Aliens: Colonial Marines Preview

Stop your grinnin’, and drop your linen!

After a long ten years, and more delays than the London Underground in winter, the latest instalment in the Alien franchise is nearly upon us.

A:CM was originally announced in 2001, and was planned to be released for the PS2. After several issues in development, the game was scrapped. In 2006, Sega bought the rights for future Aliens games, and immediately announced that they would be teaming with Gearbox to make a new Aliens game (unrelated to the 2001 title except for the name). News went quiet from this point, with very little being said until 2011, when a release of early 2012 was revealed. The fact that this review is being written late 2012 shows that this wasn’t the case. The release is now a definite early 2013 date, and fingers crossed, this will be the case. But enough of the past, let’s look at what the future holds.

A:CM is tied into the Aliens universe, but is not directly linked to any story that has been on the big screen. Following on from the 1986 sequel Aliens, A:CM shows the arrival of a rescue crew, who are there to check on the marines from the film who never returned. Obviously, this was due to a slight case of death, but it remains to be seen if they know exactly why. So, despite having not seen the films being an inexcusable offence, those poor souls that haven’t should still be able to work out what is going on.

For the fans of the films, the trailers are showing some very familiar sights. The main location for the game looks to be the Sulaco, the spaceship of the marines from the film, and it is just how it was left, even down to Bishops legs still lying on the cargo bay floor. LV-426 will also be visited, and looks just as dark and stormy as in the film. Accuracy is key for anything that is tied in to a major franchise, and A:CM looks to be spot on. This is also featured with the weaponry, as the familiar pulse rifles and sentry guns return, and the custom ‘3 guns taped together’ weapon of Ripley even makes an appearance as DLC.

What really looks impressive so far, is the horror side of the game. The films are tense affairs, with the aliens being masters of sneaking and being anywhere. The looks to have been captured perfectly in the story. This will not be a gung ho battle ala Call of Duty, with enemies running at you head on. This will be enemies jumping out of hidden openings, and sneaking up behind the player. An Aliens game should have the player on edge constantly, and it is looking like this will be the case. Gearbox and Sega have announced that the enemy A.I. will actively try and hide, then flank players wherever possible. Some sections of the game will contain ‘Last Stand’ elements, where the player has to defend certain locations as long as possible, and as the ammo runs low, these moments will be spreading panic like wildfire. It seems there will be a mix of stand and fight, with a touch of run like hell.

The enemies have been announced as being primarily the aliens from the films, along with some ‘new breeds’ that have been mentioned in other fiction, or made exclusively for the game. We can also expect other soldier types, which gives hints as to the possible direction that the story might take. The only concern is that the aliens will be demoted to just cannon fodder. If they end up being as dangerous as a Grunt from Halo, the game could end up being a disaster.

Multiplayer looks a bit more sketchy sadly. A:CM gives the player the option of playing as a marine, or as an alien. However, in the gameplay for the aliens, it seems to be head on rather than stealth. It may still be great fun, but there is also a big possibility that unless people play in the spirit intended, it won’t work properly.

For the fans of release day extras and collectors editions, there is a delightful looking special edition of this game. DLC including characters from the Aliens film, an exclusive level, various paperwork items, a statue and a special collector box all await those who make a purchase.

After some of the dross that has blemished the Aliens name, in both film and game, the series needs a lift. It is baffling that so many professionals just can’t make a decent horror game around these characters. Everything is there, but nothing feels right. The sceptic in us will assume the worse about A:CM, but from what has been revealed, it is actually looking very promising. A proper Aliens game would be a shoe in for one of the greatest horror games ever, so Gearbox and Sega can know that if they do nail this, they will be on to a winner.