In Predators, you play as a predator. That needs to be stated up front, lest there be any confusion as to which side you’re on. You’re a murderous alien, and you tear the insides out of puny humans one after another. Normally such behavior would be a no-no, but it’s permitted here for several reasons: 1) they’re on your planet, 2) they’re trying to kill you, and 3) back on Earth they’re criminals who did very bad things. Really, they had it coming.
The clunkily-titled Robert Rodriguez Presents Predators is based on the upcoming movie of the same name, and it was developed by the folks at Angry Mob, who made Guerrilla Bob, one of the better dual-stick shooters on the App Store. Predators is a universal app too, so one purchase lets you play the game in native resolution your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Not a bad deal, considering that most games based on movie licenses cost more than Predators and split their iPhone and iPad versions into two separate apps.
The blood isn’t gratuitous. It’s an achievement.
The game consists of 24 missions that pit you against swarms of armed and angry criminals. How thousands of humans ended up on the predators’ faraway planet is anyone’s guess. All you need to know is that the bad guys are here and they’re out for your lime-green blood. The main characters from the movie, Royce, Stans, Cuchillo, and Isabelle, make up the bosses in the game, and with some quick thumbs and a dash of skill, you’ll have their heads on pikes before the day is done.
To help you in your massacring, you’re equipped with a number of weapons that can be purchased and upgraded as you progress through the game. Making kills, completing missions, and severing heads nets you honor points that you spend in the game’s shop, where the weapons gradually become unlocked as you progress.
And quite a progression it is. Practically the entire first half of the game feels like a tutorial, as each mission walks you through how to use a particular weapon or combo in your arsenal. It feels strange that you should still be learning how to play the game an hour in, but that’s how it is. You can use guns, claws, and combi sticks; you can cloak yourself and turn on thermal vision; and you can perform combos and brutal fatalities. Control-wise there’s a ton to learn, and they teach you gradually so it’s not difficult to pick up.
Humans don’t stand a chance.
The controls to do all of this are spot-on. An analog D-pad controls your movement with great precision, and all of the buttons are quite responsive. The only issue we have is that when you initiate a decapitation or a body split, those actions take time to complete, leaving you vulnerable and unable to get away if your health starts to drop. This adds strategy to the game, but it becomes frustrating if you die because of it when you’re close to beating a longer level. Your health slowly recharges if you avoid getting hit for a few seconds, which comes in handy later in the game when the challenge really kicks in.
Another issue is that the environments are all similar to one another. They vary in size, but usually you’ll find a stream and a couple of felled trees plopped into a mostly-open space surrounded by jungle.
But the cons are overshadowed by the game’s excellent use of the source material. Every ability you’d want your predator to have is here. However, to make the game more fair, some of the predators’ super moves, like invisibility, thermal vision, and long range weapons, can only be used for a limited time before needing to recharge– otherwise you’d be basically invincible.
While we would have preferred a little more environmental variety and fewer tutorial levels, we had a great time with Predators. There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing your dreadlocked alien rip off an enemy’s head, hold it up impaled on his claw, and let out a loud, guttural war cry. This is a Predator game that will make fans very happy.