Review by Tenshi No Shi
Welcome to the jungle!
It was with understandable trepidation that I purchased Predator: Concrete Jungle for the Xbox, hesitation born of information the developer had released (what kind of setting was the Earth circa 1930 for a Predator game?!) and various screen shots that I managed to cull from the internet. Nonetheless the Predator fan in me won out over clearer thinking and I ended up purchasing the game.
I expected a sub-par plot that basically gave the player an excuse to run around and kill without discretion. Instead we are treated to a story that fits well into the Predator universe and still gives the player an excuse to run around and kill without discretion. It's 1930 and a veteran Predator is on the hunt. After securing a great trophy, something (you find out what later in the game) causes him to beat a hasty retreat. However he miscalculates a jump that traps him, so he does what any Predator in this situation would do- He remotely destroys his ship (and wipes out half of the city) and another Clan ship comes down to rescue him. It turns out, however, that the Predator left behind technology and knowledge of his race, so he is banished to a remote planet for a hundred years. Now in the year 2030 he must go back to Earth to repent his century old sin.
Graphically the game looks little better than Grand Theft Auto III, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, just disappointing when you realize that Concrete Jungle doesn't have the same open sandbox gameplay to justify the lack of flash. Still there is a fair amount of detail and at least the animation remains fairly consistent. Really the biggest gripe I have is the painfully difficult camera which you'll quickly discover is the real enemy of the game. That's not to say it isn't possible to compensate for the crappy camera, but even the most veteran gamers will wrestle with it from time to time.
Sound-wise, the game manages to get a lot of things right. Sure the music is a little on the bland side, but it still captures the feel of the Predator films. On the other hand, the audio effects are dead-on, perfectly mimicking every nuance of the Predator. The voice acting could use a little work, but a few characters stand out as believable enough without layering on too much cheese (which is the category that the rest of the actors fall under- too much cheese). Sure there are plenty of other games that do it better, but this was far more than I expected from Concrete Jungle.
As I already mentioned, you will spend a fair amount of your play time fiddling with the camera, but not all is bad with the controls. In fact, Predator: Concrete Jungle is a fairly responsive game with a good lock-on system and quick access to many of your weapons and abilities. Once you get used to the various actions your Predator can perform, you'll be able to do some fairly impressive maneuvers as you work your way around the levels (the cityscapes prove to be the most fun as you are granted the greatest amount of freedom during these stages).
Despite it's somewhat simplistic approach, the developers still managed to capture the feel of being a Predator with several subtle nuances woven into what could otherwise be a generic action game. Things like the trophy room, which showcases your various kills (complete with information on the prey); or the weapon room, which, as the name implies, displays your arsenal. While I wish the game took a more "sandbox" approach to the gameplay style (imagine a Predator running loose in San Andreas), the overall design is certainly a step in the right direction and give me hope that the perfect Predator sim is just a sequel away.
Wow, you won't believe all the unlockables in Predator: Concrete Jungle! You can find upgrades to nearly every weapon tucked away in many of the game's levels, all you have to do is find them... Many levels have secret bonus objectives to complete, leading to other unlockables like increased attributes, special challenges and even alternate costumes (including those from Predator, Predator 2 and AVP: Alien vs. Predator!) Believe me, once you unlock the deadliest weapons and max out your Predator's attributes, you'll feel like one badass hunter.
I find myself at odds- The Predator fan in me wants to recommend this game to everyone despite its flaws, but the practical gamer in me wants to warn others that they may be in for a huge letdown. I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed Predator: Concrete Jungle, however I realize that this game isn't for everyone. So my advice is to rent the game first, then buy it if you decide you like it.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Predator: Concrete Jungle (US, 04/26/05)
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