E3 2012: Aliens: Colonial Marines Hands-On Multiplayer Preview - Coming Out of the Walls
Written Monday, June 18, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Game over man! They're coming out of the walls! And so on... Almost everyone knows the score when it comes to Aliens, and so too does Gearbox, as Aliens: Colonial Marines is quite clearly a real labour of love for the studio. Every detail from the 1986 movie is fully accounted for, from the iconic sound of a rasping pulse rifle to the shadows of scuttling Xenomorphs flashing across your line of sight. Most importantly, the atmosphere and sense of tension seems to have been nailed, which in multiplayer makes for some fraught encounters with the toothsome, acid-blooded killers.
Set in and around the inhospitable colony of Hadley's Hope on LV-426 on a map fittingly titled 'Last Hope', our experience with Colonial Marines' multiplayer borders on the movie-like, as our team of six marines face off against an opposing team of six aliens controlled by a group from the Gearbox dev team. The Hadley's Hope facility is spot on, with claustrophobic, brilliantly lit interiors open to Xenomorph attack from all angles ensuring you're usually watching your teammates' backs as well as your own.
You have several loadouts to choose from as a colonial marine, giving you a selection of classic aliens weapons, including the M41A pulse rifle (yes), Corporal Hicks' Itchaca M37 12-gauge shotgun (for close encounters), a double-barrelled combat shotgun and others, with a standard issue pistol as your secondary weapon. You can also acquire weapons out in the field, including the M56 smart gun, which packs the same kind of punch it does in the movie, with a scope that tracks your targets.
Teamwork is vital to survival during a multiplayer match in Colonial Marines, as we quickly find out during our hands-on. Xenomorphs can ambush you from almost anywhere, whether it be vents or the ceiling, so sticking together is a far preferable strategy compared to going lone wolf. Chances are you won't last all too long on your own anyway, even if you manage to mow down several aliens in one gung-ho rampage. You're still likely to be pounced upon with a flanking pincer movement, an unexpected drop from the ceiling or a leaping, drooling death from the shadows.
In essence, playing a round of Aliens: Colonial Marines multiplayer is like taking part in a sort of 'what if?' scenario that never made it to the movie screen, with a dirty great nest of Xenomorph eggs to tread carefully around, an eye-catching exterior zone of Hadley's Hope to draw out the aliens into a more open area, and various interior storage rooms and hangars where you and your squad can mount a brave last stand against the opposing team as they lash or charge at you.
Wait a second. Charge? Yes, thanks to Gearbox being given the blessing of 20th Century Fox and the input of concept artist and movie designer Syd Mead, there are new alien breeds to face in Colonial Marines, including the huge Crusher we last saw during our hands-off look at the game during Gamescom last year. In multiplayer, he's a playable Xenomorph and he can ram you into a wall if you get on the wrong end of his big crushing head. No doubt there'll be a few more breeds to try out in multiplayer, beyond the classic Xenomorph we all know and love.
Playing as a marine, it's heartening to find that each weapon feels suitably weighty and lethal. Having shot down several aliens using it (counting towards one of the XP boosting weapon challenges, no less), we now fully understand why Hicks kept that 12-gauge on him and realise why you should only ever fire a pulse rifle in short, controlled bursts. Blast a Xenomorph in the face with either weapon a couple of times and it won't be doing any more shrieking, drooling or face-chomping. Just look out for that nasty corrosive blood, won't you?
Classic Team Deathmatch with a Xenomorph twist, Aliens: Colonial Marines' multiplayer is intense stuff, while the Last Hope map is an impeccably designed location with small corridors, foreboding caves and as we've already mentioned in passing, exemplary lighting. The tension the game also manages to ratchet up while you're holding up your weapon as you consult your beeping motion tracker is a faithful and brilliant touch right out of the classic movie too, and the overall attention to detail in replicating the recognisable weapons, items and creatures is superb. Keeping an eye on the tracker is an integral part of the Aliens universe, and having it mapped to a button that leaves you momentarily vulnerable as red dots move inexorably closer and closer makes you feel as close to being a colonial marine as you'd ever want to be.
Whether this eye for the little details that really matter will extend to the other multiplayer maps on offer is unknown (because we haven't played them), but you can bet the campaign will be looking to please even the most die-hard Aliens fans. It'll even go as far as bridging the gap between Aliens and Alien 3, with Gearbox promising to clarify certain preceding events that transpire during the opening of the third divisive film. Now that's fan service. Add 4-player co-op support for the campaign, and more than a few sly nods to the movies including Lance Henriksen as Bishop, and you have a recipe for a truly great movie-based game. Now there's something we never thought we'd say.
Aliens: Colonial Marines will be hatching on February 12th, 2013.