After reading the line up for the MCM Expo this year there was one game that I'd circled multiple times because I knew I couldn't miss out on seeing even a tiny glimpse of it yet again; that game was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Walking up to the game's booth was easy enough, then I turned the corner looking for the entrance and walked straight into the path of a real life colonial marine who was walking around with his squad mates and a terrifyingly realistic xenomorph. After muttering a brief apology I sidestepped the odd band and joined the queue to play the game, but more about that later.
Before I really get going I'll get something out of the way quickly now so that this article doesn't end on a disappointing note, those of you who are big fans of this game, or saw Carl's news post at the end of last month, will know that the release date has been set back once more to 12th February 2013, which Gearbox seemed to want to remind everybody at the Expo seeing as it was slapped on pretty much every video they were playing.
Anyway shortly before the events described above I sat down at the Gamespot UK stage for a presentation given by the game's Senior Producer, Brian Burleson, during which he revealed a whole load of information about what we can expect to see next year. The game takes place after the events of Alien 3 and you're one of the marines who's dispatched to LV-426 to find out what happened to the crew of the U.S.S. Sulaco, you're also one of the last to wake up from hypersleep.
A great amount of research and detail's been put into the game so that it's true to the franchise experience and I thought it was incredibly impressive that the staff over at Gearbox had gone to the trouble of trawling through the footage of Aliens frame by frame, so that when you get into the Sulaco's cargo hold you can actually see where the Queen ripped out bits and pieces during her fight with Ripley, and these items have been placed where they would have fallen in the movie. Also, the name's of the original marines can clearly be seen on their lockers (so keep an eye out for Gorman, Hicks, Vasquez, Drake, Hudson, and Apone).
Visually the game is outstanding, especially the part I saw when the airlocks on one of the ships had been breached and people are being sucked into space. Another great moment occurred within an alien hive as the main character reached up to cut an unfortunate individual out of the cocoon they'd been trapped in. Care has also been taken to make the most of the music and the atmosphere, it's definitely not a secondary concern, which was great to hear because without them the game wouldn't be able to live up to its source material.
The single player campaign supports up to four player co-op, including split screen, and there are a couple of modes yet to be announced. Right, now back to what for me was the best part of the weekend, actually getting to play the game's multiplayer!
After being herded into the small booth, the black drapes closed to ensure nobody on the outside could peer in to discover the secrets within and one of the reps told us that we'd first get to observe their team playing as Aliens preying on some Colonial Marines controlled by the group of people who had been in front of us in the queue only moments before. When you're playing as a xenomorph, the camera jumps into 3rd person, which reduces the confusion as to where exactly you are in the environment as you're sprinting across the walls and ceilings, or disappearing into an air vent to covertly slip past a group of marines. You can also create shortcuts about the environments by ripping through bulkheads. We only got to see a couple of classes one of which was the fast Lurker, another was the powerful Soldier, and about halfway through the battle somebody's xeno morphed into what I can only describe as a cross between a Queen and a bulldozer at which point they ploughed through marines with little to no effort despite taking a huge amount of gunfire. Unsurprisingly the Aliens won and after the losers were ushered out of the booth, we got to sit down in front of the PCs so that we could step into the shoes of the Colonial Marines.
Things take on the familiar first person shooter perspective when you're rolling out as a marine and one thing the game does very well right from the start is getting your heart pounding in anticipation, in fact it's hard not to let off a round or two from the slightest of movements even when it's coming from a completely harmless object. It's important to note that whilst xenomorphs are more than capable of going it alone, marines are far more susceptible if they break away from the group and you can expect to be killed in a matter of seconds should you decide this is a good tactic in a moment of blind panic. Aliens must be kept at bay because they're deadly at close range and can send you to your grave with only one or two hits, however if you find yourself getting uncomfortable close to one you need to kick them away before firing upon them otherwise you'll take an incredible amount of damage from their acid blood. I only managed to test out a few guns, the battle rifle was OK, shotguns are great for close encounters, and of course my favourite was the pulse rifle especially when I discovered the under barrel grenade launcher. However, whilst weaponry is important, your most useful item is the motion tracker which replaces the HUD and can be brought up with the click of a button. Using the familiar little device ups the tension a thousand fold as it bleeps away whilst you watch the red dots on the screen getting closer and closer, or more worryingly coming at you from all directions. Well, my team fought valiantly but in the end we were overrun and our brief drop into the game was well and truly over.
Then tension that builds up when you're in the game is like nothing I've ever experienced before video games wise and I think it's safe to say that this one's shaping up to be something incredibly special that fans of the series will welcome with open arms when it's release date finally roles around. Here's hoping that Gearbox spend the rest of their time wisely adding in the fine details that could well win them an award or two in the future, after all I for one am happy to wait a little bit longer if it means getting an epic Aliens game rather than one that feels a little bit too rushed.