Taking inspiration from the alien films
Probably because I was an impressionable young boy in the eighties, I took notice the moment I saw the first screenshot, previewing what the aliens in Sega’s Aliens vs. Colonial Marines looked liked. That first shot of a Xenomorph took me right back to the eighties and the impact the Aliens film franchise had on me. When I learned it was Gearbox developing the game, I knew there was a chanced that this ‘Aliens’ themed game actually had a chance, unlike anything I can think of in the past.
I was fortunate enough to attend the lavish Aliens vs. Colonial Marines launch by Ster Kinekor last night and after getting my hands on the game, learning more about the development and getting a glimpse of the authenticity in recreating visuals and sound-effects from the 80’s films, I am more than just a little nostalgic about the ‘Aliens’ theme. A theme that I left behind in the eighties. I am not part of the ‘Prometheus’ era, so this theme as I understood and loved was left behind.
If you are part of the younger generation then you have all the bragging rights to declare Prometheus as the greatest alien movie ever. You wouldn’t be far from the truth as statistics show that Prometheus actually grossed more revenue in its year of release than the entire Aliens series way back when. You will also be glad to hear that Gearbox was invited to speak with Ridley Scott and view the script for his Alien prequel Prometheus, and so there may even be references to Prometheus in Aliens: Colonial Marines. Fortunately the game is not constricted to either of the films’ scripts, but rather draws inspiration from them.
From what I saw though it was clear to me that Gearbox took heavy references to the Aliens series, from the look of the aliens to the sound-effects and the visuals. We learnt at the launch that Gearbox did consult with the original series’ artists and production crew, to deliver that authentic ‘Aliens’ experience. Nostalgia or the human mind and how it remembers is a pretty bewildering subject. The moment I saw the main pulse rifle, I was back in my folks’ lounge as a young boy, mouth wide open as I awaited the next terrifying alien jumping at the screen, screeching in that unforgettable manner. And it’s all there. The references to the movie are uncanny – from the masses of authentic weapons, to the alien’s movement, the sound effects and environments.
The futuristic gadgets and weapons conceived in the past
In true 80’s Alien film fashion; you need to remember it was a futuristic film, but a future envisioned in the 80’s. So for example, one of the one noticeable features is that there is no modern HUD but rather a handheld ‘beeping’ motion tracker to indicate enemy movement. If this was a futuristic game based on the future we know in this day and age, the marines would probably have an eye-piece over the one eye or something far out to indicate movement.
Again, being based on a future thought up in the past, the guns are very unique and from this prospective, a shooter out of the norm. Weapons include pulse rifles, shotgun, pistols, RPGs, and robotic sentry turrets. Marines are also equipped with welding torches to cut through sealed metal doors. This is a genre that has been flooded and we often see the same weapons across various titles. So this is a key area in which Aliens vs. Colonial Marines promises an out of the normal experience.
Gameplay and features
Being developed by Gearbox, it came as no surprise to me that the gunplay was as solid as one would want. Gearbox has worked on some great titles in the genre and so their experience could only equate to a positive result in this area. I loved the realistic manner of the gunplay visuals, right down to looking down the sights of the guns and centering your aim – all very realistic looking.
The gameplay was designed to be accessible and favours drop-in drop-out co-operative play. The gameplay revolves around travelling from point A to B, clearing foes on the way and achieving mini objectives. There are also missions that have you defending areas. Another aspect that surprised me was that the XP players earn in the campaign by achieving mini objectives is carried into the multiplayer arena. Things like weapon unlocks and skins for example, uniquely, can be acquired offline and carried online from the singleplayer campaign into the competitive scene.
Drop-in/drop-out cooperative multiplayer can be played with up to 4 players online or 2 players locally via split screen. The multiplayer modes include Aliens vs. Marines team deathmatch 6 vs. 6, as well as a 4 vs. 4 objective modes.
From what I saw and experienced, I am more than just a little excited about the game. The game felt solid and the nostalgia flowed thanks to the aesthetics. Mankind’s romance with all things aliens is a romance that has always captured the imagination. The fact that this theme and one of the most memorable film series of all time is in the capable hands of Gearbox, leaves me eagerly anticipating this one!
Aliens: Colonial Marines will be released in mid February and will be available for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.