In space no-one can hear you cream…
What do you want from an Aliens game? Think about your answer carefully now. Do you want a true to cannon ‘on the nose’ experience or do you want a developer to playfully riff on the established tropes that we all know and love? Colonial Marines is a co-op shooter which straddles the line between these two diametrically opposed approaches. One moment you’ll be admiring the environments which seem as though they’ve been lifted directly from Syd Mead’s concept art for Aliens while the next you’ll be wondering why no attention has been paid to the Xeno’s corrosive acid blood which rather than burning through the floor, just fizzes away pitifully.
Strange compromises have undoubtedly been made to the great gameplay gods in order to create a cinematic narrative-driven experience which is also fun to play, but from appearances at least Colonial Marines certainly seems like the sort of authentic Aliens experience shooter fans have been demanding for a very long time. At a recent event we witnessed a brief live gameplay demo set during an early section of the campaign with a marine detachment making its way onto the stricken U.S.S. Sulaco, via a glass corridor attached to an even larger space-faring vessel. As the single-player is such a plot dependent experience we’ll keep the finer details to an absolute minimum, but needless to say the Sulaco was in a much worse state than when Ripley and co. unknowingly left for Fiorina 161.
Essentially the desolate ship is now home to an alien hive with no explanation of why or how the Xeno’s found their way on-board. Cue lots of fantastic nods to Aliens including the opportunity of firing an auto-tracking M-56 Smart Rifle, gazing upon Bishop’s severed torso while looking for a flight recorder and freeing a stricken squad mate from certain death inside a hive before seeing an cute and cuddly alien burst through his rib-cage minutes later. The game’s latest trailer details these moments in slightly briefer glory, but it’s still worth checking out the major beats for yourself rather than us describing them ad nausea.
From what we saw during last week’s demo it’s clear that if you want authenticity Colonial Marines absolutely offers that. Even down to having the motion tracker as a separate piece of equipment instead of being bolted on to your M41 Pulse Rifle a la Aliens versus Predator – so you can’t both fire and check whether there’s any movement in 180° arc in-front of you. It’s all about building tension, with the gameplay demo having both quiet moments of tense environmental scanning and marquee battle moments involving yellow mech suits and automated turrets.
All of this reverential attention to detail is fantastic and from moment to moment Colonial Marines certainly seems like the stuff of a typical sci-fi fan’s wet-dream. The game is even being considered cannon in the Alien lexicon for goodness sake, but we just wish we shown a bit more ingenuity or what actually Gearbox plan to bring to the table that’s different from the universe we know and love; that’s a side of the project that we’ve yet to really see. Gearbox are teasing that certain events during the campaign will call back to Ridley Scott’s latest brainchild Prometheus and that proceedings won’t play out as players will think, we just wish they decided to show these moments rather than pay them lip service.
Couple a compelling single-player/co-op narrative with asymmetrical competitive multiplayer, which sees playable Xenomorphs and humans facing off against one another, and you have a very tasty gaming morsel indeed. It’s a shame we’re having to wait until 2013 to properly experience it, but with Timegate Studios and Shadows in Darkness lending Gearbox a hand in development duties, there’s no doubt that Colonial Marines will be a polished and most importantly a true to cannon FPS experience.
Tags: Aliens Colonial Marines
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