As we made our way through the Sega booth at E3 2012, we chatted with senior producer Matthew Powers about the upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines. At the top of the agenda was to learn more about how the game integrates with the film canon, what hooks and ties it has into the movies, as well as some info as to what to expect from the final game. With a backdrop of the actual animatronic Alien Queen that was used in "Aliens" behind us, we certainly had ample time to suss out some of the details.
The game serves as a sequel to "Aliens" and takes place after the events of "Alien 3." After the Sulaco was presumed lost and a distress call from Corporal Hicks was received, you play as one of the marines sent out to investigate the loss of the vessel. Upon arrival, it is found that the Sulaco is more or less intact, so the first part of the Marines' mission is to board the vessel and find out why the ghost ship is floating in orbit without its crew. Of course, things quickly go from bad to worse, and throughout the course of the 10-plus-hour, three-act game, you will explore and survive your time aboard the Sulaco and on the surface of LV-426.
The franchise canon is also going to expand with new xenomorphs and weapons. The xenomorph types weren't something that was really able to be dug into, but last year's presentation showed some sort of bull alien that charged at Marines in addition to the standard agile humanoid xenomorphs. The new weapons come straight from the Marines Technical Manual, which was released decades ago and details hardware that was never present in the movies. The new additions expand the canon and can be used for future movies, but at the same time, the new content is supposed to fit well into established lore.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is set to feature four-player campaign co-op, which, according to Powers, was something that the developers wanted to make memorable. With too many players, it can be too easy to stomp through the content, so the difficulty of the campaign scales with the amount of players. The specific options are still being worked out, but ideas include increasing the amount of enemies and upping their toughness. The campaign mode wasn't shown at this year's event, but the game should be memorable, whether it's played solo or with some friends.
We also talked about how the health and armor system works. In "Aliens," the characters frequently had to shed armor that had been compromised due to contact with the alien's acid blood, and the game is no different. Players have two metrics of protection: armor and health. Armor gets worn down and destroyed, and it must be discarded as it reaches the end of its protection. Once the armor is gone, health begins to take the brunt of the damage, though it does regenerate. The health system works somewhat like a reverse of the original Halo; your armor does not regen but soaks up some damage, but once it's gone, you deal with a regenerative health system. Armor can be repaired by picking up armor plating, so once it is destroyed, there is always the chance that you might scrounge up some more armor plating.
While we didn't have any hands-on time with the multiplayer, we did notice a few interesting aspects. The game focuses on team deathmatch, with aliens fighting Marines. We watched as the alien team used darkness and the ability to climb on the walls and ceilings to create cunning ambushes. Likewise, the Marines tend to band together to cover each other from the alien threat. Once the match was over, we saw that some currency or experience went toward a rank up from Private, but we didn't get the chance to ask for more details about the exact progression mechanics that will be offered.
If the developers have done their job, then in their own words, Aliens: Colonial Marines will be the true sequel that the fans never got to "Aliens." At the same time, it'll make "Alien 3" a better movie. It genuinely appears that the developers are respecting the franchise while aiming to deliver a stand-out gameplay experience. Without being able to get hands on, it is tough to verify the validity of those claims, but keep an eye out for more information as we approach the game's release date.
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