The Vault of Regret is a very large place, which houses dusty old game CDs and boxes, untouched digital libraries, and the metaphysical concepts of remorse and embarrassment. Here we write about all the games we should have played but haven’t, or that we have played but didn’t enjoy, among other things.

Over at Just Games Retro, The J Man recently wrote an excellent retrospective about the long-defunct 90s online shooter Aliens Online. As with all good retro writing, it provided great insight into a title of which I was not previously aware, while also inspiring me to dig into my own backlog for another tilt at something similar.

In other words, time to try again with Aliens vs Predator, a game which I first bought over 20 years ago (and again more recently, under the name Aliens vs Predator Classic 2000, so-called in order to distinguish it from developer Rebellion’s 2010 reboot).

In that time, I’ve made very little progress, but I periodically assume that the ravages of time have diminished the effectiveness of AvP’s ability to unsettle and scare, to the extent that I will be able to find my previous reticence laughable and make steady progress through the game while wondering why on earth I didn’t try it sooner.

Such thinking is clearly misguided, given that I’m an accredited gaming coward with a tendency to commit too readily to the atmosphere a game is trying to create, rendering me nervous and jumpy before anything significant has even happened. Back in the day, I lent my copy to a university friend and later wandered into his room to observe him playing the game with all the lights on and music blaring, half-heartedly blasting unsuccessfully at an Alien, which soon brought about his untimely demise. He was unmoved by these developments and turned to me, unimpressed: “I thought you said this game was meant to be scary?”

Plus, the logic that some chunkier polygons and blurrier textures would somehow make things easier ignores the fact that to this day I remain reluctant to revisit the 1986 version of Aliens on the Amstrad CPC, on account of it being extremely tense. Hell, even the side-scrolling Predator tie-in on the Atari ST had its moments, particularly when you found yourself in the sights of the eponymous hunter. In each case, the simple visuals did not mask the grim realities depicted: in Aliens, the static from the headcams of fallen colleagues always stayed with me; in Predator, it was the opening scenes that showed a crew of musclebound army men dashing into the jungle, their corpses littering the ground, or found hanging from trees, only moments later.

I enjoyed the films, but essentially, they show things going pretty badly (spoiler) for their human protagonists, often under fairly horrible circumstances, and given the choice, I would not really want to be put in their position, which is what the games give you the opportunity to do. Plus, you already know what’s going to happen. The opening marine level (about as far as I got on this latest attempt) has your commanding officer telling you to go through a lab containing Alien eggs. Oh, they’ve been sterilised, have they? Not to worry, eh? Well, you bloody well go in there. Even if they are fine, there’s going to be an Alien along eventually: they’re on the box, and in the title.

Yes, I know that the box and the title also tell you that the player doesn’t have to be a Colonial Marine – you can be the Alien! Or the Predator! And that connoisseurs of the series, and the genre, would rightly point out that this particular AvP game isn’t especially effective at building tension through a campaign of missions: the single-player mode is more like a series of individual maps loosely strung together. But I guess it’s time to admit that I want out: I don’t want to even pretend to be part of a world where these things exist.

I mean, if they ever made a movie based on Event Horizon (which may or may not still be as terrifying as it was when I first saw it, but I’ve not been especially keen to find out) I don’t think I’d want to play it. Except apparently the EA space horror title Dead Space is inspired by Event Horizon, and evidently at some point I did think that would be the kind of thing I might like. And so while the mood took me I thought I’d give that a go:

Ok, right, thanks but no thanks, see you later!