In a perfect world, I would be writing a glowing review about the new Predator movie that’s out this week. But we’re in this timeline, and the film is a half-assed attempt at capturing the nostalgia and action beats of the first two Predator films.
But I rather not focus on the negative this week. Instead, let’s talk about something I enjoy immensely while keeping in theme with yautjas: the Capcom-made Alien vs Predator brawler.
Left To Right
Back in the early 90s, every single arcade game company went nuts with franchises and made a beat em up out of it. Konami had X-Men, The Simpsons, TMNT, Buckie O Hare, and even the goddamn Cow Boys Of Moo Meesa. Sega has that Spider-Man game with Hawkeye and Black Cat. And Capcom? They had The Punisher, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, and our focus of the day: AVP which graced the arcades of America and Europe in 1994.
And it played like a dream. Why? Because it just took bits of the comic book source material and let the game be its own thing. Capcom did what it does best -make an action fisticuffs game awesome- and just focused on that.
Three’s A Crowd
Essentially, you can pick between two androids and two Predators (Hunter and Warrior). Your objective is to rid the xenomorph menace. You’ll fight xenomorph grunts, xenomorph big bruisers, boss level xenomorphs, face huggers, your rogue Predator pals, and the Alien Queen. You even fight a couple of private army dudes and the exosuits they pilot.
AvP will punish you hard if you don’t know your controls and beat-em-up tactics beyond the first stage. You’ll be swarmed by xenomorphs and private army dudes with guns, and you’ll be overwhelmed unless you have two other players with you. It’s rather odd that the game only allows 3 players instead of 4 for a bigger group effort, but it didn’t matter: the controls and feel for each character are so smooth and responsive, it’s basically your fault if you’re careless with your life.
The 90s beat-em-up staples are here. Press Attack and Jump for your AOE life-sapping attack, press the Special button to activate your skill – Predators have their mounted cannons while the androids have their own guns-. Also, each playable character has input abilities (Down, then Up for an uppercut move) as well as a special jump ability that lets you horizontally leap to enemies ASAP to deal with them.
Except for the male android Major Schaefer; he’s the token big guy so you only pick him if you want a challenge. In a game where you need to be nimble on the battlefield and half your enemies are agile four-legged monstrosities, most of us opt for either the Predator Hunter or Lieutenant Kurosawa to have a slightly less taxing time.
It’s A Looker
Let’s not forget that graphics and visual sensation matters in an arcade game built to attract folks with quarters and tokens. The feedback you get from slashing and bashing the xenomorph is pure pixelated bliss. Slicing your enemies with your Predator gauntlet or your sword, or even using your shoulder cannon to light them up is a retro-sight to behold. The backgrounds and locales aren’t too shabby either; we have your abandoned factories, space stations, and jungles to fight in.
The game doesn’t bog you down with so many task to do: all you have are your wits and reflexes and all you’re presented are situations that require violence to solve. Sometimes you will ride on a giant APC or on a giant elevator to shoot down as many enemies in a “turret mode” sequence before that term was even coined.
But for the most part, it’s you and your comrades going left to right beating up enemies, with all of the polish and nuances that is expected from a 90s Capcom beat-em-up. It’s a short game, but what did you expect from a 90s beat-em-up? Given what it had to work with, I’d say AvP is a hook, line, and a sinker action-wise.
In fact, my only issue with the game is not its overall quality. Rather, the game is not ported or made available outside of its arcade ROM unit. There was no exact Capcom port of this title anywhere else. It’s probably due to the licensing since this was a Fox property that’s now under Disney. Would a video game AvP comeback be viable in the next few years? Let’s hope so.
Is it the best of Capcom’s efforts? Perhaps not because Battle Circuit is Capcom’s magnum opus in beat-em-ups. Is it the best beat-em-up? Definitely not because we have Streets of Rage 2, Sengoku 3, and a few others to put in that treasured list.
However, it is still a crowning achievement because it’s well-done, it’s incredibly fun without coming off as busywork, and combines the best of the Aliens and Predator universes in a game setting that’s tailored by its well-known developers.
Obviously its story needed work, but playing a 90s beat-em-up for the plot is like going to a McDonalds for healthy food choices.