Gamescom 2011: Aliens: Colonial Marines Preview – They Mostly Come At Night... Mostly
Written Thursday, September 01, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
As movie licenses go, Aliens is an absolute doozy, which is why Gearbox is taking its sweet time to get this one right. Delving into 20th Century Fox's Aliens vault, with the movie's concept artist and designer Syd Mead lending a hand, Aliens: Colonial Marines has all the hallmarks of what should hopefully be a movie tie-in given the proper treatment. And from the moment our hands-off demo commences, Colonial Marines just looks and sounds spot on.
Opening with a spectacular crash as the USS Sulaco ploughs into the Hadley's Hope colony, lead protagonist Winters wakes to find himself being woken up by one of his squad, who ask how many fingers he's holding up. It's three, but Winters shows him one. Lifted to his feet, our Colonial Marine leading man finds himself stuck with his squad slap-bang among the flaming wreckage in the middle of a corridor in a deserted research facility of all places. It's recognisably Aliens, with eerie red lighting flickering away, causing shadows to dance around on the walls, and grated floors where you'll typically find the titular xenomorphs scurrying around.
You always know what to expect in an Aliens game, but it's not knowing when to expect it that generates that all-important fear factor, which it looks like Aliens: Colonial Marines has in spades. Slowly pacing through one of the labs – similar to the one Ripley and Newt are trapped with a facehugger in James Cameron's 1986 movie – a facehugger in formaldehyde twitches as we approach it, eliciting our first jump scare of the demo. We saw it coming obviously, but well, the speakers were really loud and... Whatever.
Moving through the laboratories, Winters and co. soon come into an open area, where the ceiling has collapsed, letting the rain in from the storm brewing outside. And it's quiet... Too quiet save for the gentle pattering of rain on the interior's cold steel floor. Taking a moment to look outside into the damp muddy trench below, there's a strange calm hanging in the air, and then it chimes in. The Motion Tracker goes off with that unmistakable, iconic sound that's second only to the rasping roar of the Pulse Rifle. Holding the tracker up, we see red dots coming from all directions on the display, while our shoulder light provides limited illumination of the room around us. Then it all goes quiet again.
We turn to look at Belasco to our right, who's panicking. It's then that we spot out first xenomorph, popping out from the ventilation shaft, snatching him up in the blink of an eye, dragging him kicking and screaming into the vent. Chalk one up to the aliens. The same aliens that are now crawling across what's left of the ceiling and dropping to the floor, hissing and jumping at our ragtag squad. One drops in front of us and leaps onto our chest, throwing us outside into the trench we were surveying earlier. It shows us its secondary jaws and snaps at us, so we show it the end of our shotgun butt, smacking around it's toothy face, wrestling it off then blowing its head into pieces in a burst of green corrosive blood. That'll learn it!
Getting up to his feet, our badass Marine checks his surroundings, finding himself stranded among debris and junk, which begins to stir. Yes, there's more aliens slinking their way from seemingly out of nowhere to hunt us, so switching to the Pulse Rifle our hero blasts as many as he can – in short, controlled bursts, of course – before the big kahuna emerges from behind a sheet of metal. It's a Crusher Alien that doesn't hesitate in charging towards Winters with its enormous armour-plated head, busting through whatever gets in its way. Seriously outnumbered, Winters turns on a heel and legs it, evading the onslaught of bloodthirsty aliens in his path to make it underneath a closing thick steel door like Indiana Jones escaping a collapsing temple.
As the door closes, the Crusher leaves a huge dent in the door as it barrels into it, but we can rest safe in the knowledge that we're safe with the door hastily welded shut. For now. Being in a well-lit hangar offers brief respite as the lights go out, causing the emergency generator to kick in and see that blood-red light returning. Setting up a perimeter of sentry guns, aliens attack from the side, breaking through panels on the walls to snatch allies away. Shapes then come into view that turn out to be even more aliens, overwhelming the turrets and putting the Marines on the back foot again. Dropping into co-op, a second member of the Gearbox team leading our demo joins the action, picking up a Pulse Rifle from the table of weapons in the hangar. You can drop-in and drop-out of co-op for up to 4-players in Colonial Marines, but you'll welcome a second gun when the influx of xenomorphs becomes too much to handle.
As the firefight becomes louder and more chaotic, with aliens coming from every angle, impaling with their whip-like tails or pouncing on and savaging your friends in front of you, the Marines mount a retreat further into the hangar where there's two of the huge power loaders last seen being piloted by Ripley in Aliens. Sealing the hangar door with the welding torch again, there's a moment to catch our breath, and one of our AI buddies climbs into one of the power loaders. And not too soon either, as a wave of xenomorphs pours in from the back of the hangar, which the power loader scorches with its built-in flamethrower. That's when a Queen alien barrels through the wall, knocking the loader to the floor with a piercing scream. Marauding through the Marines, the Queen turns to Winters, grabbing him off the ground, lifting him towards its jaws and shrieking. Bam! Demo over... Well, that we definitely saw coming.
Our first look at Aliens: Colonial Marines has us drooling like a xenomorph, as it looks like Gearbox has nailed the look and atmosphere of the movie, and as a true sequel to those events, it should ensure that the fans will have something to shout about. With the developer working closely with some of the creative element who worked on the film, it has all the elements in place to make for a movie-based game with teeth. You'll be journeying deep into the alien hive too, encountering various breeds of alien, torching eggs and encountering the Queen on more than one occasion. If the demo is indicative of the scares and tension we can expect, then you can sign us up for a tour in the Colonial Marines right now. I love the Corps!
Aliens: Colonial Marines will be dropping out of a vent in spring 2012.