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Aliens: Colonial Marines preview

A look at Aliens: Colonial Marines, including a guided demo of a single-player stage, and then an ill-fated hands-on with the multiplayer.


The Aliens franchise has captured a powerful fan base, cross-sectioning sci-fi and horror aficionados. Even the most die-hard fan has to admit some series missteps, though, so a lot of hope is riding with Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines. A look at the game from PAX East 2012 should assuage most fears, and even create a little hope that we'll get a decent new Aliens story out of the game to boot.

To be clear, though, the franchise is split between two eras: the moody, quiet horror of the original film, and the more bombastic action of Aliens onward. Colonial Marines, unsurprisingly, falls into the latter camp. The hands-off single-player demo was over-the-top spectacle almost from the start. We watched as a Gearbox employee explored a derelict ship, and found the one member of his crew without a gaping wound in his chest. Some fairly obvious foreshadowing later, and that particular crew member gained his very own abdomen hole.

If this sounds extremely referential, that's for a reason. Colonial Marines banks on its legacy as often as possible, from showing the lockers of familiar character names to making sure we get a prominent look at the loadlifters in a storage area. Even the dialogue carried the heightened machismo of the marines' dialogue in Aliens. It would be cheesy if it weren't so clearly tongue-in-cheek.

Gearbox teased that the game is being accepted as canon, which seems believable enough save for two marines easily dispatching a dozen or so xenomorphs. Didn't we see only a few pick off several more marines in the films? In any event, the tone and visual style of the franchise is carried through to a T.

The demo didn't include any time with the single-player, but Gearbox did give us a chance to try out the multiplayer. The xenomorph team was fielded by Gearbox staff, while the human marines were played by fans and press. The developers offered the advice to stay together, because the xenomorphs rely quite a bit on surprising and picking off stranded marines.

The game doesn't give a great indication of fellow marine locations, though, so it's easy to remain stranded -- especially after a respawn. I could find fellow players through the use of equipment, but that left me vulnerable to attack. The xenomorphs have more powerful detection tools for opponents, giving an obvious tactical advantage. The aliens can also choose among several types, like one with armor plating in the front but much more sensitive skin in the back. We were wiped out handily.

This would seem to indicate an imbalance in the game, but more likely it's to compensate for the fact that the aliens are fairly vulnerable when taking on two or more marines at once. Our demo didn't include mics to talk among ourselves, but in practice a team with good communication should be able to stand their ground. This would force the xenomorphs to coordinate too -- in theory, the two should play off each other well, as the aliens' mobility butts heads with marines' superior firepower. Whether the multiplayer mode holds the interest of Aliens fans will be the real test of the game's longevity.

From The Chatty
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    April 11, 2012 9:00 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Aliens: Colonial Marines PAX 2012 impressions.

    A look at Aliens: Colonial Marines, including a guided demo of a single-player stage, and then an ill-fated hands-on with the multiplayer.

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      April 11, 2012 9:39 AM

      Cool, so can the xenomorphs play side ways on the walls and upside down on the ceiling basically anywhere?

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      April 11, 2012 9:44 AM

      ironsights in a aliens game, super slow movement, pulse rifle sounds nothing like a pulse rifle, etc

      goty much??????

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        April 11, 2012 9:47 AM

        yeah, how dare they release that piece of shit already... wait, what's that? It's not even out yet?

        Oh. Carry on then.

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          April 11, 2012 9:48 AM

          god forbid people call them on their mistakes and errors early in development

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      April 11, 2012 10:00 AM

      Their booth was pretty awesome. The wait to climb into the loader with the alien for a few pictures was only about 10 minutes.

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      April 11, 2012 11:05 AM

      I just don't think a game based on a popular franchise like Alien and designed for consoles and the masses is going to be anything more than a generic, simplistic, and very linear game. Probably be like a typical live-action Disney movie - very pretty with high production values, but very shallow and forgettable. Maybe the multiplayer will redeem it.

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        April 11, 2012 12:13 PM

        For me, the Aliens (and Predator) series games have always been about the singleplayer. If that sucks, then game over, man.

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      April 11, 2012 12:16 PM

      Everyone should look at Natural Selection 2 for a great multiplayer experience. It even looks better then this game. But of course that game doesn't get any media on shacknews..

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        April 11, 2012 2:23 PM

        I think people got tired of waiting for it to come out.

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