I'm lucky that I've never been one of those people who says or thinks violent thoughts. I never say something like, "I could just kill such-and-such." I mean, I can hate a person. I just don't get all rage-y about it.
Question: So why then do I enjoy, in "Aliens vs. Predator," portraying an alien creature who sneaks up behind a human soldier, grabbing the human's head, and shoving my alien spear-hand through her eyeball until blood spews out of her suddenly empty eye socket?
My theory: Because it's cool. That's not a very scientific hypothesis. Nonetheless, it's my theory. And certainly the good and gory killing in "Aliens vs. Predator" is nothing if not cool.
The plot: Human soldiers land at an Alien-infested space colony in the sci-fi future. Also, there are Predators there. It's a three-way war among Aliens, Predators and humans.
"Aliens vs. Predator" is four games in one, basically.
One: You can play for about 10 hours as a human soldier who must sneak through dark corridors (with the world's worst flashlight) and shoot Aliens and Predators with your weak guns.
Two: You can play for about 10 hours as a Predator, turning invisible at will, jumping like the bionic man onto roofs, and slashing the you-know-what out of both humans and Aliens.
Three: You can play for about 10 hours as an Alien, crawling up walls, zipping quickly through air conditioning vents, and eating the heads of humans and Predators.
Four: You can play the online multiplayer, where you and other gamers get a small number of levels to kill each other.
In all of these modes, the violence is the thing. For instance, if you're playing as a Predator, and you decapitate a human, you watch a whole film-type scene where you yank off the human's head, with the bony spine attached.
There is a lot to like about this game. It's satisfyingly fleshed out with a little narrative storytelling, a collection of buildings and jungles to wend through, and (most satisfying) all the original sound effects from the Alien and Predator movies.
The game feels almost like a simulation, rather than a game. That is, you kill enemies methodically, one by one. If you try to Schwarzenegger bum-rush your way through levels, you'll die fast.
Dumbness: When you play as a human, your guns stink, yet when you play as an Alien, those same humans' guns blow you away in no time.
Frustrating: It takes forever to get used to the game's imperfect hand controls. When I'm playing as an Alien, I often accidentally end up running sideways on walls or upside-down on ceilings. That's discombobulating.
So I don't love those squishy controls. A game is only as good as its controls. But I don't mind the difficulty of "Aliens vs. Predator." If I'm going to portray a murdering jerk, a game should feel free to make me run for my life, as well.
("Aliens vs. Predator" by Sega retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $50 for PC -- Plays fun enough despite swishy controls. Looks very good. Challenging to very challenging. Rated "M" for blood, gore, intense violence, strong language and suggestive themes. Three stars out of four.)
Contact Doug Elfman at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.