Walking into Sega’s booth was exciting for a number of reasons; there were plenty of cool games to see, a load of amazing free gifts to run away with, bowls of fruit instead of bowls filled full of sweets, and a comfortable place to sit down and wait until your appointment slot rolled around. There was only one game that I was really interested in seeing though and it was at the very bottom of my list of meetings for the day. However, it teased me from a distance because no matter where you went you could hear it stamping its mark on journalists who’d made their way to Gamescom 2011 to see it! The sound of pulse rifles, xenomorphs screaming, turrets repeatidly spitting out bullets, and of course the unmistakable Aliens battle music, echoed around for all to hear, so as you can imagine, by the time I was stood waiting for the door to open I was fired up for an epic presentation.
Being the nimble, quick footed, movie obsessed wonder that I am, I jumped into the room first and was treated to a spectacular sight! An Alien egg stood open by the door with a facehugger making its way slowy out of the top. Next to the TV screen was a medical tube containing a facehugger and another smaller science container that held a chestburster specimen. Two rows of cinema seats, provided a wonderfully comfortable environment to bask in all the game’s glory. So after a brief introductory speech we launched into the demo.
The team over at Gearbox who have been working on Aliens: Colonial Marines are aware that the film has a huge fan base and they want to provide people with a faithful experience to throw yourself into that’s true to the canon and adds something to the franchise, which means that they’ve been working closely with 20th Century Fox as well as consulting some legendary people like Ridley Scott and Syd Mead, the designer for Aliens and Blade Runner. From what I saw the game looks great, it’s dark, moody, and there’s a brilliant amont of detail, for example at one point you’re ripped out of a window by an alien and after you’ve dealt with it you can stand up and have a look around, at which point you notice boot prints on the ground with some really pretty shimmering water filling them up.
The plot behind the game involves a brand new group of hardened marines travelling to LV426 to find out what happened to the previous team. The story takes place approximately 11 months after Alien 3, but it’s very much a sequel to Aliens. The explosion at the end of the film caused a large amount of damage to the terraforming facility, but it’s not been completely reduced to rubble, so you’ll recognise familiar locations and set pieces, plus you’ll be able to explore areas that weren’t shown in the movie.
You can plough through the game by yourself, but I think it’ll really come into it’s own when you’re playing with a group of friends in co-op, which supports up to four players. What you can expect from the gameplay is lots of satisfying meaty action combined with a great dose of atmosphere and loads of tension, which is built up with the use of shadows and lighting and keeps you on edge because you’re not quite sure what’s lying in wait for you as shadows shift across the floor. The minimal lighting in certain areas can also make ordinary everyday objects look like stationary aliens that are patiently waiting for you to stray too close. Then there’s the motion tracker, which is a useful little gadget when you’re dealing with one or two lazy hostiles, but when you’re up against a horde of blood thirsty killing machines, seeing a ridiculous amount of dots filling the screen is incredibly unnerving!
When the aliens eventually attack you in force, the action kicks off. The shotgun delivers some pretty powerful firepower, especially during close encounters, however it’s all about the pulse rifle, which flings rounds out of its barrel like nobodies business and provides your ears with a fantastic sound that alien fans have come to love over the years. It’s also a good idea to grab a turret or two, so that you can place them near to entrances and exits and it’s pretty cool when they start ripping aliens to shreds whilst you lay down a bit of secondary fire to ensure they’re kept at bay.
The aliens aren’t stupid though, despite flinging themselves into harms way on a number of occassions, they think things out and it’s nice to see some challenging AI in a video game. For example, one thing that I was particularly impressed by was an alien that avoided a barrage of bullets, before squeezing into a small gap between two cardboard boxes, so that it could safely make its way past a sentry gun before it started a murderous rampage. There are several types of alien too, obviously the most common are the drones, which make up the main masses of the horde. Then there’s the rhino/bull alien, which is a massive brute with a thick carapace and uses its head like a very powerful battering ram. Queens are also present and they’re just as destructive as you’d expect, in fact it was nice to see one quickly smash its way into a hanger bay, grab a marine who was standing around minding his own business, and then rip him in half much like Bishop in the Aliens film. It’s more than likely that they’ll be more types on the cards when the game gets released. One thing that did seem to be missing was damage caused to the environment by the aliens’ acidic blood, which was a bit of a shame, however it does look like the xenomorphs can spit acid at you.
Once the demo had come to an end, we got to take a look at a gameplay trailer that was exclusive to Gamescom 2011 and it was great fun to sit through. You could see marines hoisted up into the air and then cocooned in alien saliva with eggs sat all round them. Later on, one of the characters turned a corner into a room to find three aliens feasting on an unfortunate individual, and there were plenty of close calls with face huggers too. The only bad thing about it was that it had to end.
When it did, I quickly collared Chris Faylor, Gearbox Software’s Community Manager, and threw a couple of questions at him including “Will the number of Aliens featured in the game roughly correspond to the number of inhabitants in the original human colony?” and “Are there any synthetics in the game?”. The answers to both questions were rather cryptic and I was told that the ship the marines land in is fairly big, so there are plenty of humans on board that could potentially be taken alive by the aliens. Also, I’d imagine that we will see synthetics in the game seeing as characters like Bishop and Ash have played pretty major roles in the films, but they didn’t want to give away any information that could potentially give away plot details.
I think this one’s shaping up to be something really special that’s a perfect fan service for everybody who loves James Cameron’s brilliant movie and I can’t wait to see the finished product. Finally, if you’re thinking about getting a copy then I’ve been reliably informed the special edition’s the one to go for because it’ll be crammed full of some really nice extras.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is out on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC in 2012.
First published on Dealspwn (21 August 2011)