It’s time for change! A breath of fresh air. A breath that involves inhaling the nostalgic scents of burning metal, smoke, and blood. Rather than following what has become my regular routine of finding a new story and writing an article, I have decided to write about a game that has been out for a while, putting my own little twist on one of my cowriters’ (Dylan) “Better Late than Never” segment. Today I am going to talk about a game which I think did not get the credit which it was due. While this game could possibly have gone by without you knowing of its existence, you probably know about the franchise which birthed it: Predator.
Predator: Concrete Jungle was a game for the original Xbox which hit shelves in early 2005. Created to ride the fan wave made by the film Alien vs Predator (AVP). Naturally, as all video gamers do, I presumed that this game was going to be horrible- a simple attempt to gain more money from the fan base- however, when I bought it, I was surprised. While this game was no Skyrim (clearly, as it came on the original xbox, in a time when gaming was still adjusting to more advanced consoles), it still had its merits.
The Game’s Story
In the summer of 1930, a Yautja (Predator) hunter came to ‘New Way City’ to hunt the greatest of prey- man. According to the introductory narration, we can assume that the creature had been there for some time, earning the nick name “the New Way Devil”. The Devil had taken to hunting and killing gangsters and mob bosses, and his hunt was coming to an end. However, the devil slipped up, and on the night where he killed Bruno Borgia, the God of Gansters, he sustained serious injury (you find out how later in the game). Dropping his advanced equipment, the Devil fled, making for his final target before leaving the planet. This is where the player is given control of the Predator.
Players must carve a path through a mob of rioting prohibition-era gangsters. When the last of his victims dies, the player must return to their ship, however the floor collapses beneath you en route, trapping you underground. Predator fans can probably predict what happens next. Bound by the ways of the Yautja, who do not want the population to know of their existence, the New Way Devil activates his ships self-destruction sequence, hoping to wipe its error and existence from the Earth.
The predator had the misfortune of surviving the explosion, and was forced to face the harsh judgement of his kin who arrived shortly after the explosion. Exiled to a desolate planet, the predator had to fight and survive to live his life of shame, atoning for the sins and consequences of his grievous error in judgement. However, we soon discover that the predator must atone for that and more, as his actions on Earth sent ripples through time, effecting the world in a way that was never meant to be.
One hundred years pass, and the New Way Devil has survived his exile. When his kinsmen arrive, he presumes that it is time for him to return to his people- but he is wrong. After watching a recording aboard the ship, he sees that humans found his hunting technology and adapted it into their own machinery, which was used in turn against his kin. As a result of this, he is sent back to earth, where he must atone for the sins of his past, and avoid further damaging the future.
Now, as this is an Original Xbox game, it is not surprising that the game will have its bugs and faults, however Predator: Concrete Jungle’s gaming mechanics have more negative aspects than positives. Most of these aspects can be blamed on poor programming and the game engine.
Let us start with one of the largest problems, which is a source for many other issues. The developers could not decide on it’s genre of game play. Instead of focusing on a certain specific genre (such as a stealth adventure, Action RPG, etc) and building on it, the game slapped a general ‘adventure’ genre sticker on the product, which resulted in it having numerous but unrefined game features and playing styles, which result in awkward mechanics for the gamer.
For instance, there are some platforming elements in the game, as players are forced to scale buildings and leap from roof to roof, however it feels as though the developers took the mechanics of Super Mario and made it into 3D. The jumping system is primitive at best, and the mobility lacks any particular vigor that you would hope for while being in control of a massive Yautja warrior. The game lacks a ‘recharge’ system for health/shields/energy (though it was not as prominent when the game was designed), which means players have to go on a wild goose chase to find health packs and power sources. While this is a negative feature to some gamers, others would find this to be appealing, as it forces them to be more conservative with their tactics and use of powers.
As with most adventure genres, this game comes with several different environments, though most are urban and seem to be similar in regards to the tactics used around them- the environment diversity really just boils down to industrial indoor, dense urban outdoor and industrial outdoor. The world itself is set in numerous non-linear stages that allow players to roam freely within the confines of the environment. These environments were cast in low res X-box graphics, which gave them a boring appearance after a while. The game fails to captivate players visually, though it does have ample amounts of gore to entertain more sadistic gamers.
The game has an interesting variety of weapons (which fell under two groups: thrown/projectile/Special and main weapons- which consisted of your Glaives and Combisticks). While some were the generic swinging blades of death that had a hand full of unique animations, others were very fun to use, such as the Smart Disk, and the Helmet HUD, which allowed for voice recording and mimicking as well as a whole boat load of different vision modes. These weapons, which usually could be upgraded, made for some entertaining and gruesome in game kills.
But what point is a weapon if you have nothing fun to use it on? Well, if there is one thing that Predator Concrete Jungle does right, it is allowing for a diverse array of enemies. While this doesn’t hold a candle to massive modern games in terms of the unique enemy collection, it was one of the few games that did it at an interesting extent in it’s time. We got to fight foes, old and new, including humans, cyborgs, weaponized mechs, the notorious black serpent like ‘Xenomorphs‘ (From the ‘Alien’ films) and even other Yautja. This put the numerous weapons to use, as some weapons worked better on certain enemies than others, which would prevent a player from obtaining a super weapon and using it for the entire game.
All in all, the mechanics of the game weren’t all that impressive, which is why it was not noticed by many gamers, as most reviewers were turned off by this factor.
All in all, while the game was low end in terms of graphics and general gaming mechanics, I do not believe it to be to the point where the game should automatically be written off. Its story and fun factor makes it worth a short term rental. After all, how many chances do you get to play as a Yautja in a large open world environment? If game developers decided to revamp the title, I believe it could be profoundly successful, since we have the technology to make the game visually captivating, and refined game engines to allow for smoother mechanics.
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