Commodore User1st January 1988
Published in Commodore User #53
It was almost called Primeaval, and then very nearly entitled Hunter. But, as fate would have it, Predator as eventually released as Predator - and rapidly became one of the biggest grossing films of 1987. Activision were quick to acquire the licence to turn the film into a computer game, (incidentally, it's rumoured that Activision also have the rights to Arnold Schwarzenegger's next movie, The Running Man, to be released later this year), and thanks to System 3 and programmers Source, the binary interpretation is here...
The concept for the Predator game started out as a System 3 product called Gung-Ho! - "before anyone had even heard of Predator," Tim Best is quick to point out. Activision saw Tim's storyboard shortly after acquiring the licence to produce a game based on the film, and so approached System 3 to design it. Tim amended his design, making any necessary additions, and Hugh Riley provided the excellent graphics. Hugh was also responsible for the superb backdrops and sprites in the Last Ninja, and is currently beavering away on scenery for Ninja II (for which he has already drawn a staggering 1600 sprites!) plus some odds and sods for a shoot-'em-up called Dominator.
Predator, the game, is split into four sections, each loaded separately. In the first section Arnie has to negotiate a treacherous guerilla-infested jungle and wipe out the main guerilla camp. OK, so this isn't quite how it happened in the film - "There's no way we could have had the whole of Arnie's team running through the jungle at the same time, so we went for the idea that the rest of the team had been sent ahead to put paid to any guerilla activity, but they all get wiped out by the alien." Fair enough.
The screen scrolls horizontally, with gun-toting guerillas pouncing from the trees, poking their heads out of cleverly disguised holes in the ground, or simply rushing on-screen, guns blazing. Bats also hinder Arnie's progress, so it's fortunate that he can pick up more powerful weaponry along the way, courtesy of his dead colleagues. The alien also poses a threat, making itself known by casting three red dots on Arnie, befor eit lets loose a laser bolt. Just so that you know that the alien is watching, the screen goes blue and Arnie shimmers.
The second stage also takes place in the jungle, complete with guerillas to shoot, only this time the alien makes its presence more obvious. At times you can see its eyes in the trees, and once again the red dots makes an appearance - only more frequently. At the end of the level there's a cliff ledge, with no other obvious exits. So just what is Arnie supposed to do? Well, if you've seen the film, you'll know exactly what a man like Arnie does when he gets stuck at the top of a cliff...
The third section sees Arnie covered in mud - well, spots of it. "We tried changing Arnie's colour to make it look like he was covered in mud from head to toe - as in the film. But it just didn't work, so we settled for a few well-placed spots."
The mud plays an important part in this section, as the alien can't see Arnie when he's covered in mud (something to do with heat-sensitive sight). However, the mud gradually comes off, so it's up to you to keep well covered by running over spots of mud along the way. Towards the end of the level is a large log - the log on which Billy the indian confronted the alien in the film. Only in the game, it's you. Yes, you actually meet the alien, face to face. You can't kill him though - you can only wound him until he runs away.
How do you hurt him? With the bow and arrows you found along the way, that's how. However, there is something else you have to do to ensure that you inflict maximum possible damage on the alien. But I shan't mention what... There is one other very important item which has to be found if you are to complete the game - although fortunately, unlike, say, Platoon, you don't have to collect the necessary objects to proceed. No, the game is just harder without them... Also, you don't have to start from the very beginning when you lose a life on later sections - instead, you start from the beginning of the section on which you died.
And now, the final action. A fight to the death with the alien. Here, you are involved in continual skirmishes with the alien, with the ultimate aim of building and using a trap - exactly like the one in the film. Once you've destroyed the alien, that's it! Or is it...?
Predator does indeed closely follow the plot of its celluloid counterpart - with one of two acceptable modifications. However, I feel it could have been executed just that bit better. That's not to say it's poor - or even mediocre. On the contrary, Predator is playable and atmospheric, mainly due to Hugh's excellent scenery and effective portrayal of Arnie - the resemblance is uncanny. Overall, one of the best film tie-ins to appear on the C64, only overshadowed marginally by Platoon.