The Predators game launched on Google Play last week, offering fast-paced stealth action with a healthy dose of gore. Many familiar names from the 2010 movie show up, though you spend most of your time hunting humans rather than playing as them - after all, folks only really watch those flicks for glimpses of the hulking monsters, right?
Players take control of a predator alien through 31 stages and an unlockable challenge mode, using a variety of classic weaponry and technology to complete a selection of goals. Sometimes a level is as simple as collecting a certain number of heads, while others require players to survive multiple waves of humans on the hunt.
Throughout the single-player game, bits of classic, recognizable equipment are unlocked, including the shoulder-mounted blaster with three-dot laser sight, wrist blades, cloaking device, and thermal vision. Some of those devices require careful management of an energy meter that regenerates over time. In the early stages, health is abundant, and it's not too hard to take a few bullets before having to seek shelter to recuperate.
Meticulous game stats track how many kills you get and what kinds of kills they were. There are four save slots, which is a nice touch for shared devices like tablets. The variation of level scenery is limited and not very interesting from a tactical standpoint, but the ongoing stream of new weapons and mission types keeps things mixed up even if the core mechanic of skewering a prisoner and ripping him apart doesn't change much.
Players earn honor points while going through the campaign, with extra bonuses awarded for taking the heads of their prey with careful finishing moves. Those honor points can be spent on upgrading and unlocking new weapons. In-app purchases are employed for extra honor, which is a bit tacky for a $2.99 game, but at least they don't have exclusive items locked away behind a "premium" currency.
It is a little bothersome that the only other game mode besides the campaign requires honor to activate. It's not much mind you; survival mode is accessed with 10,000 honor points, and before getting halfway through the campaign I had over 4,000. If you skip upgrades, you should have enough well before finishing the single-player game. Otherwise, you could just shell out $3.99 for 12,000 honor points.
Controls are slightly murky, as the same button is used to block as for dash, depending on how you're moving the dynamic virtual joystick on the left side. Predators attempts to layer on some well-meaning depth by having a combo system and strong attack mechanic in place, but timing properly in the heat of combat can be frustrating enough that less dedicated players will simply opt to button mash. The toggles for switching melee and ranged weapons are very close, and can sometimes result in accidental presses. On the plus side, ranged attacks have a healthy amount of auto-aim; it's not flawlessly accurate, which is nice, and it avoids the need for a dual-stick control set-up.
The graphics and sound are both top-notch, with character models animating smoothly, and visual effects for blood and weather being applied liberally. Interface elements are fairly stark, though it suits the general attitude of the predator aliens. The soundtrack is appropriately tribal and understated, and sound effects pulled straight from the movie are used where they need to be - which is just about everywhere.
If nothing else, the Predators game for Android is true to the franchise, right down to the brutal gore and the awesome alien technology. Straightforward hack-and-slash gameplay has a moderate level of depth added through energy management and a combo system. While Predators might have been a little ambitious on that front, they could have easily added a bit more complexity to the level design. Only real hardcore Predators fans will be willing to drop $2.99 on the game, and even then, they may begrudge the devs for taking two years to bring it to Android from iOS.
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