Atari Jaguar Review: Alien vs. Predator on The Jag Bar
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The Jag Bar
By Brian Thomas Barnhart |
Hey, what is up everybody? Welcome back to The Jag Bar. BTB here and my very good friend Justin Mulvey is back! You’ll remember him from the two-part DOOM episode, he’s joining us again today to play one of the best games on the Atari Jaguar.
Every system needs to have a “killer app” to sell the system. For Atari 2600 it was Space Invaders. For the NES it was Super Mario Bros. To me, Alien vs. Predator was that game for Atari Jaguar. This was the one that put Jaguar on the map.
“Alien vs. Predator”. I feel like that was every conversation we had growing up, anyway. “Alien vs. Predator”, “RoboCop vs. Terminator”, who would win? I might have led into my Jaguar adventure with Alien vs. Predator and doubled down with Kasumi Ninja.
“Alien vs. Predator was the reason that I wanted to get an Atari Jaguar. It was like “Atari! It’s back!” Here they are with a 64-Bit system and this amazing game. “They’re going to do it again! They’re going to do what they did in 1979.” Now we know the story, but in my heart I believed that and it was this game that made me want to buy this system.”
– Brian Thomas Barnhart
Alien vs. Predator was top notch for the time. It was the next advancement in corridor shooters like DOOM, we fought off all the Nazis in Wolfenstein, and now we get to beat the Alien. This game, alone, was responsible for selling so many Atari Jaguars when they were new.
So we’ve got the Colonial Marine, the Predator, and the Alien. All in the same game. I want to play this right now. I’m excited. Let’s do it! Alien vs. Predator, I’m ready.
You know it’s funny, in 1994 we would have looked at the start up screen alone and been like “that is awesome!” The graphics are incredible. Look at the game, even today it still looks pretty good. The Marine in the game is actually one of the programmers in a Marine costume from the movie.
This is like the culmination of what we grew up with as kids. This was the first time we got to realize the idea of “Aliens vs. Predators” and you could BE a Space Marine. There hadn’t been anything like this.
Alien vs. Predator came with three controller overlays in different colors, one for each playable character in the game. Alien vs. Predator was released about four years before analog thumbsticks entered the mainstream. The modern feel of the game tricks your brain into wanting to play with a modern controller, if you’re used to playing modern consoles with analog sticks.
If that is the case, the D-pad style controls can take a little getting used to. You use the C button to pan, and the D-pad to move around. Using a D-pad to play within a 3-D environment is rough if you forgot how that was. Once you get back into the classic “pre-dualshock” mindset the controls are actually really responsive and the numerical pad serves its purpose.
Shooting aliens is a riot. Just like in the movie the aliens are acidic. If you shoot them and walk on them you’ll get hurt.
What I learned from Shinto’s Atari Jaguar Game By Game Podcast is that basically all of the textures that you’re seeing in this game were all created as real, physical models, and they took pictures of them and digitized all these photos to create the textures that we see in the game.
So all of the alien monsters are digitized photos of an Alien or Predator model kit that you would have got at the hobby store or something like that. They digitized all of those photos and then compressed them using JagPEG, an Atari adaptation of the JPEG format and applied 3-D elements.
So when you’re looking at a wall in the game, what you’re really seeing are tiled images of photos taken of a real “Alien” wall that was modeled in the real world. The same is true for the air vents, the Space Marine, the Predator, and the Alien which was a stop animation model.
Pretty much everything you encounter in the game is created using photos of real life models. Which is really creative if you think about it, because DOOM would have been built from the ground up, and with Alien vs. Predator they tried to figure out how to do that but in a really different and creative way.
Playing it again, here’s what I have learned. I feel like we had a certain language when playing DOOM, and it was “run into a room, blast everything, find a key and get out.”
And because we didn’t have a lot of different options, I felt like trying to play this game like DOOM doesn’t work. It’s a much slower pace, and there are a lot more objectives to be achieved. There are computers to be looked at, there are security codes, and there are all these different levels of this game where if you were to try to play it like DOOM you failed. And I find myself, still to this day, trying to play this game like DOOM.
Alien vs. Predator. To me this was the system seller. This showed what the Atari Jaguar was all about. I would say that the Alien section of the game was awesome, it’s super fast and really responsive with the controls, the frame rate was good. Just the idea of “cocooning” and when you die the Alien would hatch and you could just keep going.
Tempest 2000 was like the “sleeper hit”. That was such a surprise. “Oh my god, Tempest 2000 is GREAT!” I remember, even the box art on Tempest 2000, I was like “Okay uh.. I dunno, I heard it’s good. I’m gonna give it a shot…” It’s not until you play Tempest 2000 that you go “Wow, this system is capable of some incredible games!”
Iron Soldier was another amazing game. But it was really Alien vs. Predator with its unprecedented graphics and gameplay that made me want to get this system so badly.
Alright, that’s it, so Alien vs. Predator, this is the flagship game for Atari Jaguar! Justin, my video game buddy from 2nd Grade came back to do another episode. Be sure to check out the episode at the top of this page! And tune in to the next episode of The Jag Bar, or to the Lynx Lounge, or to the new show 7800 Avenue! You’ve got three shows, your choice. Watch them all.
Anyway, we will see you guys later! Cheers!
Alien vs. Predator was programmed at Rebellion Developments by Andrew Whittaker and Mike Beaton. Art and animation Toby Banfield, Stuart Wilson, Justin Rae, Jeffrey Gatrall, and Keoni Los Banos. Box art and title screen by Andrew H. Denton. Music and sound effects by James Grunge, M Stevens, Nathan Brenholdt, Will Davis, Paul Foster, Tom Gillen, and Alex Quarmby. Produced by James Purple Hampton.
Brian Thomas Barnhart is a classic gaming aficionado, retro pop culture connoisseur, and a Senior Fellow at Atari I/O. He is host of The Jag Bar, Lynx Lounge, 7800 Avenue, and the Atari I/O After Hours Podcast. Brian is a Moderator in the Atari I/O Forums under the name btbfilms76. You can follow him on Instagram and at his YouTube channel.
model # J9008E
KEONI LOS BANOS
JAMES PURPLE HAMPTON
ANDREW H. DENTON