Know your enemy
Its not long until Aliens: Colonial Marines pits you toe-to-toe against some really grumpy extraterrestrials. You should probably know what youre up against if you're going to survive. How? Well, look at the past, and see what's worked to send the evil monstrosities straight to hell. Colonial Marines is an official entry into the Aliens canon, so weve assembled everything you need to know, be it from films, games, or books.
Where did the Aliens come from? Why does Weyland-Yutani want one so badly? What's the deal with these "Colonial Marines?" What the heck is that noise behind y--OH GOD LOOK OUT! Find out right here. Spoilers for the first few Alien movies are included, but none for Gearboxs soon-to-be-released game.
Aliens aliens are called Xenomorphs, and they might be a biological weapon
Although the heinous monsters in the films are commonly referred to as aliens, that terminology isnt quite accurate. After all, any creature from space is technically an alien. This particular variety of extraterrestrial terror is a Xenomorph, though even that isnt terribly specific--its derived from Greek, meaning "alien shape."
Theres no consensus on how Xenomorphs came to be. One theory contends that they were engineered as a bio-weapon by the Malaka, or "Space Jockeys." You may remember them as the enviably muscular race seen in Prometheus and who used to reign over the universe. As usually befalls the power-mad, the Malaka were eventually wiped out by their own creations. This freed the Xenomorphs to roam the universe, where they went on bursting chests and taking names.
...or an ancient God-race...
Another common theory contends that instead of subservient test-tube pets, the Xenomorphs may have at one time been technologically superior allies to the Malaka, and older than any other race. A plague deposed them, turning the few survivors into the bestial, perpetually miffed aliens we know and fear.
This might account for how humans first come into contact with the Xenomorphs. A commercial towing crew aboard the Nostromo, including Ellen Ripley, intercepts a strange signal from LV-426, a planetary moon 39 light years away from Earth. This is our first glimpse of where Colonial Marines takes place. On the moons surface the crew finds a derelict alien craft complete with Malaka remains, each with ribs burst open from some internal trauma. The craft contains a chamber packed with Xenomorph eggs. Maybe the Malaka were trying to save them from the plague.
...or the worlds deadliest playmates
We have to sidestep the main canon here, as this theory brings the universes most badass mandible-faced stealth killers into the picture: the Predators (or Yautja, if were being pedantic). In this version of Xenomorph genealogy the Predators created the dangerous beasts as the ultimate prey so that they could fulfil their big game hunting rites of passage.
Just like the bio-weapon theory, this scenario all goes wrong in the most predictable way. Xenomorphs overwhelm, slaughter, and escape their captors, leading to battles across the universe depicted in numerous comics, movies, and games. This thread of the canon is unpopular with many, thanks largely to the shoddy films that depict Xenomorphs battling Predators in ancient icebound Mayan pyramids.
Xenomorphs reproduce by...um... hugging your face
The Xenomorphs biggest problem isnt existential. You should be more concerned with their boundary issues. The last thing youll see after a Xenomorph egg has opened up is a yellow spider-like creature launching itself at your face. This is the Facehugger In the worst French kiss of your life, it rams a tube down your throat and slowly implants a Xenomorph embryo in your throat, all while keeping you alive. If someone tries to get it off you, the Facehugger will squeeze your neck until you suffocate.
The Facehugger dies when the job is done. The embryo gestates internally for only a few hours before it wants out, with the only exit being a direct route through the ribcage. Although small when it first emerges in a torrent of blood, the Xenomorph grows rapidly. This is how humans first come to face the perfect killing machine. In other words: if you see a Facehugger running at you, close your mouth and kill it with fire.
Xenomorphs are the perfect killing machine
Xenomorphs are the Swiss army knives of death. Seal them behind metal doors and theyll slash through with their claws. Engage them at a distance and theyll cut you in half with a long, whip-like tail. Get cornered by one and it'll use its inner mouth (they all have two mouths, basically) to crack your skull open like an egg. It takes armour-piercing rounds to puncture their exoskeleton--but if you shoot while in close proximity to one, you might get burned by the Xenomorph's acidic blood.
To makes matters worse, theyre clever too. They can shut off electricity, and run along walls or ceilings to remain unseen. A single Xenomorph wipes out the Nostromos entire crew in less than 24 hours except for Ripley, and she only survives because she finds the Xenomorphs one weakness: Being blasted from an airlock into the vacuum of space.
WeylandYutani Corp really, really wants one
Every sci-fi universe needs an evil mega-corporation pulling the strings. Aliens has Weyland-Yutani, prolific arms maker, founder of human colonies outside our solar system, and producer of androids that occasionally try to murder everyone. Theyre commonly referred to simply as "The Company," and you really shouldnt trust anyone who works for them. Once Weyland-Yutani discovers the Xenomorphs have rather impressive firepower, The Company turns into a cesspool of covetous law-breaking jerkwads.
The evil company plotted to sacrifice the entire crew of the Nostromo to bring a Xenomorph specimen home alive, with the intention of harnessing the creatures potential as a bio-weapon. Of course, Ripley spoils the party, but Weyland-Yutani refuses to give up. 57 years pass before they receive fresh news on where to find a pet Xenomorph. LV-426 is once again proving to be a terrible holiday destination.
Hadleys Hope is the worst place to live in the entire universe
Weyland-Yutani terraforms LV-426 using an atmosphere processor, and the human colony of Hadleys Hope is founded. After half a century of floating through space, suspended in cryo-sleep, Ripley is recovered by Weyland-Yutani, and she soon reveals where the Xenomorph eggs were found. The colonists are instructed to investigate the crashed spacecraft. If theres a chamber full of Xenomorph eggs, Weyland-Yutani wants to know about it.
The colony finds itself on the wrong end of a severe face-hugging, and Xenomorphs overrun Hadleys Hope. The humans fight back as best they can, but are either killed or cocooned in a Xenomorph hive beneath the atmosphere processor for future impregnation. With communications cut, Weyland-Yutani sends a squad of United States Colonial Marines to investigate. Ripley goes along as an advisor.
The Colonial Marines touch down and never come back
The USS Sulaco is a marine transport ship famed for its bad luck. Which naturally makes it the perfect choice for transporting a team of hardened marines into orbit around a moon infested with murderous extraterrestrials. Marine transports come fully equipped with cryo-sleep chambers, a well-stocked armoury, and a payload of nuclear missiles. This means that if anything goes wrong, theres always the option to blow the problem up from space.
To reach the surface of LV-426, the marines launch a dropship that hurtles almost in freefall through the atmosphere. If the moon had a weather channel, it would only ever forecast rain. LV-426 is constantly dark, battered by high winds and torrential downpours. The terrain is rocky, meaning landing a dropship is rather tricky. The dropship must be protected at all costs, as its a marines only ticket back to the Sulaco. So its rather unfortunate that when their dropship comes to collect them--after being on the wrong end of a massacre--crashes into the atmosphere processor, putting it on an irreversible path to a thermonuclear detonation.
Motion Trackers will loosen your bowels
Theres two ways to know when a Xenomorph is lurking nearby. You can either wait until it drops on your head, or use a Motion Tracker. These are handhelds units used to measure for proximate movement, highlighting it on a visual display and with sound. Theyre particularly useful for the murky labyrinthine corridors of Hadleys Hope. If theres nothing close by the Tracker merely ticks ponderously. But as something approaches it mewls and screeches like a kitten with its tail stuck in a door. The noise is almost as terrifying as the piercing screech of the Xenomorph that just landed on your face.
You shouldnt rely too heavily on your Tracker. Theyre bulky, and cant be used at the same time as firing a weapon. They also dont work well in three dimensions. You might even think your Tracker is broken when it shows targets right in front of you in a seemingly empty corridor, only to have Xenomorphs burst out of the walls. You dont want to leave it too late before you start firing.
WeylandYutani equips marines well, but not well enough
The marines have a few tricks up their sleeves. Corridors can be cut off with sentry turrets that fire automatically on targets, and can be monitored from a remote station. One marine per squad totes an oversized Smartgun which picks out hidden enemies with infrared. Once the Xenomorphs are up close, its all down to your trusty Pulse Rifle, which uses electricity to sling hot lead at incredible speeds and boasts an under-barrel grenade launcher. Even Xenomorphs dont like explosions.
Marines move in four-man squads, and the best way to survive is to work as a team. Plan which approaches to cut off with a hail of turret fire. One man can use a Tracker to direct the Pulse Rifle fire of his teammates and save ammunition. Keep your backs to each other so that the Xenomorphs lose the element of surprise. If a squad member gets taken, its your job to save him or put him out of his misery. Brothers dont let each other get impregnated by aliens. If you should find yourself alone in a Xenomorph hive and you absolutely, positively have to destroy every egg in the room, theres nothing quite like a heavy-duty flamethrower.
It takes a power loader to kill a Queen
There are many heavy things in the future; crates, vehicle weaponry, and the occasional pissed off Xenomorph Queen. The only thing equipped to deal with all three is a power loader, a mechanised exoskeleton with enormous pincers for hands. Ripley escapes Hadleys Hope only to find that the Xenomorph Queen has followed her back to the USS Sulaco, and is really rather unhappy about her offspring being used as fuel for a mass bonfire.
The Xenomorph Queen is about five times the size of a run-of-the-mill Xenomorph. Ripleys only chance is to jump into a power loader to punch, wrestle, and eventually drop the Xenomorph Queen into an airlock (their one weakness!). Pro-tip: Make sure youre not pinned underneath it all when the whole mess gets blasted out into space.
It all ends with a nuclear explosion... or does it?
The processing station finally explodes. In theory this should atomise the Xenomorph hive that was unwisely installed beneath it. Hadleys Hope is battered by the thermonuclear blast, and in theory all of the Xenomorphs should have been reduced to a variety of tiny pieces. With the Queen asphyxiating in the void, this should mean the end of the Xenomorphs on LV-426. Such theories rarely pan out.
Once again Ripley finds herself drifting in space, doomed to wash up on the shores of lacklustre sequels. Hadleys Hope remains deserted, the horrifying events unknown to the still-empty handed Weyland-Yutani. The Company dispatches another team of Colonial Marines to LV-426 to find out what happened. 17 years later they step foot into the remains of Hadleys Hope--that's where the upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines comes in.
Get your rifle ready
That doesn't sound so bad, does it? Get a motion tracker, strap it to your gun, jump into a power loader, and you're good to go, right? Well, maybe not. We won't know for sure what's coming your way until Aliens: Colonial Marines releases next month.
And if you're looking for more, check out Aliens: Colonial Marines Campaign Hands-on preview and TEXT.