Preview: Aliens: Colonial Marines

Aliens vs. Predator, an earlier Sega release that attempted to bring an authentic Aliens/Predator experience to our current-gen consoles, didn’t exactly thrill me. All of the components for a great game were there, like the killer license and mechanics that sounded slightly innovative, at least on paper. It ended up disappointing me, as I knew it would, so when Aliens: Colonial Marines (first announced so many years ago now) was available to take a sneak peek at E3, I jumped at the chance. Randy Pitchford, Sega, and members of the Gearbox team were on hand for a hands-off preview of the upcoming shooter, and I have to say I’m certainly on board for more.

As members of the development team lead us through the demo in a tiny theater perched in the middle of the Sega booth, Pitchford commentated on what we were seeing, in the most excited tone of voice I’d heard all day, even though it was obvious he’d seen the same things over and over, he was so psyched for this labor of love to be seen by other human beings and I could certainly tell. It was a refreshing change of pace from PR types whom I had heard “press X to do this” and the ones who reached over to press the buttons for me, and it certainly made the hands-off (unfortunately) time a little more precious.

As a crew returned to planet LV-126 to investigate Hadley’s Hope and the ship Sulaco after it arrived full of Weyland-Yutani dweebs all hungry to examine the queen Alien that killed Ripley. Pitchford excitedly ensured us that all of the familiar pieces of Alien set history were featured, as this was an important augment to keep this Aliens game as faithful to movie canon as possible. In the demo, you play as Winters, a member of the Colonial Marines making their way through damaged bays and areas looking to find the Marines who had long since gone quiet — what happened to them, no one is really sure. As you make your way through the Sulaco obvious stirrings of aliens crop up until finally you’re bombarded with a full-on infestation of the malevolent beings, fighting back the best way you know how. Rather than offering on-screen HUDs to track ammo and injuries, information is displayed right on your weapons as well as a heartbeat monitor that tracks Winter’s current health.

Aliens popping through grates, holes, skittering around the rooms, and bursting through ceilings to grab your squadmates are all very common sightings, except when things seem to get quiet an enormous new type of alien appears, which members of the audience are quick to describe as a Queen, but Pitchford enlightens us: it’s a Crusher, built similarly to a triceratops with a flat head and ridiculous size. Of course, it’s also completely immune to regular bullets. We obviously can’t even begin to deal with that, so it’s back to the upstairs hall, where the motion tracker Winter has equipped breaks the silence with the telltale blips of an approaching storm. We eventually see our troupe of marines joined by another, female player, a member of the development team, demonstrating the potential for drop-in, drop-out cooperative play. We make some quick use of turrets aimed down a hallway (Randy reminds us these turrets were seen first in the director’s cut of the movie) and more Aliens slither in, picking off several of our soldiers.

Retreat, retreat, retreat as we make our way back to a larger holding bay, where the door is welded shut and soldiers hop into cargo loaders, large exo-suits used for Marines to attempt to fight off the seemingly never-ending waves of xenomorphs thirsty for the blood of all of us tiny humans who dare enter their territory. The bloodshed comes to a shocking conclusion when a Crusher enters, grabs Winter, and the screen goes black. And that, in a nutshell, is Aliens: Colonial Marines.

We’re hoping to get some hands-on time as soon as the game nears its release, and so far it’s shaping up to deliver all sorts of xenomorphic goodness for fans of the franchise and anyone looking for a good (likely) terrifying shooter.

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