Aliens: Colonial Marines Hands-on Preview

by Leigh Harris Featured 12 Comments 12 Votes 4531 Views 12/12/2012 Back to Articles

Attention to detail is a vital thing in creating a convincing game world. It sticks out like a sore thumb when you’re exploring a world and really feel like you’ve received every possible piece of information available and that there’s nothing more to gain. Take The Elder Scrolls, for example. So rich in lore than no matter how big a fan you are, you know very well there’s more you could learn or know about the universe, past and present.

Shooters have a tendency to ignore this kind of depth. Aliens: Colonial Marines, on the other hand, begs to differ.

This is a game being crafted by fans of the movie, and every minute detail tells you so. It’s those moments when you hear a slightly anachronistic piece of jargon delivered naturalistically, when the model number of a heavy lifter is actually correct, when the cinematography looks eerily familiar and the opening shot is a perfect homage to the Aliens movie of old – I could go on and litter this page with countless examples of just how much care and dedication has gone into this game. It feels very loved.

When you get your hands on Colonial Marines, you’ll be subject to the same moments of heart-pounding action and intense terror.

Mild spoiler warning – when the troops are under siege in Aliens, Hudson overhears that they’ll have evac coming in about 17 weeks. “17 weeks?!?” he yells. “We’re not gonna last 17 hours!”

I’ll stop short of telling you how the movie ends (but suffice to say, you really should watch it before playing this game), but the game picks up as a direct sequel – exactly 17 weeks after the time when that call was made.

I’ve no idea how this game would feel for someone who hadn’t seen the movie, but I’d guess the fun would be just as high even if many references weren’t received properly. But for those who have, get ready to see the rest of the colony from the Aliens movie, ripped directly from the pages of notes of the chap who created the world (there was a lot he’d created for the movie which fell to the cutting room floor) as it comes to life for the first time in this game.

One of the fundamental differences between Alien and Aliens was that in the original, a few deep space blue collar workers were stunned by the presence of one of these acid-for-saliva-having travesties and it cost them most of their crew to destroy it – the second film, however, was gung-ho marines armed to the teeth taking them down in droves.

Ideal fodder for a videogame.

So it is that when you get your hands on Colonial Marines, you’ll be subject to the same moments of heart-pounding action and intense terror. A complaint which is fiendishly easy to level at contemporary shooters (military in particular), is that they’re becoming very one-note. Far too many are so deathly afraid of the player being bored that you’re inundated with action to the point that it all loses its impact.

No such fears plague Gearbox Software, who are quite happy to let you languish in spaces of silence, giving you just enough freedom to pull out the iconic handheld motion sensor that you feel like your imminent death isn’t being handled by a rollercoaster, but by your own weakness or courage. No beats are missed – within minutes you’re terrified, sensor in hand spinning around wildly trying to figure out which direction the harrowing pings are coming from. Moments later – you’re reliving the best moments of Doom 3, shotgun in hand or using the amazing slight auto-aim on Vasquez’s minigun to mow down entire corridors of the monsters at a time.

There are some areas where the game doesn’t feel terribly solid, in the rather literal sense of the term. In multiplayer at E3 in June, in particular, there’s still a kind of jerkiness of movement, and in single it’s not uncommon to see characters walk through one another. It’s a jarring moment or two perhaps, but in an otherwise expertly executed experience. For every small down, there’s a big up. In multiplayer, the teamplay is phenomenal, with aliens vs humans and the idea of working as a team playing perhaps a bigger part in achieving success than in any other multiplayer game which has come this year. In single player, the erroneous flickers of unreality here and there are offset by the presence of Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen.

There are certainly some moments which are ripped from the playbook of now stock standard horror shooters (passing through an environment with tension dripping from its eerie silence only to return through it in reverse moments later for an action sequence), but at no point do you feel confident in knowing what’s going to happen next.

It may not revolutionise much, but it’s a breath of fresh air in the shooter crowd regardless. In many a shooter these days I’m yawning at the prospect of getting to x to repair y, but the Aliens universe is so alive that you never pause to give any generic objectives a moment’s thought. Add to this the blessed removal of a constant arrow on screen telling you where to go next (the scourge of many an already terribly linear shooter these days), and there’s little to stop you getting incredibly immersed.

By Leigh Harris

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Aliens: Colonial Marines Hands-on Preview Comments

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So excited [Derp]
Keen [MOG]
It's got its issues, but I trust Gearbox to only release it when the minor quibbles are sorted. It's the love that's gonna count when it comes to this game's make or break imo, and that they've got in spades.
Holy crap this looks awesome!
I'm expecting a pretty standard shooter, not really expecting it to revolutionise, but I'm keen to see how it works with the GamePad. If it can get the story, characters and tone of the story done right, then I personally would probably be more forgiving of any cliche FPS mechanics.

I liked the multiplayer in Aliens vs Predator from SEGA. If this even comes close to this -- hopefully it can surpass it -- I'll be happy!
I've been reading around on the net that the game has its issues and that its not all its being made out to be.
Plus i'll be getting it for PC, the gamepad is just gonna be too gimmicky for me and distracting plus when Aliens come pouring in i don't want to be relying on some 10+ year old cpu :P

I hope being developed for WiiU isn't holding back the tech in this game too, but i'm expecting it'll be a port.

OllyEbbz said: I've been reading around on the net that the game has its issues and that its not all its being made out to be.
Plus i'll be getting it for PC, the gamepad is just gonna be too gimmicky for me and distracting plus when Aliens come pouring in i don't want to be relying on some 10+ year old cpu
I hope being developed for WiiU isn't holding back the tech in this game too, but i'm expecting it'll be a port.



Someone reallllly hates Wii U :P

Beta said:
Someone reallllly hates Wii U



Surprising I quite like it, I just don't believe it is all it is made out to be. The controller is not the revolution everyone is making it out to be and the tech inside the box is gonna be left behind in 12 months. I'm looking forward to all the Nintendo exclusives but hell no am I playing poorer versions of titles I can get on PC. The gamepad is gonna do nothing for this title but be a distraction, hardly wanna look down when there's aliens coming at me.
@OllyEbbz Really.Seems like the gamepad as a motion tracker is a perfect fit for this game. I'm looking forward to the Wii U version the most. Each to their own.

1wiierdguy said: @OllyEbbz Really.Seems like the gamepad as a motion tracker is a perfect fit for this game. I'm looking forward to the Wii U version the most. Each to their own.



I'll check it out but i know it's gonna prove too distracting for me. I like to get absorbed into my games and forget i'm holding a controller or using a mouse and keyboard, the gamepad breaks that.
Same with the Wii's Wiimote and nunchuck although fun i can't help but feel the gamepad is just a gimmick for the kids. I don't even like the idea of Zelda HD using it, i want Pro controller only but know that's not gonna happen.
"Mild spoiler warning – when the troops are under siege in Aliens, Hudson overhears that they’ll have evac coming in about 17 weeks. “17 weeks?!?” he yells. “We’re not gonna last 17 hours!”"

It's 17 days in the movie, not weeks.
im not sold on the game as yet and with all the great games out early next year this could get passed by, but i do hope its good as i really loved all the Alien movies and i would like to see them be done justice

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