Predator: Concrete Jungle
By: Tristan Jones on June 12, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Platform: PS2
Also available on: XBox
Developer: Eurocom
Distributor: Vivendi Universal Games
Year: 2004
OFLC Rating: MA15+
Why is it that such awesome properties churn out the biggest disappointments? I mean, the Predator is easily one of the most awesome cinematic creations of all time. In fact, if there were to be an intergalactic bad-ass competition, the Predator would likely come out on top, followed closely by Boba Fett and Mr. T. That's how awesome the Predator is. The only thing I have seen a Predator suck in was Alien vs.Predator, but anyone who holds that film with any sort of esteem needs their head checked and likely removed. It's such a shame then that Predator: Concrete Jungle manages to keep the Predator creature in pristine awesomeness, yet make everything else around it so run of the mill.

Concrete Jungle, though bearing the same ttle as the novel from 1994, has nothing to do with the literary sequel to the original Predator. The book saw Dutch Schaeffer's (Arnie from Predator) brother searching for answers regarding Dutch's whereabouts and eventually coming head to head with the alien hunters, the game however, deals with a Predator hunter being dropped in the middle of 1930's New Way City amidst "Gang's of New York" style clashes between rival crime syndicates and the authorities. The Predator makes a serious error in judgement and as a result, sets off his self-destruct mechanism. Problem is, he survives, and this is a big no-no to their race. The rest of his clan pick him up and exile him for a hundred years on a planet full of scorpion creatures. Having survived for a hundred years, the Predator is given a chance to redeem himself by returning to New Way City and eradicating the gangs. Second problem is, when he departed New Way City on his last outing, he left behind some of his technology, and (somehow) the gangs have utilized it for their own destructive benefits.

Already there are some pretty huge gaps in logic, but as this is a game and not a film, it's a little easier to forgive here. All I really cared about was getting in there and kicking arse as a Predator. Anyway, you return to the city and do your thing. Essentially, what you have is a Grand Theft Auto style game featuring the Predator. For those who've played the Spiderman titles out on this generation's consoles (namely Spiderman 2 and Ultimate Spiderman) you're more likely to get a decent handle on this one earlier than others, as the gameplay and general set up is very similar.

Concrete Jungle is fairly straightforward when it comes to actual mission objectives, as most of them involve hunting down a blip on your radar and slaughtering it. While there is a little more to it than that most of the time, it all essentially boils down to finding someone or something and either killing it or activating it. You do get little side objectives, optional sub-missions which, once activated, you're more than likely to accomplish without even realising (killing wanted criminals and such). This is one of the bigger problem areas with the thought process that has gone into the production of this game; there is very little explanation surrounding any of the objectives. Half the time you just wander around lost and end up stumbling, inadvertently, over the solution to set objective.

Predator: Concrete Jungle is rife with problems though. It's a title that holds so much potential, but fails to come even close to what it could and should have been. Aside from the very loose and slapdash storyline, a large number of the game's faults come down to the actual programming. It feels as though a huge amount of effort was put into making the Predator suitably ass-kicking, and like someone who puts all their energy into the start of a long distance run, once all that effort had been spent in the one area, the rest suffered horrendously by comparison and petered out into mediocrity (or worse). The best example of this is in the enemies you come up against. It's like one of those old arcade beat-'em-ups, where hordes of the same three thugs would come at you, there's very little real variation to them (in both aesthetics and attacks). Texturing and model composition is a far cry from the title character too. The Predator really does look fantastic in this game, but everyone else is just bland. The city itself is well designed and logically set up, allowing the Predator to use it to his advantage the same as the city did for Spidey in the Spider-man games. The city itself though is a victim of ho-hum texturing and its versatility is hampered by the sporadic nature of the camera.

There's also a sense that too much has been done to appease the Predator fan base, so much so that it becomes seriously detrimental to the control schemes. Actions have been uncomfortably assigned to buttons not instinctive to this style of game play, and the all too common problem of controls versus camera is a huge problem as well. Too often I would find myself in the heat of battle, going to hit a button (which is the attack button in just about every game I've played on the PS2) hoping to slaughter my opponent mercilessly, only to find that the Predator has decided to take five for a quick shot of adrenalin and a health kick. Before you know it you've accidentally used up all your health regenerators, all because of the instinct to go for that one button. There is also a ridiculously huge arsenal or weaponry which, like Neversoft's Gun, becomes a task in itself trying to assign and use without losing health or having to run a mile to safety before figuring it all out. The Predator's two best weapons are also poorly implemented. The cloaking device and shoulder cannon rely on energy charges in order to work, but drain that energy out so quickly they become pretty much useless (unless you find a fuse box to jam your fist into and recharge).

All the vision modes are present and accounted for, but while these are necessary inclusions to a Predator title, they too are poorly implemented, and button to vision-mode correspondence is, once again, illogical and detrimental to the controls.

I'm not even going to get started on the jittering Hell the camera makes of this game once you get into a confined area.

What I will give to Predator: Concrete Jungle, is the Easter Eggs put in mainly for the hardcores. The game has a substantial amount of (arguably) insubstantial unlockables, unless you're a hardcore fan. I'm talking the kind of person who knows the comic books and little bits of literature and merch put out since the original film's release. Unlockable costumes and models not only include things like the Predators from the first and second films, and one from the better left unspoken Alien vs. Predator, but also Predators from the comic books, such as Predator: Bad Blood, which was Dark Horse's flagship Predator title back in the day. One of the levels is also set in 1997 Los Angeles (the setting of the second film for those not in the know). The score is also reminiscent of the Predator films and manages to evoke the same sense of brutal honour the Predator represents.

At the end of the day, Concrete Jungle is a game that should have been a lot more than it currently is. From what I've read, not a lot was changed since it's first playable demo at E3 a couple of years ago, and problems that were apparent then are present still, which to me strikes as laziness. If the same amount of effort went into the entire game as what went into the titular being itself, this game really could have been a standout title amidst the swarm of licensed mediocrity out there. Worth the money for Predator hardcores, worth the rent for a passing fan, but beyond that, I wouldn't really bother.
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