During E3 2011, I entered a gloomy room and found myself before Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford. He was there to show off Aliens: Colonial Marines, the upcoming first-person shooter that’s scheduled to hit the PS3 in 2012. When you hear a developer talk about his game with the passion Pitchford demonstrated, you know the studio is on the right track. Gearbox Software is packed with fans of the Aliens films; seeing the game in action, it shows.
The demo starts with the crash of the U.S.S. Sulaco, the high-tech marine vessel from the second film. You wake up to find yourself in a nightmare, surrounded by xenomorphs with no idea about what is happening. But you’re not alone — you’ll have a group of highly trained marines at your side wielding state-of-the-art military technology, from the iconic pulse rifle and flamethrower to the pulverizing smart gun.
During his presentation, Pitchford assured us that this is the real sequel to Aliens and everything indicates that this is so, from the Marines’ tools (including motion trackers) to the automatic turrets that we saw on the special edition of Aliens; they are all here. The game also featured a cooperative mode for four players and your friends will be able to drop in and drop out of gameplay as they please.
Without a doubt, the most striking element I saw in Aliens: Colonial Marines was the setting and atmosphere. Gearbox is busy perfecting the combination of loneliness, abandonment, and claustrophobia that have become hallmarks of the series. The xenomorphs are more horrific that ever — they’re quick, merciless, and attack in groups that will not give you a moment’s rest. We also saw a new alien who looks like a Queen but is faster, uses its head like a shield, and can charge its enemies. Of course, you have to run away to face it afterwards in a battle that involves a exosuit cargo-loader. You can imagine the rest.
We are a long way off from 2012, but from what we have seen, Gearbox is on the right track. Aliens purist can rest easy, while those passionate about first-person shooters can look forward to a promising co-op experience.