Aliens: Colonial Marines – First Impressions
Hands up everyone who loved 2010’s Alien Vs. Predator. Not liked, or bought second-hand because it was under a tenner, I mean really loved.
I thought so.
Over the last decade or so, it’s been very hard to be a fan of the Alien franchise; poor films focusing on dull characters (we’re looking at you AvP 1 and 2) and lacklustre games have chipped away at the great Alien legacy. So that’s probably why Aliens: Colonial Marines is looking so tempting; it’s going back to the films and, more importantly, the atmosphere that has been missing for so long. Now all Gearbox Software, the lovely people behind this new effort, have to worry about is winning back all those disillusioned fans.
We’re all gonna die man.
Colonial Marines follows on several months after Aliens (1986), and concerns a rescue effort being sent after the ill-fated marines featured in the second film. From space, the surface of LV-426 looks calm, although Hadley’s Hope has been almost wiped off the face of the planet. Suddenly, the ship experiences a hull breach, and you and all your buddies are heading face first into unknown territory. Once on the ground, we slide behind the eyes of Winters, one of the many Colonial marines, to make it alive to the surface. However, it turns out that they aren’t alone.
Gearbox has kept the story mostly under-wraps so far, but from the beginning we know that they’re interested in keeping the game as close to the plots of the films as possible. Rather than placing us in the boots of Ellen Ripley or Hudson, we’re looking at the aftermath of Aliens, which no doubt will please many fans of the series. The dialogue for the game is being written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, both known for their work on the recent Battlestar Galactica series, so hopefully it will flow between Winters and his comrades in the style of Aliens. From the hints dropped by Gearbox, we know the game will also feature the Sulaco and the Nostromo from Alien, although there has been no word if Winters will be the same character throughout the game.
How could they cut the power, man? They’re animals!
No matter how interesting and gruff Winters ends up being, he plays second fiddle to the game’s real stars: the Xenomorphs. Colonial Marines will feature the classic Alien form we all know and love, and will also be introducing some new forms, two of which have been revealed so far. The “Rhino-Morph” stays closer to the ground, moving mostly on all fours, and the second variation is a much larger version of the classic form, bigger even than the Alien queen featured in Aliens and Alien Resurrection. These new aliens will offer different challenges than the regular forms, and will keep encounters feeling fresh and varied throughout the game.
They’re coming outta the walls. They’re coming outta the goddamn walls. Let’s book!
If, after reading all of this so far, you’re worried about the gameplay then it looks like Gearbox has you in mind. Cast your mind back to watching Aliens for the first time – everything you can remember the marines doing in Aliens is available to you here; using the iconic motion detector, placing remote turrets and even sealing up doorways are all accessible to the player. The gameplay will swap between trying to hold a secure location and protecting its perimeter, and running from the blood-thirsty alien menace.
In a nod to Valve’s excellent Left 4 Dead, the confrontations with the aliens won’t be scripted, but will be more organic in nature, with each alien reacting differently to your chosen tactics. Not only will this make the game more challenging, it’s going to heap on the fear factor as well; no two plays will go exactly the same way, and gone are the constant respawn points that helped to ruin the suspense in AvP. Nowhere will be safe from the aliens, and it’s only a matter of time and ammunition until you’ll be running again.
Knock it off, Hudson!
Thankfully though, it looks like you won’t be alone; not only will your fellow marines be on hand to set traps and act as alien-snacks, but so too can your actual friends. Drop-in co-op play is going to be a big part of this game, certainly with the amount of strategy and pressure that each battle will bring. At this early stage, it’s hard to tell how this will affect the gameplay and the atmosphere of the game; maybe hearing a twelve year old shouting about turrets overheating might spoil some of the tension, but that remains to be seen.
Colonial Marines is shaping up to be a great addition to the Alien universe; the attention to detail and, more importantly, atmosphere look to be second to none. But with a release date set for Spring 2012, there’s much that we’re still in the dark over; the story, other types of alien and multiplayer being just a few that spring to mind. Gearbox has shown in the past that they’re willing to take a gamble and do something different, so let’s hope that we won’t have to nuke this game from orbit come 2012.