Imagine that an all-knowing time traveller landed in 1986 in order to whisper the mysteries of 2013 to the startled mid-80s masses. Flying cars, powerful cell phones… a videogame sequel to Aliens? Now, 27 years after the theatrical release of James Cameron’s blockbuster, Gearbox Software is making the dream come true on PS3 February 12th.
I Left my Heart on LV-426
Aliens: Colonial Marines is the sequel to Aliens that we always wanted but never got. You are a Colonial Marine sent to LV-426 to find out what happened to Ellen Ripley. If you’ve seen Aliens, you know that things with Ripley didn’t turn out so well, and you, with no idea what to expect, will find yourself entering hell, somewhere far, far away from planet Earth.
“It was an itch that we had, ever since we saw the first and second movie. That itch has never been scratched; there’s a different history that we always felt that needed to be told, that involves Colonial Marines. Once Cameron introduced them to the Alien universe, there was no going back. I want the story to get bigger, the fantasy to be a Colonial Marine, of having all that gear….We wanted to make a sequel to the Aliens story, and do it in a videogame form, authentic and legitimate.”
I tried out the Campaign Mode for a while, and spied all of the many details that one would expect from an Aliens video game, from the fonts on the HUD to the chattering of the pulse rifle to the ghostly chirp of the motion tracker. The motion tracker is actually a very important part of Colonial Marines — press L1 and you can see the direction in which the xenomorphs can be found. You have to be careful, though: When holding the Motion Tracker you cannot use your weapon. This creates a delicious sense of tension, since when you have three xenos mere feet away from you, the few seconds it takes to draw your weapon will seem like an eternity.
I was only able to play one sequence where I secured an area, placed movement sensors all around the scene, and met up with “artificial person” Bishop (played by Lance Henriksen, thankfully) Then, the xenos arrived. They came in waves and spew acid when shot. You will quickly realize that acid and enclosed spaces make for a dangerous combo, so you’ll want to keep moving while you shoot.
While playing you’ll uncover plenty of references from the movie, from audio logs and dog tags from fallen soldiers (I found Vazquez’s) to weapons such as Ripley’s Rifle, complete with the duct-taped flamethrower add-on. You’ll find more weapons, including pistols and shotguns, from other important characters, and as you advance you gain experience that you can trade for weapon upgrades and customize the weapons according to your taste.
“In the Aliens film, you have this thing called the pulse rifle. It’s pretty cool, it has an ammo counter and an iconic sound, but it’s kinda stuck in the 80s. The marines tend to favor weapons that can help them survive in any planet, they’re very basic. On the other hand the Weyland Yutani guys have all the money in the universe and can do whatever they want, so their weapons have a more science fiction nature.”
Fight as a Team, Die as a Team
When I tried the multiplayer mode in Aliens: Colonial Marines, I wasn’t sure what to expect. There are two factions, the Marines and the Xenos. The Marines are not complicated and their play style should feel familiar to FPS fans. Your boots will be on solid ground, you’ll choose from various weapons and upgrades, then shoot anything that moves.
The xenos are more interesting and are very different from anything you may be accustomed to. There are three different types: Soldiers, Spitters, and Lurkers, each with their own completely different characteristics. The xenos can see through objects and climb walls, but at the same time their defenses are weak. The Soldiers are excellent at hand-to-hand combat, and you can knock off the head of a marine with one solid whack. The Spitters use acid to attack from a distance (tip: do this from a roof), and the Lurkers can powerfully jump towards their enemies and attack without mercy.
It is not easy to be a xeno. You will die a lot, but with a little practice you’ll see that it’s fun and strategically interesting as well. You will literally hunt down your marine foes, hiding and then taking advantage of your opportunity to attack. It pays to move only when necessary, given the marines’ use of motion trackers.
“The multiplayer is natural because the marines can attack from a distance while the xenos are melee-range and sneaky. Xenos need to think about the environment, and have lot more options. I personally prefer xenos.”
The Escape mode may have been my favorite hands-on experience. This is a team game in which marine players have only one life and very little time for reviving each other. Xenos, of course, can resurrect an infinite number of times and need only eliminate the marines while their prey attempt to conquer a variety of objectives, such as advancing or defending a point.
Aliens: Colonial Marines lands February 12th on PS3, bringing a breath of fresh air to the Aliens universe. Have any questions about my time with the game? Let me know in the comments!