It sounds like a match made in H.R. Giger's version of heaven. Aliens are vicious bugs that breed in the darkest corners of the universe, predators are hunters that love tracking down the most dangerous prey imaginable, and humans get caught in the middle. The results should be ugly, horrifying, and a total blast to play through. They have been before. So why does Aliens vs Predator feel so flat and lifeless? Several reasons actually, although all the explanations in the world won't cushion the crushing disappointment.
The basic setup is the usual fare- distant planet, greedy corporation experimenting on Aliens, strange artifacts, and a predator hunting party. The story is told through three separate scenarios, one each for the three species, and they intertwine as each progresses. The plot is completely throw-away though, so the only important thing to remember is no matter who you play, kill everyone who isn't your species. It's a xenophobic, mean-spirited universe out there, but unfortunately not a very interesting one. In the intervening decade between this and the last Aliens Vs Predator, the future has gotten pretty stupid.
Aliens vs Predator is an atmospheric FPS, meaning that there are fewer things to kill than there are dark corridors for them to be hiding in. The problem is that the dark quickly loses it's scary naturem, and becomes annoying instead of worrying. What's in there? What's going to jump out and go boo? Whatever it is, I've got a giant machine gun and a handful of grenades, so I can't say I'm feeling particularly nervous about it. The worst part about all that darkness is that in the real world infrared goggles are a $60 toy readily acquired at many fine stores, but completely unavailable to the space marines of the future. In a universe where lightbulbs seem more precious than gold and even levels set outside with the sun shining down have large sections rendered pitch-black by a ridiculously bad lighting engine, this seems like especially poor planning.
With the story a wash and the atmosphere shot, that leaves the gameplay to pick up the slack. It would be nice if the variety afforded by three different species could form the heart of game where every enemy engagement brought a new experience with it, but no such luck. The marine plays like a standard FPS with a targeting reticle that's way too easy to lose in the background, the predator goes invisible and stealth-kills while hopping from vantage point to vantage point, and the alien bites off faces and plants facehuggers on its victims. It's fun for a while, and then just seems repetitious once the novelty wears off. The alien and predator campaigns fare better than the marine's, thanks to the way their abilities avoid the “standard FPS” syndrome, but they're also both primarily melee fighters, and that's hard to pull off in first-person. The novelty doesn't last beyond the first few levels.
Aliens vs Predator is a series that's seen better days. Either of the two PC games from 2000/2001 are more fun than this, with better game mechanics, controls, and level design. The new version, sadly, has all the charm and originality of a quick cash-in, competent enough in a few ways but weighted down by a complete lack of inspiration. That's par for the course for an average licensed game, but barring AvP: Extinction it's a fate this series had avoided. The multiplayer miodes help pick up the slack a bit, especially when all three species are going at it, but even then the overall issues dragging down the single-player game rear their collective head. Aliens vs Predator ends up as an attempt to revive the glory days of a popular license, and instead ends up as a lesson in why sometimes it's better to leave well enough alone.