With last year's lukewarm release of Aliens vs. Predator, fans of the former of the two franchises are still waiting for a strong addition to its gaming lineup. We attended a closed-door theater presentation of Gearbox's upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines at E3 2011 and checked out some gameplay from a few parts of the game. With an exclusive engine made specifically for the game and set up as the official canonical sequel to the movie, Aliens: Colonial Marines has certainly set the stage to be a strong game for fans of the franchise.
The plot is still a relatively guarded secret, but you play as one of the Colonial Marines who's been sent out to investigate planet LV-426, the Hadley's Hope outpost, and the derelict Sulaco starship in orbit above the planet. In a teaser video, you see both the Sulaco and the new ship crashing to the planet's surface, and in the gameplay that immediately follows, you wake up alongside a few fellow marines a short distance away from the operations room that was seen in the movie.
Of course, the marines aren't initially aware of what has been ripping through inches of reinforced steel or why the atmospheric processor blew and caused massive devastation to the outpost, but it doesn't exactly take them long to find out. With the new engine delivering some deep shadows and murky interiors, the xenomorphs soon make their presence known by bursting forth from the floor and claiming more than a few marine lives in the process. There's a close encounter event with a xenomorph leaping onto the player character, who uses the stock of his shotgun to fend off the inner jaws of the creature before meleeing the beast and blowing it away with a well-placed shot.
No sooner is that danger over with than a new threat emerges among the rubble, this time in the form of a new xenomorph species called the Crusher. This massive creature is impervious to small arms fire and is capable of slamming marines into a paste against the wall and nearly bashing through even the thickest walls and doors. At first, the only defense against it is to simply run like hell, culminating in a slide under a shutting blast door as you watch the creature nearly make it to you via the closing gap.
Once inside, the NPC marines band together in their own defensive formation, deploying automated sentry guns and manning a power loader to hold off the aliens as long as they can. At this point, another presenter jumps in via the drop-in, drop-out cooperative play, which was a confirmed feature for the game campaign. As the aliens begin to overrun the marines and breach the large entry door, an alien queen bursts into the room, grabs the player's marine and roars at him before killing him. Everything quickly fades to black.
Though the Aliens: Colonial Marines engine is clearly a work in progress and the presentation doesn't cover a lot of ground, it was difficult to not get excited for the game's potential. It seems to really try to capture the same tension, action and horror that saturated the original films and apply it directly to the gameplay. The cooperative mode will undoubtedly be a big draw, letting friends band together to fend off the agile xenomorphs as they close in from all directions. Keep an eye out for more information as the game develops, and here's hoping that fans of the Aliens franchise finally get the stellar next-gen game that they've been awaiting.
Greg Hale also contributed to this preview.
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