In 1987, director John McTiernan brought us a film that was unlike any other that came before it. Mixing equal parts Rambo and Alien, Predator was a unique combination of wartime action and science fiction mystery that managed to avoid many of the B movie cliches that doomed films in the same genre pool prior to and since then. Although not a critical success in the beginning with many berating it for having “arguably one of the emptiest, feeblest, most derivative scripts ever made as a major studio movie” and being “dull, with few surprises”, it garnered commercial success earning over six times its budget and a following that only grew over time. Unfortunately for the fans of the movie, we haven’t gotten a worthy sequel, and we haven’t gotten the video game equivalent we deserve.
“Get to the chopper!”
For those who haven’t seen it yet (why not?), Predator put a team of highly trained Delta Force soldiers, lead by the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, behind enemy lines deep in the jungle in search of a kidnapped government official and other hostages at the hands of a South American guerilla group known as Val Verde, but what they find is much worse. Not only have they been lied to so the CIA could retrieve critical lost intelligence from past captured operatives, they are now being hunted and killed one-by-one by something not of this world: the Predator.
The great thing about the movie is it flips the script on humanity. For the longest time we thought we were the top of the food chain and this is displayed on screen by the group of tough, gruff, wise-cracking Delta Force soldiers armed to the teeth with enough weapons to blow a hole in this side of the hemisphere.
Poncho, “You’re bleeding, man. You’re hit.”
Blain, “I ain’t got time to bleed.”
Poncho, “Oh, okay.” He shoots a barrage of grenades onto an outcropping hiding enemy soldiers, “You got time to duck?”
Seemingly nothing can stop them. Surely, nothing would be stupid enough to try. This is clearly shown by their total dominance when going up against Val Verde. However, once the Predator enters the picture, things change. No matter how much they try to use their weapons and skills to gain the upper hand, the Predator seems to stay one step ahead. As the movie progresses, the sense of dread and imminent death is heavy on their heels until it’s just Dutch and the Predator. He finally finds success by throwing technology away and fighting with primitive tactics: fashioning a bow & arrows, making spike traps and bombs, and using fire and mud to mess with the Predators vision. With a little luck and a lot of cunning and strength, Dutch is able to survive the Predator.
Billy, “I’m scared, Poncho.”
Poncho, “Bullshit. You ain’t afraid of no man.”
Billy, “There’s something out there waiting for us, and it ain’t no man. We’re all gonna die.”
The movie spawned two official sequels: Predator 2 starring Danny Glover which took place in a war-torn “future” Los Angeles in the year 1997 that slid closer to the B movie schlock the first managed to avoid. Predators, released over two decades later, took a page from James Cameron’s Aliens pitting a group of misfit “warriors” on an alien world to do battle with a group of Predators. It fared better than 2, but not by much. Beyond that we’ve only been treated to Alien vs. Predator films which, although somewhat quenching our Predator thirst, can’t outright be called a Predator movie… maybe Aliens vs Humans: Predator Saves the Day.
Sadly on the game front, we’ve been on even worse ground.
It kicked off in 1987, the same year the movie was released, with an Amiga side scrolling platformer that got the general idea down but was lackluster and easily forgettable. Predator 2 came along in 1990 in the form of an on-the-rails over-the-shoulder shooter on the PC and a top down shooter on the Genesis: both terrible Predator games. In 1993 through 2010 they created various games based on the Alien vs. Predator IP as well as a console game (Concrete Jungle) that were the best Predator games to date and that’s not saying a lot, but let’s not mince words here: there hasn’t been a good Predator game, not one that captures the fear and hopelessness of the original movie.
The Alien franchise, which saw its first film released eight years before Predator in 1979, was in the same boat until not too long ago. Starting out as a schlocky puzzle game on the Atari 2600 (think Pac-man with you in the lead role and the Alien as one ghost), it moved into a series of side scrolling shooters and eventually joined the Predator as a series of first person shooters that took the fear and mystery out of the game in favor of action. One game, however, changed all of that: Alien Isolation.
Alien Isolation brought the look and the atmosphere of the first Alien movie to gamers. No longer were Aliens just cannon fodder for the Colonial Marines. Now the Alien got its power back. You were a hapless civilian, Ripley’s daughter, in search of your mother. Of course, things quickly go south as you find yourself in between droids, the Weyland-Yutani corporation and the Alien who is free-roaming the corridors of the ship in search of anybody to make its bitch. Alien Isolation was, without a doubt, the best Alien game to hit the market taking home multiple well-deserved awards, and both critical and commercial success.
However, to this day there has not been a Predator game in the same vein. Why not give us the Predator game we yearn for and the movie-sequel we never got, all in one? After all, if there’s one thing Predator showed us it’s that one can be isolated even in a large jungle.
The (could-be) story
Imagine entering a huge open-world jungle (or new environment altogether) in which you are part of a mercenary group hired to get (insert whatever object/person) from the still-present Val Verde (or more modern “terrorist” group). Of course, you also have in tow a CIA agent with little field training bringing up the question as to why he’s going with you in the first place. Much like the military shooters on the market, you can go in stealthy or guns-a-blazing as you find your way to the HQ. Here you find you were set up by the CIA–putting your life on the line to do the dirty work–so that they could get “crucial intelligence”, but what is it? These questions hang in the air like the stench of death as you are ordered back to the chopper for evacuation, only something has been waiting and watching you. Something is now hunting you.
The chopper radios you to tell you they can’t land at the designated landing zone because it’s too hot. Val Verde heard the commotion you caused at the enemy HQ and are all over the place. A new LZ has to be chosen or you’ll be stuck there forever. That’s when the Predator attacks taking out your radio man and your radio. The group takes cover but can’t see anything. The wounds are unlike anything you have ever seen. Does the Val Verde have weapons you don’t know about? Is there another group out here that the CIA knows about but won’t tell you about? More questions with no answers. Funny, it echoes some things your father told you when he was in the jungle many years before.
You see, your father, Alan “Dutch” Schaefer suffered from PTSD brought on by a battle in the South American jungle in which he lost everyone in his Delta Force unit. Anna (whom they “captured” in the same jungle), took care of him, and they soon fell in love and married, but he never got better. They had a child (you), which would be a crowning achievement in many parent’s lives, but it only brought Dutch pain. How could he be alive to bring life into this world when his brothers-in-arms were dead and couldn’t do the same. He became even more secluded, already paranoid thinking someone was hunting him. The pain of your birth drove him to drink even more heavily. One day, after mixing too many antidepressants with alcohol, his heart gave out. He joined his brothers, finally.
The day of the funeral, you confronted your mother about what really happened to your father. She reluctantly told you what she knew of what happened in the jungle and your life was changed forever. You made it your destiny to take down the thing that murdered your father’s crew and, subsequently, your father.
Back to the present day, you and your remaining crew must make your way across the jungle in search of a new radio so you can contact your chopper and get the coordinates for the new LZ. Through it all, you’ll have to completely avoid, stealth kill or outright attack head-on the Val Verde as they search the jungle for you. Oh, and then there’s the Predator. It will always be there watching and hunting both you and your enemy.
Slowly, this thing picks off your crew one-by-one as you try to make your way back to the landing zone and through certain objectives that will pop up. The CIA agent will reveal he was only a recon asset: just there to find out if the Predator was here on Earth again. The government is well aware of the past conflict and has prepared for it. Once there was confirmation that the Predators had returned, CIA recon was to send signal back so the government could send in their new Echo Force. Before you can find out what this Echo Force is, the Predator kills him leaving only the two of you alive.
You now have a few options ahead of you: you can choose to sneak around the jungle trying to avoid combat with Val Verde and the Predator completely. You would do this by moving slowly, ducking under cover and using mud as a shield from the Predator’s heat vision. You can also use the Val Verde as a distraction to keep the Predator off your trail. You can avoid combat completely or use hand-held weapons such as knives and your bare hands to silently kill your enemies. Of course, this is the most time consuming method which means the chopper may leave before you reach it. Also, the rain and time will wear away the mud away leaving you vulnerable to the Predator’s vision again meaning you’ll constantly have to search for (or make) more.
You also have to option of going “Commando” on the enemy: shooting and blowing everything sky-high. Of course, this brings up a few issues, the biggest of them being ammo. You kill more enemies, you’ll get more ammo. However, this will also attract the attention of more enemy and the Predator which will obviously use more ammo and shorten your lifespan exponentially. It will be better to avoid them, but then what do you do about ammo? That’s when you use handheld weapons such as a machete or craft weapons such as spears and bow & arrows.
There will be a simple crafting system, much like Tomb Raider, which will allow you to upgrade your weapons with parts (scopes, stocks, expanded magazines, muzzles, etc.) and build weapons such as a bow & arrows. You’ll also, with the right components, be able to make your own ammo, but you definitely won’t be able to craft enough to wage a war so don’t go hog wild.
Then there’s the issue of the “Echo” group. You’ll find that this experimental group uses echolocation (like Batman uses in The Dark Knight) to find the Predator and has orders to kill anything and everything they find indiscriminately so the government can keep a lid on things. There ultimate goal is to capture the Predator alive so they can reverse-engineer its weapons, of course. It would be best to avoid this group, but their tech would help you substantially in finding and killing the Predator if you do choose to go that route. It would even help in just seeing the Predator if you choose to avoid it.
Ultimately, the game will have to feature a huge battle between you and the Predator in the end taking into account your chosen playstyle, finalized by the Predator’s mini-nuke exploding as you jump off a beautiful waterfall into the water below, the mushroom cloud extending to the heavens where your savior, the chopper, comes down to rescue you from your literal hell–redemption finally earned for your father’s, and many others, deaths.
It can be done
Of course, this is just an idea come up by some guy who isn’t getting paid money to think of these things. I’m sure a few writers whose job it is to think of this stuff would come up with something even better. Looking at the game market it can be seen that the idea can be made into reality. The real question is, why haven’t they?
I can only hope that with the success of Alien Isolation, a developer (Creative Assembly?) is smart enough to tackle this challenge. I know I’ll be in line for it when they do.
What do you think? Would you be game for a Predator game that puts you in an open-world jungle being hunted by the Predator or do you have an idea that might be better? Let us know in the comments below.