Games have been riffing on the Alien films for almost as long as the medium has existed, but Aliens: Colonial Marines aims rise above its imitators by offering the authentic Aliens experience. Gearbox are treating it with the care for lore and attention to detail of a full blooded Alien movie, only with all the added fun of being able to hunt down your friends and lay your eggs in their throats.
There are classic Alien locations
Gearbox have put a lot of effort into recreating classic locations from the Alien films. The game starts aboard the Sulaco, the ship that the Marines arrived on in Aliens. After that you’ll be visiting LV-426 and the colony of Hadley’s Hope, where the rest of the film is set. The games explains stuff about Alien3 and the derelict alien craft seen in both Alien and Prometheus will also feature at some point. Fox provided Gearbox with enormous amounts of concept art and set photos from the movies, meaning we'll be xeno-hunting in areas that were designed for the films, but never made it to the big screen.It's all about co-op
Much like Gearbox’s Borderlands games, the whole campaign is designed to be played in drop in, drop out co-op. Colonial Marines takes a lot of inspiration from Left 4 Dead, especially with its 'Escape’ mode, in which four marines have to leg it to the other end of the level before the four xenomorph players turn their insides into a handy mobile incubator. The game is at its best with a co-ordinated team, allowing you to all cover each other while one man keeps his eyes glued to the motion detector.
And cool Alien guns too
Aliens wouldn't be Aliens without pulse rifles, flamethrowers turrets and smartguns, and they're all there for you to play with. Turrets are vital to hold out sections, when you'll have to defend your position against the oncoming Alien horde. The auto-targeting smartgun on the other hand has a different role. As well as being the only weapon that offers a HUD, it also works as an elite weapon pickup in multiplayer. Smartguns will be scattered throughout multiplayer levels in hard to reach places, much like Quake's old railguns. If you're good enough to make it there, you'll get a powerful weapon to hold back the Alien menace. Some of the gear is available on Aliens Colonial Marines pre-order.
It will run in DirectX 11
Speak to PCGamesN on Aliens Colonial Marine PC system requirements producer Brian Burleson explained that the game’s built around DirectX 11, which should provide some snappy performance. However, it’s not going to use any DirectX 11 only effects; out of respect for its console cousins. It'll also support Steamworks. There’s no official word on the kit you need yet, but the Aliens but botman a Gearbox programmer estimated they might be similar to the Borderlands system requirements.
There are new Aliens
Getting a little tired of the standard xenomorph? Well I can’t blame you, we’ve all been there and shot that in several Aliens versus Predator games by now. Thankfully, Colonial Marines is offering a little more variety. You'll face off against the lighter, faster 'Runner' xenomorph from Alien 3, as well as the formidable Alien Queen. Gearbox will also be introducing several new species of Aliens to spice up your firefights. So far three new varieties have been revealed. One is a huge rhino like Alien called a ‘Charger’, which is an extra tough boss monster who'll attack you head on and try and break up your group. The below trailer also reveals the smaller, sneakier 'Lurker' who'll try and get get around behind you while you're busy and deal massive melee damage. Finally there’s the Spitter, who I’ll charitably refer to as extremely similar to Left 4 Dead 2's acid spitting zombie of the same name.
But also human enemies
All that not enough? There will also be human enemies available for your manshootinng pleasure. These guys are mercenaries employed by omnipresent megacorp Weyland-Yutani, who just won't stop trying to capture a live xenomorph, no matter how hard it bites them on the ass and lays its eggs inside.
Many of the Alien creators are involved
Let's face it, most games based on Hollywood licenses are cheaply made knock-offs with no-one involved in the film actually involved. Not so Colonial Marines. Some of the most important creative influences in the Alien series have met with Gearbox to help them design the new game. Legendary concept artist Syd Mead provided the team with new concept art to help design the interior of the Sulaco in his iconic style. Ridley Scott also met with Gearbox to discuss his Alien prequel Prometheus and decide how Colonial Marines would tie in with it. Finally, Lance Henrikson will be reprising his role as Bishop, and there are hints that even more returning cast members are yet to be revealed.
It's like the eighties, but in the future
The fact that so much of the Alien franchise's machinery and technology was designed in the 70s and 80s makes it something of an anachronism now. Gearbox have faithfully stuck to the style of the films, which means things like CRT monitors slowly typing out basic green text, and in game computers that look decades behind the one you're actually playing the game on. The result is a pleasing 'retro future' look that, like the Fallout series, sets it apart from more modern sci-fi shooters. See our Aliens Colonial Marines gameplay preview on setting foot inside the Sulaco.
There's no HUD
Part way through development, Gearbox decided to completely remove the in game HUD. All UI information now appears inside the world. You ammo count, for instance, is displayed on your rifle. The biggest difference this makes is with the iconic motion sensor, which is now a physical, handheld item. If you want to use it, you'll have to put your gun away, making yourself vulnerable when you're attacked. The only exception is when using the Smart Gun, which helpfully highlights any incoming Aliens as they try to get close enough to make sweet love to your oesophagus.
There's a strong Aliens vs Predator vibe
The xenomorphs versus humans multiplayer owes a lot to the classic Aliens vs Predator series (the games, not the truly awful movies). Aliens will play in third person, using their speed and wall running to skitter over ceilings and through vents, using their erratic movement to get into range and take a big bite of delicious space marine. You should be able to use all the new Alien types, more powerful ones like the charger being deployed on a timer, Left 4 Dead style. Let's just hope Gearbox manage to solve the motion sickness problems that plagued the original AVP's twisty turny Alien movement.
It’s coming out next year
The Aliens Colonial Marines PC release date is February 12 2013. Follow PCGamesN on Twitter for updates.
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