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Like its predecessor, Aliens versus Predator 2 allows the player to choose one of three characters: an Alien, Predator or human Colonial Marine. Each character has different objectives, abilities and weapons at their disposal. The single-player campaigns present the player with conventional series of levels that are designed around the abilities of each character.
As the Colonial Marine, the player uses a number of weapons to combat Aliens and Predators. The Marine wears armor for protection, and uses an image intensifier, flashlight and flares to improve visibility in dark areas.
When playing as the Predator, the player uses a variety of weapons from the Predator films such as wrist blades, a throwing disc, and shoulder-mounted energy weapons. The Predator is more durable than the human or the Alien and can survive falls from greater heights than the human. It can use a cloaking device to become invisible and several different modes of vision to help in the detection of enemies, including infrared vision and a mode sensitive to electrical systems. Unlike in the previous game, the Predator in Aliens versus Predator 2 recharges its energy supply using a personal item.
As an Alien the player can explore most of the game's environments freely, even climbing across walls and ceilings. However, the Alien has no weapons and must use its claws, tail, and jaws to attack enemies. The player can also use a form of echolocation in dark areas and can detect pheromones to discern human or Predator enemies. The Alien can drop from any height without injury and is the fastest of the three player characters.