Overdue Reviews is an occasional series in which I appease my younger self's brief desire to be a videogame journalist by ranting or raving about part of or all of a game I've played in the past. This week: Aliens vs Predator 2 on PC.
There's a rule in horror movies. The less you show of the monster, the more scary it is. As soon as the audience sees what they're supposed to be afraid of, they stop being afraid. The fear of the unknown is far worse than a man in a rubber suit.
Aliens vs Predator 2 uses this technique to great effect in the first level of the marine campaign. It was almost terrifying.
My squad arrived on a distant world and almost immediately I was separated from them. Of course, the only way for me to be reunited with my team was to press on alone. So far so predictable.
By this point, I knew I was going to be attacked by an alien. That much was certain. What wasn't certain was how long it would be before that happened. The game dragged it out to an almost unbearable length of time, while I was required to explore increasingly cramped and darkened areas, which became more and more perfect for an ambush.
First I had to hike up an exposed hillside in the dark to a distant compound. There was the sound of a Predator somewhere off in the dark, but it disappeared. Once inside, my motion sensor picked up movement, but it turned out to be just a chain swinging in the wind. Then I had to go down into the basement to turn the power back on, which in movie terms means that the moment the switch is flicked I'm guaranteed to be attacked, but still nothing happened. On the way back out the ceiling suddenly tore open above me, spilling pipes and steam, but it was just a ruptured vent.
By this point I hadn't fired a shot, but I was genuinely sweating. Despite this fantastic build up, when the aliens finally did attack, it was almost anticlimactic; a couple of them ran at me from across a well-lit room and I was able to dispatch them with relative ease. It was deeply disappointing.
Of course, from that point on the suspense was lost. There were still plenty of tense moments and jump scares, but although the rest of the game was mostly enjoyable, none of it matched those first few opening minutes.