Preview: Aliens: Colonial Marines

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It’s not too often that you’ll get to meet Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford, and I think it’s even less likely that you’ll be able to geek out with him over Aliens, but that’s what I did during PAX. Randy was holed up in a small (and in his own words, “amazingly air conditioned”) room, giving fans and press a lovely sneak peak at Aliens: Colonial Marines.

It was fantastic.

I knew the sneak peak was going to be good before we even got to see what was on offer; the costumers walking around the booth — dressed to the nines in marine uniforms of their own making — were super impressed with the game. My Marine wanted to draw special attention to the detail of the game’s gun and sound designs. As Randy would soon tell me, both he and the dedicated Aliens fans see Colonial Marines as the real sequel to James Cameron’s classic film, the second of the series. Pitchford did have to admit, begrudgingly, “that Alien 3 still happened. It still counts. We have to consider [all Alien films] as canon.”

Pitchford started the presentation off by exclaiming how happy he was to be to be working on Aliens, “as [he’d] been stealing from it for [his] entire career!” He pointed out references in a myriad of games he has worked on, including the face hugger-eque aliens in Duke Nukem, to the amazing similarity of Halo’s Sgt Major Johnson to Aliens’ Sgt Apone.

The game is set 17 weeks after the events of Aliens. A distress call was made in the film, and the Colonial Marines have taken that long to mobilise and travel to planet LV426. If you’re familiar with the film, a huge explosion has laid waste to the former colony, and conveniently enough, there are still massive amounts of alien eggs at the original Space Traveller’s ship. Full-grown aliens from Aliens have survived as well; “they’re like cockroaches,” said Pitchford.

We got to see clips of the Marines leaving their rescue ship, the Sephora, behind to attempt to look for survivors. Of course, straight away, the team realises that all they’re going to find are the hostile xenomorphs.

The game looks leaps and bounds better than Aliens vs Predator, and the costumed fans were absolutely right in that the visuals and sounds put you straight back into Aliens’ atmosphere.  We really only got to see pulse rifles used by the player, but automated sentry units AND power loaders made an appearance in the 10-15 minutes of gameplay that I witnessed. I was most impressed with the motion tracker, in appearance and in sound.

In the sequences I viewed, you were constantly surrounded by other Marines, so you’re definitely not feeling alone. A new alien type was also shown off, similar to Left 4 Dead’s Charger – the alien is quite large and has a triceratops-like head used to smash into you and pummel you to death. It looked like it will be quite a handful.

Pitchford closed off the session by doing his best Hudson, “game over man!” impersonation, and perhaps hinted at a flashback sequence for the character. Actually, he almost went as far as to hint that we’d maybe see some of the Marines from the movie, as some died off-screen.

As long as you can do it convincingly, Mr. Pitchford.

Overall, I find myself quite excited by a game I’d forgotten about. Bring it on! Randy confirmed the game’s availability on Xbox 360, PS3, Games for Windows Live, and mentioned (but didn’t confirm) that the game can theoretically be run on Wii U.