Alien vs Predator for the SNES is not a great side scrolling brawler. It’s not fundamentally broken in any way, nor does it fail to provide the promised action of playing as a Predator wailing on legions of Aliens. Instead, its biggest crime is that is isn’t the amazing arcade release from Capcom.
To be fair, that arcade game wouldn’t be released for another 8 months, and Capcom had nothing to do with what Activision put out here. I don’t think one influenced the other in any way. But retrospectively, this ends up feeling like a dollar store port of the better arcade title, despite that not actually being the case (or possible). The arcade release is colorful, frenetic, tight, and varied in all the ways this game is not.
Even if you hadn’t played AvP in the arcade, you can tell something feels “off” about this game. You play as a Predator whose main attack is to try and deck Aliens right in the noggin. He’s not great at this. You can grab Aliens, but can never tell exactly how you did it, and you can pull a three-hit combo that ends in a mighty uppercut, but all these attacks end up being weak and unsatisfying. It’s going to take a lot of punches just to wipe out a regular Alien grunt.
Which is probably why defeated Aliens drop Predator weapons frequently. These are the crowd pleasing toys – namely spears and discs – that give the Pred some ranged attacks to work with. While they still aren’t as deadly as it feels like they should be, they do knock off more health than a punch. Pickups come in charges of five, so you’ll usually space out the throws to knock enemies to the floor and wait for them to get back up again.
You can also pick up a temporary cloaking device that looks neat, but honestly seems useless. Holding the X button charges up a shoulder cannon. You need to have some room to let it build up a shot at all, with milliseconds of extra time going into a stronger attack. Neither of these shots seem worth a damn, unless you just want to knock Aliens down to give yourself some time. At full charge, you can hold up and release, which acts as your standard screen-clearing attack. This one saps your health, so you’re going to need to reserve it. It’s nice that it’s always available, and doesn’t rely on pickups or limited charges, but it takes so much health away that it’s still not something you’re going to want to use much at all.
Which brings us to one of the biggest letdowns – there’s never more than two enemies on the screen at once. AvP feels boring, and I think this is a major contributor. You’re never going to be wiping out crowds of mooks, you’re never given a chance to feel powerful and unstoppable, instead, you’re going to be knocking two Aliens down and waiting for them to get back up again. Sometimes they’ll attack at the same time. Sometimes they’ll attack one after the other. If you’re doing poorly, sometimes they’ll each attack from a different side. But it’s always knocking two Aliens with annoying large health bars down, and waiting for them to get back up again.
To keep this from being absolutely brainless, Aliens have a couple of cheap attacks up their exoskeletons. The most common ones leap with a ludicrous reach, able to hit you from what feels like clear across the screen. Every Alien’s life bar is about 40% larger than yours, so your weak hits take forever to wear them down. I timed one typical encounter – 35 seconds of back and forth attacks just to drop two bog-standard Alien goons. Go ahead and count out to “35-one-thousand” to get a sense of how long and boring that actually is.
And that’s AvP. You’ll fight the same two Alien types over and over in different settings, with the same set of basic attacks. There’s no corporate goons, no machines or androids, nothing else from the series. There’s no showpiece areas or cool entrances like you would find in an arcade brawler, little variety, and just not much going on from moment to moment. You can knock the whole thing out in an hour, and never have a reason to return.
There’s nine levels in total as the Preds track Aliens from the overrun Vega colony to the Alien homeworld. Occasional cutscenes pop in, less to follow a story and more to set up the next location. You’ll fight increasingly larger boss Aliens at the end of each stage, ending in a fight with the Queen, who just looks like a regular Queen. I guess you haven’t destroyed the Alien homeworld after all? Not while there’s sequels possible!
In terms of difficulty, AvP is really as difficult as you, personally, want to make it. You’ll be trading blows pretty regularly with the Aliens if you try to punch your way through, and bosses especially will be a challenge with their giant life bars. Instead, you can exploit the slide move on the shoulder buttons. You can literally slide from one end of the screen to the other, repeating until all foes are dead. Any boss that can’t be defeated this way can be exploited with the shoulder cannon. I guess you don’t have to play cheaply, but it’s undeniably efficient, and seems almost necessary for most of the boss fights. It’s just not much fun.
It’s hard to call AvP a terrible game, as its only glaring fault is that it is an average entry into a bloated genre. However, it is boring, and that is pretty much a show-stopper. There are more modern games that make it a lot more fun to be a Predator, and the excellent arcade version of this title shows what this one could have been.
It’s playable. Lets you play as a Predator wailing on Aliens, as advertised.
Very little variety. No more than two Aliens on screen at once. Short, but so boring you’ll be glad it’s over.