Aliens: Colonial Marines

When that first confrontation does arrive it’s not the guns-blazing, space marine frag-fest you may expect. Instead the alien bursts out of the shadows and drags you kicking into an air duct where it prepares to cocoon you in slime. You guessed it - this is a Quick Time Event where button presses have to be hit as the event unfolds. It works well, as the directions mimic the action perfectly. For example, pressing right smashes open a vent casing to the right, or pressing up raises your gun and blasts your captor, forcing it to retreat.

The influence of the movie is all over this shooter, with Quick Time Events ensuring you never know what’s around the next corner. The famous white-knuckle tension you got from the movie is central to Aliens: CM. You won’t know what’s coming next. Scripted events blend into corridor shootouts, with your goal being to stay alive.

Keeping each team-member safe is at the heart of the game. Each member of the squad has a unique skill needed to get through a mission. One marine will be able to hack security doors and another will be able to set up portable gun turrets. If you’ve seen the extended version of Aliens, you’ll recognize how these skills fit into a scenario. Also, each marine you play will have a different weapons loadout. The officer carries a pistol, while other squad members have flamethrowers, grenades or even an RPG.

Tactically, the Brothers in Arms influence is all over the gameplay. Not just in relaying orders to the squad, but in adding realism to the combat. The question is, how do you flank an alien that can attack from above and below, as well as airducts and service pipes? The answer, for now, is partly by using familiar tactics. One mission emulates the alien attack on Hadley’s Hope, with you setting up portable gun turrets. It’s in this mission that the game’s tactical clout hits home.

You can not only set up turrets but use technicians to hack and lock or weld doors, order your team to push tables and cabinets against windows, and set up strike teams to cover weak areas of a room. You can even set booby traps to cover air vents if your explosives guy is still alive. The pulse rifles feature a ticking ammo level, Hicks’ Remington shotgun is here for close quarter escapes and the Smart Guns, as carried by Vasquez and Drake, make a welcome appearance.

The action resembles Call of Duty in style, with down-the-scope targeting and a rechargeable health system. The big difference is the AI being implemented. Aliens will crawl out of every nook and cranny, scramble up walls and scurry across the ceiling. Aliens Colonial Marines could be 2009’s biggest challenge.

Jan 6, 2009

Simon was once a freelance games journalist with bylines at publications including GamesRadar. He is now a content designer at DWP Digital - aka the Department for Work and Pensions.