Angry Mob Games
Colonial Marines makes this iOS/Android AVP brawler seem positively playable
Angry Mob Games may be the only studio to benefit from the disaster that is Aliens: Colonial Marines. Feeling burned from Gearbox and SEGA (and TimeGate, and Nerve Software, and…), Alien franchise fans might see their mobile brawler as akin to salvation. While AVP: Evolution isn’t the worst game on iOS and Android, or to use the Alien license, it’s also not particularly good.
“Why would they skin them?”
At first glance, Evolution seems like a faithful romp through the two famous sci-fi/horror franchises. The look and sound of the game is accurate to the source material, and there’s a cohesive, if basic, plot tying everything together. Names like Yautja, Praetorian, and Weyland-Yutani get thrown around; words that fans will recognize. None of that can hide the truth though: AVP: Evolution is a 3D brawler with a Xenomorph and Predator coat of paint.
This wouldn’t be a problem if the controls and game play weren’t monotonous and boring. Amir Rao spoke to the wonderful control schemes born of taking advantage of a platform’s specific strengths at DICE, admitting that they originally tried to port Bastion to iPad with a virtual game pad-style interface. There’s a reason that successful games avoid that trap.
It didn’t feel natural then, and it doesn’t feel natural now. The lack of tactile feedback feels particularly strange for a brawler.
The Xeno and Predator control the same: both lumber around and perform two-button combos, using the left side of the screen as a substitute for an analog stick, and the right side to control the camera. The default setting for the camera is sensitive as hell. I ended up turning it down to just a few notches above 0.
You’ll move from room to room, slashing and slicing at whatever human-shaped objects obstruct your path, until you’ve killed them all, and you can move to the next room which will flood you with more wrist blade/tongue-mouth fodder. You can perform specific combos if you like, but more often than not you’ll just end up button mashing, bouncing your weapons off the squishy pink humans before you.
When you get an enemy to low enough health you can perform an execution. For the Xeno, this means a swift thrust to the head with its inner mouth, while the Predator rips off an enemy’s head and spine for a trophy. You can even perform these finishing moves on androids as well, which doesn’t quite make sense in franchise lore. It’s a small thing, but it’s emblematic of the larger problem: AVP: Evolution just doesn’t make you feel like a Xenomorph or Predator.
It’s evolution, baby
The game features the unique talents and abilities of the Xenos and Predators, but it’s so superficial that they feel more like an homage than an actual representation of distinct characters You can crawl through vents or along walls as a Xenomorph, but only during specific areas. You can use your heat vision as a Predator, but you’ll never do what feels like honest-to-god hunting.
So what’s the point, other than to throw in some visual flair and sound effects that fans of the film will appreciate? Ben remarked how balancing the Xenomorphs, Predators, and Marines felt like mixing peanut butter, jelly, and handjobs, but Evolution is like being handed a picture of someone enjoying a PB&J&HJ. Yeah, you could probably still enjoy that picture to some degree, but you’re really only getting an idea of what the sensation must be like.
Of course, what’s an iOS or Android game without in-app purchases and a store? As you play through the game, you’ll earn points based on your performance – Honor Points for the Predator, Xeno Points for the Xenomorph – and these allow you to customize your character. You can also skip the performance test and buy points using real-world money, and the prices seem fair. It’s easy to unlock items over the course of the game, so I’d recommend holding onto your cash.
The Predator has a plethora of equipment to choose from in his store, including armor sets, masks, wrist blades, combi sticks, razor whips, plasma cannons, net guns, and smart discs, alongside basic upgrades like extra health. The Xeno can change its body, head, and tail. Each item you purchase or change you implement grants unique bonuses – the Falconer wrist blades give the Predator a +20% bonus to damage, a +2% critical chance, and two unique attacks – and each one is inspired by a different movie in the two franchises.
Are you an Alien 3 fan? You’ll want the Runner set for the Xeno. Maybe you liked the look of the three Super Predators from Predators; they’ve got those too. It’s nice fan service, but since each item is basically an improvement over the one before it, you’ll almost never have a reason to stick with your starter set if you prefer the classic, original look of each race.
AVP: Evolution isn’t perfect. It’s barely above “decent.” The core game is a shallow brawler that feels like a poor fit for touchscreen devices, and the Predators and Xenomorphs are more fan service than fearsome monsters. But hey, compared to recent entries to these franchises, this is quite the step up.