Aliens: Colonial Marines: Can it topple Halo, Gears and Call of Duty?

Is this a stand-up fight...or another big hunt?

Many have tried, but few have succeeded. Despite the rich source material and the fact that most modern shooters have liberally borrowed from the films, you can count the number of decent Aliens games on one hand. The hand of a clumsy five-finger-fillet player.

Most recently, Rebellion tried to resurrect Aliens vs Predator, the original of which is still seen as the only credible game to star H.R. Giger's Xenomorphs, but it was a flop.

Even with all the fancy lighting tech and pin-sharp sound capabilities of modern consoles, no-one has managed to capture the brutal, foreboding essence of Aliens. That may be about to change.


"The films are essentially our bibles, and directly influence our daily decisions," says Brian Cozzens, art director at Gearbox, developer of Aliens Colonial Marines. "We're huge fans of the series and we've seen in the past what happens when others take too much artistic liberty with a franchise. We want this game to be convincing!" He goes on: "Obviously we want new surprises as well and we're being very careful about those."

Early signs are promising. The original teaser trailer set fan forums alight with mention of LV-426, the planet nuked during Aliens, and since then footage has really captured the feeling of being part of the Colonial Marines - right down to the kit they use, the way they move, and the banter they shout.

Gearbox have a whole group dedicated to accuracy called the Truth Team. Created in 2008, after the announcement of Colonial Marines, these testers regularly play through the latest version of the game, looking for continuity errors inside and outside the plot. If it doesn't belong in the Aliens universe, or feels too fiddly or tenuous, these guys report back to the devs. It's impressive commitment.

Colonial Marines is a spiritual successor to Cameron's Aliens, but we want new surprises...

So, what of the game? The demo we played was a Call of Duty-style thrill-ride, with a wealth of references to the movies. There's no doubting its intensity in these heavy action sequences, and to Gearbox's credit, they've nailed the look and sound of the tools - the Pulse rifles, the Motion sensors - but for us the true beauty of Aliens is the stuff you don't see, combined with the feeling of being inside a terrifying place. Will there be slower moments with more tension and horror?

"Aliens Colonial Marines is much more a spiritual successor to Cameron's Aliens than the other films," says Cozzens. "But we also are big fans of the lone survival aspet of Ridley's Alien. We want the game to stand out amongst current first-person shooters so you'll see where we dial up and down action, suspense, mystery and horror throughout the game - we're aiming for a buffet of these elements."


The buffet offered by our demo is a little limited. It starts as the badly damaged USS Sulaco - now boarded by a fresh batch of marines from the USS Saphora - crash-lands onto the surface of LV-426. Our playable character, Winters, wakes up dazed and bruised but has the sense to grab a shotgun before crawling his way out of the wreckage.

It's here we get our first sniff of Aliens - a facehugger floats motionlessly in a tank until we approach, when it suddenly comes to life, banging against the glass to try and break free. A cheap scare, but it feels perfectly in context. We navigate another series of jumpy moments torn straight from Dead Space and emerge inside a control room. Here the entire wall is missing, leaving an uninterrupted view of the Hadley's Hope colony. Or what's left of it. It's a big, brash homage - a love letter to James Cameron - and it's what we've waited years to see.

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