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Predator 2

Genre: Action Developer: Perfect 10 Productions Publisher: Arena Players: 1 Released: 1992

Even in 1987, audiences knew Predator was special. In addition to separating itself from the mindless Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicles to which moviegoers had grown accustomed, the film eschewed cheesy monster/alien movie stereotypes with its smartly-paced story, its beautiful South American backdrop, and the awesome realization of Stan Winston’s titular alien antagonist. 1990 saw the release of the inevitable sequel, but despite the welcomed elaboration of the predator’s race and the benefits afforded by a larger budget, Predator 2 was generally regarded as inferior to the original. What fans seem remember most about the second (and, to date, final) film is the infamous split-second moment at its climax that implied a connection to the Alien franchise. As a sister series (spiritually, if nothing else), Alien has seen more video game adaptations than the Predator series, but if the Genesis build of Predator 2 is any indication, perhaps that’s for the best.

Developed by Perfect 10 Productions and distributed by Arena Entertainment (one of the many aliases used by Acclaim in the early days), Predator 2 is a top-down shooter in the same vein as MERCS or Soldiers of Fortune. As Detective Mike Harrigan, players travel through several key locations from the film, blasting through waves of drug-peddling gang members to reach a set number of hostages. The predator, however, is also hunting down the hostages; if you take too long to meet your objective, the signature three-pronged laser will appear and begin homing in on the nearest captive. If he focuses on the struggling, unarmed victim before you can free them, he’ll blow them up (Perfect 10’s rendition of the predator is a bit less sportsmanlike than his cinematic counterpart).

Like most other entries to the top-down run and gun genre, the game allows freedom of movement in all eight directions. Your position can be locked by holding the fire button, allowing you to strafe back and forth while firing continuously. Occasionally, secondary weapons like bombs and shotguns will appear that grant you a limited supply of upgraded bullets (which incidentally look just like those from your main weapon). The fact that the strafing function doesn’t work with these extra weapons is just one of the many frustrating aspects of the game.

One of the main irritations has to do with the number of enemies in each stage. Even bearing in mind how fashionable it was at the time to stiffen up a game’s challenge to compensate for its diminutive length, the infinitely-spawning enemies present in Predator 2 represent one of the cheapest examples of cheap game-extending tactics in the industry. These enemies don’t just wander on-screen in ones and twos as they do in MERCS. Rather, gang members swarm constantly onto the playing field much like the enemies in Smash TV, the majority of which are sporting some kind of firearm. Respawning enemies (in moderation, of course) are perfectly fine for games with linear levels that require you to get from one end of the stage to the other as quickly as possible. The stages in Predator 2, on the other hand, require a fair amount of exploration and backtracking, as the focus is mainly on finding and rescuing the hostages. With an infinite number of enemies to contend with at every step and a life gauge that will ultimately drain steadily regardless of your strategy, it inevitably becomes a far easier tactic to forgo the offense completely and simply make a mad dash for each hostage while avoiding enemy fire the best you can.

Adding to the difficulty is the rather wonky collision detection regarding the hostages. It will often appear that you have walked right across the victim’s lap, yet nothing happens. Most rescues occur during rather stressful circumstances, as more often than not you are racing the predator’s laser while dodging enemy gunfire, so you may not even notice that you have not freed the hostage until he disappears in an explosion of gore. It would have been nice to have seen a slightly larger collision area for the hostages.

The game boasts some decent sound effects, with some surprisingly clear (albeit repetitive) voice samples used for the captives (they cry continuously for help and then exclaim “Yeah!” once you’ve freed them). The music, however, is absolutely terrible. In lieu of Alan Silvestri’s primal, foreboding score, the game offers an inappropriately jazzy soundtrack more evocative of a bad porno flick.

In terms of graphics, if it weren’t for the lack of slowdown and the decently-rendered stills from the movie that open each of the game’s seven stages, I’d swear this was a game from the previous generation. In-game character sprites are blocky and contain only two frames of animation. Environments are plain to look at, with noticeably excessive use of wide, open areas like city streets and rooftops that require little or no detail. The predator, when he finally appears as an interactive character, is at best unrecognizable and simply laughable at worst. The Game Over screen, for example, depicts the famous image of the predator standing on the rooftop, waving Bill Paxton’s skull and spinal column. The rendering and animation are so crude, however, that it looks more like Donkey Kong wielding a smiling lollipop.

While many times the little details can turn a good game into a great game, a noticeable lack of them are often enough to turn a mediocre game into a bad one. Definitely part of this latter group, Predator 2 suffers from the same affliction that plagues most modern licensed games: laziness. Although Perfect 10 Productions took a step in the right direction by creating the game as a top-down shooter when side-scrolling platformers were en vogue, their entire project was scuttled by primitive graphics, terrible music, and tedious, frustrating gameplay. A bit more effort could have produced a game nearly on par with the film that inspired it, but instead it plays almost as a sneering taunt towards the series before it was absorbed completely into the Alien franchise.

SCORE: 4 out of 10

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