E3 Aliens: Colonial Marines eyes on

“It’s game time.”

Today Red and I had a chance to watch a preview of Aliens: Colonial Marines.  Being developed by Gearbox, Colonial Marines is a direct sequel to James Cameron’s excellent film Aliens.  As a huge fan of the film, I’ve been chomping at the bit to see it in action.  So, did Colonial Marines nuke my site from orbit, or was it game over man?  Hit the jump to read my brief thoughts!

I’ll just cut right to the chase: I was a bit disappointed.  Keep in mind, it is really hard for me to be objective about an Aliens title, because I’m so in love with the first two films.  In fact, I’m watching a segment from Aliens while I write this, specifically the escape from Operations.  Here’s why I think Aliens: Colonial Marines didn’t click for me.

Yeah, because that doesn't look like a vagina at all.

Too much fan service: Yes, you can be too loyal to a property when working within it.  I’ve already seen the story of Hadley’s Hope, so going back feels rather unnecessary.  It also seems slightly unmotivated.  For those of you that remember, Aliens ends with Ripley blasting the ever loving hell out of the colony, herself only barely escaping a “vapor cloud the size of Nebraska”.  Yet, in this new title, buildings are still standing, there’s still power, and there are aliens EVERYWHERE.  It almost feels like Ripley didn’t accomplish anything, other than forcing a cosmetic environmental change.  If Gearbox was so in love with a game set in Hadley’s Hope, why not either adapt Aliens (bad idea) or tell the story of the colony falling (slightly better idea)?

Breaking the rules (when you shouldn’t):  Now for a contrary note!  The last point was that it was too obsessed with the film; this one argues they deviate in the wrong moments.  An example, in the demo a massive bull-like alien appears, its head slightly resembling the Queen.  It is impervious to bullets, which means you just run around alot while it chases you.  For some reason, this enemy really bugged me.  Maybe because I’m a huge nerd and I know that LV-426 has “no indigenous life.  It’s a rock.”  Or maybe it just didn’t seem like the most inspired monster.  Maybe I was just having a bad day, who knows?

“Stay frosty”: There’s a moment in Aliens where Hicks mentions that they can’t afford to let one of the beasts into their perimeter.  He’s scared, everyone’s scared.  The action in the film feels like the marines are being hunted, a primal and instinctual animal bearing down on them at all times.  This feeling didn’t really come through in the game, where instead the aliens felt like quick moving targets that might hurt you if they got close.  Keep in mind, this is an E3 demo, so maybe that’s not fair.

Now, is there anything worthwhile in the title?  Of course, and it would be a disservice to Gearbox to ignore certain aspects I enjoyed:

They love this property: Randy Pitchford introduced the demo, and he spent a good five minutes just raving about how much Aliens means to him.  This meant a lot to me, since it is a film that means so much to me as well.  Having that kind of passion is great, and I doubt he’s blind to some of the concerns I have.

The motion tracker: This is one little detail that both Erika and I loved: there is no “always active” motion tracker.  Unlike the prior Alien property games, Colonial Marines makes you look separately at the tracker, which is a nice touch for tension.

Tension, unlike Doom 3!

Last stand situationsColonial Marines also has Left 4 Dead-esque moments in which the game just continues to pump aliens in at you from every direction.  Now this is what I want more of!  It should be a game of survival, with you racing to use defenses such as the turrets / welders to survive.  I’m hoping this is the general feel of the game, and the problem areas were more to set the mood for non-Aliens obsessed individuals.

Co-op! Having a friend at your side is such a big plus for me.  Here’s hoping they allow more than two players at once, because forming an alien ass-kicking squad with four people would be great.  Is it becoming too obvious that I really just want Left 4 Dead in the Aliens universe?

Well, Aliens just finished playing, so I should wrap up.  But before I go, one horribly nerdy story: the models at the booth were decked out in Aliens gear.  I’m pretty sure she though I wanted a picture with her, but what I really wanted was to get a picture of myself with the M41A Pulse Rifle.  It’s a personal friend of mine.

Aliens: Colonial Marines will be released in early 2012 for the XBox 360, PC, and PS3.  A version for the Wii-U will be arriving later next year.