Aliens: Colonial Marines
As Randy Pitchford puts it, Aliens: Colonial Marines has been a labor of love for him and the team at Gearbox. The co-founder and CEO says that, like a lot of game developers, he’s made a career from aping elements of James Cameron’s classic sci-fi action movie. Unlike Ridley Scott’s original film which centered on a single xenomorph and the effects it had on a crew, Cameron’s movie focused on swarms of the creatures and a group of battle-hardened marines.
Pitchford says Colonial Marines is set months after the events of Aliens, and that he sees it as a sequel to the movie. Gearbox’s Chief Creative Officer Brian Martel says that Colonial Marines will tie up some elements from that film. For instance, players might learn what happened to Hudson when he was pulled through the floor by a xenomorph.
In a live gameplay demo, we got a chance to see many familiar elements from the movie. It opens with a ship crashing onto the surface of LB-426. The player comes to with a fellow Marine asking if he’s all right. The response is a quick middle finger.
The Marines start sweeping the area, walking through the medical bay with tubes of facehuggers suspended in fluid. A tracker starts pinging its familiar sound, though it doesn’t detect anything. For now. After a few moments, the squad comes upon a reinforced steel door that’s been torn open by something with obvious strength. After walking into a ruined operations area, a member of the squad screams as a xenomorph tears through the ceiling and attacks.
The player is knocked down in the ensuing chaos, and a xenomorph pounces. A brief tug of war ensues, with the creature gripping the player’s shotgun in vain before it’s kicked in the head and torn apart with a single blast.
The squad retreats into a large room filled with weapons. Lt. Cruz, a tough looking man with a prosthetic leg, tells his remaining men that this could be their Alamo. With that in mind, the characters grab as much weaponry as they can hold and start fortifying the area. In a hallway, a sentry turret is deployed, and it sweeps the area with a laser sight. A few creatures charge down the hallway and are shredded by automated gunfire. Pitchford took this moment to show off the drop-in, drop-out co-op, which supports up to four players.
Despite this early success, the Marines are forced to retreat, running outside in the rain toward a large hangar. While outside, they encounter a new xenomorph type, a four-legged creature with a fearsome head crest, which it uses as a powerful ram. For some reason, it shows little interest in the player, who slides under the door just before it slams shut.
Inside, there’s another standoff, with xenomorphs pouring in through the ceiling in a steady stream. An exo suit blasts flames at the enemies, but it’s overtaken and staggers back helplessly. Moments later, it’s splayed on its back and a xenomorph dives in for the kill. When you thought it couldn’t get worse, it happens: a queen smashes through the wall and lunges at the player. The demo ends as its secondary jaws lash out, filling the entire screen.
It’s been a while since Aliens: Colonial Marines was first announced, and it’s nice to see that development hasn’t been idle. The game looks good, and it seems to be doing a nice job of conveying the atmosphere that’s been so critical to the film series. It remains to be seen how well the game holds up over lengthy sessions; Martel says we’ll be seeing several enemy types, and let’s hope they offer meaningful gameplay variety.
As an aside, Martel says that the game is being prototyped for Wii U, but that it’s not a sure thing. Gearbox is still seeing what the hardware is capable of, but he teases that the screen would be a great fit for things such as the iconic tracking sensor, and hacking and welding minigames. Interesting.
Come back next week for our full interview with Martel, where we talk about what else is new in the game.