E3 2011: Aliens: Colonial Marines preview

First announced in 2008, a game like Aliens: Colonial Marines needs no introduction, but our demoer from Gearbox set up what we were about to see nicely nonetheless. We're told that Colonial Marines is set chronologically as a direct sequel to the Aliens movie, and that Gearbox wants the Unreal engine-based game to focus on action above all else.

The hands-off demo we saw started on LV-426 with a small squad of still-green marines sent in to investigate. Cameron’s Aliens is the reason cliché military squad dialogue has spread throughout pop-culture and permeated our games over the years, and it’s no exception here. Given that this is a continuation of that story arc, though, it’s somehow appropriate, and when your silent protagonist comes to, the first thing he does is flip off his squadmate.

Colonial Marines centers mostly on action, but for the first couple of minutes of gameplay is spent building suspense, allowing you to soak in just how pretty the game is, with moody lighting and a thick layer of atmosphere that lends Colonial Marines the air of authenticity.

It doesn’t take long wandering the wreckage of Hadley’s Hope before you take out your motion tracker (which apparently is used in exchange for your weapon, which could heighten the scare factor). The pings get closer and suddenly, unsurprisingly, the room is teeming with xenos. This is expected. The squad makes short work of them before heading outside, though not everyone survives.

Outside the interior complex, another xenomorph waits – a massive, hulking alien that looks a bit like the Queen with a plated head. The character design and modeling is impressive, with the aliens rendered in horrifying detail. Of course there’s no way to down such a massive foe with the squad's somewhat limited firepower, so they book it out of there.

Gearbox’s trademark tight shooting mechanics work well with the pulse rifle, a shotgun and the sentry from the Aliens director’s cut, among other things. As the marines move through the demo level, the gameplay alternates from tracking the aliens by motion tracker to fighting them off through increasingly alarming encounters. The game also supports four-player drop-in drop-out co-op and split screen, so you don’t have to necessarily play alone.

Fan service and quality aside, easily the most impressive aspect of Colonial Marines is how Gearbox expertly builds the scripted gameplay. Throughout the brief demo sequence, xenos pop in and out, swarming the marines in a series of harrowing battles. This is expected; however, each new encounter is worse than the last. The initial only has a few xenos. Then the numbers grow. Suddenly they’re popping out of the ceilings and ventilation systems on the sides, coming in from all sides. The squad eventually finds themselves in an abandoned warehouse; xenos are everywhere, crawling all over the walls and getting up close and personal with the marines. By the time the power loader comes into play, it’s an all out choreographed symphony of chaos. With the music swelling and an intense storm of violence moving in from all directions, we actually started feeling a little bit of physical anxiety come on. Then the Queen bursts in.

From what we've seen so far, we're eager to get a chance to actually play Aliens: Colonial Marines for ourselves before it releases next spring. As soon as we do, we'll be sure to tell you about it.

Jun 15, 2011




  • ChickenFillet5140 - June 17, 2011 3:10 p.m.

    Looks sweet. On a related note, Screen cinema in Dublin is showing Alien and Aliens on Monday night. Gonna be epic!
  • AcidicCarcass666 - June 16, 2011 11:15 a.m.

    I have been waiting for this game since 2008 or something like that. If I don't get to play it soon I may actually throw a mega tantrum.
  • Bantha_Fodder - June 16, 2011 6:50 a.m.

    well, to be fair, it was a nuclear exlosion... it destroys a LOT, but it doesn't result in a giant cartoon crater (ala the "new" Grand Canyon from the Simpsons Movie). take a look at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. the nukes did SERIOUS damage, but they didn't turn the cities into giant holes in the ground. plus, when you take into account that this was a colony probably built to withstand things like meteor strikes, explosions, etc., so it's not TOO much of a stretch tobelieve that Hadley's Hope is still there... as for the Xenos, well, they ARE survivors.
  • LIKEUCARE - June 16, 2011 2:17 a.m.

    Hmm... I want this game to rock but with so many deceptions of late, I'm high on edge with this game. So, the atmosphere processor's core melted and exploded nuke-like, 30 megatons, the size of Nebraska... and Gearbox wants me to believe the Hadley's Hope colony is still there? AND, there's still aliens there? The only plausibility would be the Derelict Space Jockey ship to be intact since it was far from the colony... but the Hadley's Hope site should be a crater for fuck's sake. Very nitpicking of me, yes... with tremendous good reasons. AVP Movies scrapped both franchise in nightmare ways, same with the latest AVP game. Now with this upcoming ALIENS game having major plot issues, I'm seriously doubting Gearbox Software ability to deliver a fantastic game for the fans. Guess this is simply aimed at casuals... I'm gonna remain on fence until the game manage to appeal me. PS. Funny that they still use IPv4 in this future setting, which should be around the year of 2189.
  • Psylockerules - June 16, 2011 12:38 a.m.

    really trying not to get too excited for this but it looks and sounds SO good! thanks for the preview
  • Helo1985 - June 15, 2011 10:10 p.m.

    Looking forward to this. Really hoping it dont disappoint like AVP did. Fingers Crossed
  • Bantha_Fodder - June 15, 2011 8:32 p.m.

    OH MY GOOOOOOOD. SO. MUCH. WANT. is any new footage gonna be released?
  • fanfundy - June 15, 2011 8:23 p.m.

    Looking real good. The Aliens franchise still has a lot of potential, IMO. Hoping for a real good shooter/horror experience.
  • centrip - June 15, 2011 8:10 p.m.

    Looking forward to this. The last game with Aliens in it was a bit rubbish IMO. The motion tracker wasn't even modeled in-game it was just part of the hud! I feel more like I'm playing an Aliens game when I have the HBS on in MW2!
  • Baron164 - June 15, 2011 8:03 p.m.

    I've been pumped for this for awhile. I was also concerned when it kind of disappeared. I originally had read that it was going to be heavy on the squad mechanics, is that still true? because it sounded very good.
  • RedHarlow - June 15, 2011 7:31 p.m.

    Can't wait. I just hope the pule rifle still uses the sound effect from the movies. I will be disappointed if this is not the case.
  • idlemindkiller - June 15, 2011 7:26 p.m.

    I cant wait for this game. I really hope its worth the $$$.
  • Rikoshi - June 15, 2011 7:25 p.m.

    ITs got to be better then AVP. FIRST!
  • DirkSteele1 - June 15, 2011 7:23 p.m.

    Cannot wait for this one. Was rather disappointed when it seemed to disappear from release schedules.

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