducts and lifts to reach higher levels, while the deadly extraterrestrials were limited to one or the other.

'Alien Vs Predator' Atari Jaguar screenshot


Private Lewis's objective was to escape from a military base besieged by Aliens and Predators, activating the self-destruct command on his way out.

Alien vs Predator was rendered on flat-plane environments with 2D sprites, an art style that is starting to look dated and rough around the edges, but it was state of the art back in 1994, a time when few other games were capable of displaying scaling quite so smoothly.

The decision to omit in-game music worked wonders atmospherically, conjuring up the same tension and sense of jeopardy the original Alien pulled off so well. The game's focus on tactical play also set it apart from the influx of shoot-anything-that-moves Doom copycats that had begun to arrive on the market by the mid-1990s.

'Alien Vs Predator' Atari Jaguar screenshot


Variety was in no short supply with three radically different characters to choose from and this was heightened by random enemy placement. Starting a new game saw foes scattered around the map, rarely in the same place twice, which gave rise to replay value and kept players on edge at the thought of what may be lurking around the next corner.

Alien vs Predator was widely praised by critics upon release, and is hailed by many as the best game to be released for the ill-fated Atari Jaguar. The diversity of the gameplay and the effectiveness of its survival-horror elements were among the aspects singled out for compliments.

With only 16-bit SNES and Mega Drive titles to compete with in the console market, Alien vs Predator had its competitors outgunned but it couldn't single-handedly save the Jaguar from being consigned to the scrapheap later that year. With a dozen or so more games of this quality, things may have been different for Atari.

'Alien Vs Predator' Atari Jaguar screenshot


I don't know too many people that owned a Jaguar, meaning criminally few have played Alien vs Predator. This is a shame since Rebellion managed to get the best out of the console's hardware and deliver one of the best shooters of the 1990s.

There's a place for this one on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, and with Aliens: Colonial Marines generating plenty of pre-release hype, now could be the best time to introduce it to a new generation of gamers.

Do you have any fond memories of Alien vs Predator? Post a comment below!

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