Over the past two years, gamers have been treated to numerous games featuring aliens as the primary adversary. Many have claimed to have intelligent AI and boast their Aliens behave and attack just as human players do. Inevitably, all have failed in that claim, but a few seem to have shined enough to rise to the top and be the cream of the crop.
So first things first, who are our top contenders for the smartest alien baddies in the land? Looking over the landscape of games out, I can safely say three really stand out both from media and user feedback standpoints. Halo3, Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2 all seem to have risen above all others. Sorry to those who thought Blacksite: Area 51 should be on the list.
Now that we have that settled, let’s get into it. The Halo series has always been known for its AI, and Halo 3 doesn’t disappoint. Covenant troops react to your attacks in a very convincing manner. Grunts are the common cannon fodder and rarely will prove to be anything more than that. However, they do retreat when pressed and seek out cover when given an opportunity. They also will, on occasion, go suicidal and attempt to rush you with armed grenades. Jackals are a step up and usually attack from behind a self carried shield or sniping from afar. Warriors and Brutes represent some of the greatest challenges in terms of AI as they will seek out cover, use vehicles, use bubble shields and/or rush the gamer. When in large numbers they can be rather nasty, but once you thin out the pack, you can see a bit of a routine to their tactics, thus making them rather predictable. There is the Flood as well but in a whole, they simply just rush you in numbers and any resemblance of AI goes out the door.
In similar fashion to Halo 3, Resistance 2 offers up a fast paced shooter stage with enemy AI that ranges from those who rush in with massive numbers to those who overwhelm you with firepower. The Chimera take on multiple looks and tactics. The Chimera are an alien encounter that screams “Give me fire power to deal with them”. Most often the Chimera will attack in large numbers, both rushing you as well as suppressing you with huge amounts of gunfire. You do see the Chimera soldiers taking cover from time to time, but more often than not the standard response is turn and shoot. This, however, can prove to be an effective attack as again, they attack in numbers. While firepower and numbers make them a truly formidable foe, you never really get the sense that the Chimera are going to “end run” you. There just isn’t that sense of tactics to their movement. Again, they are tough as nails, but as long as you are punching with enough firepower you more than likely will survive their onslaught.
Finally we arrive at the feet of the Locust. As in the previous Gears of War, these baddies showed potential for being a tough foe with a propensity for seeking cover and firing. That was the extent of it, though, and thus Gears of War Locust felt like mindless routine bots. Happily, the new Locust of Gears of War 2 offer up a whole new level of challenge that sets the bar of enemy AI extremely high. As with other games featuring aliens, we see a range of Locust from the ‘grunt’ types like Wretches & Tickers all the way up to their tank-like alien known as the Boomer. The Locust, as with all the others, show the disposition to use cover, rush and over power with firepower. What elevates them to even higher levels than others is their additional tactics. The Locust absolutely loves to flank you when you are suppressed by large amounts of firepower. Not only do they use cover, but often reposition themselves to either avoid newly induced gunfire hits or better position themselves for a shot. They will also pick up ammo lying on the battlefield when running low. Finally, they do one of the most disheartening things you can see when you are in the middle of a firefight with them—healing wounded Locust who were downed but not killed. I can’t tell you how shocked I was to see a Locust drone run over to another I had just downed with a shot and help him back to its feet. This is not to say they are a perfect AI, but they appear to be the smartest and most formidable.
So there you have it. The Locust win out in the battle of the Alien AI. Agree? Disagree? Let me hear your thoughts.