In a cosy theatre in the middle of the South Hall at E3, I had a sneak peak at how Gearbox Softwareâs latest game from the sci-fi horror classic franchise is coming along. Standing to the right of the screen was Gearbox founder, Randy Pitchford, who openly admitted that not only was he a huge fan of the Alien movies; his epic career has been majorly influenced by them.
When you look at Pitchfordâs portfolio of work, including titles like Half-Life, Halo and Duke Nukem, itâs quite clear how much he borrowed from the films. Half-Life had the facehugger like head crabs, Duke Nukem had plenty of Giger-esque visuals and cocooned âbabesâ. Then there were the tough-as-nails sergeant tributes seen in Halo. All of his respect for the Aliens movies certainly makes Pitchford the perfect man to helm a worthy video game adaptation.
Aliens Colonial Marines is a first-person shooter described by Pitchford as a true sequel to Aliens (the second film in the series). It goes back to its roots, following a rag-tag group of âbad-assâ marines, who are part of a search and rescue team sent to investigate the disappearance of Ellen Ripley, Corporal Dwayne Hicks, and the rest of the missing marines who were dispatched to LV-426. Pitchford carefully pointed out all of the intricate (and at times, insanely detailed) features of the game environments, including the U.S.S. Sulaco. There was also a claim that Hadleyâs Hope would appear in the game, which fans might find odd considering it was blown to smithereens in Aliens.
Since Gearbox Software started development on Aliens Colonial Marines, way back in 2006, they have been paying close attention to other sci-fi horror shooters. EAâs highly successful Dead Space games have raised the bar in terms of lighting and atmosphere. In order to keep up, Gearbox have worked on a whole new rendering engine and prioritised dynamic, immersive lighting. When combined with the heart-pounding sound effects and terrifying odds, every footstep in Aliens Colonial Marines will be enough to make your hairs stand on end. All of them, no matter where they are on your body.
On top of the hordes of standard aliens running around on the ceiling trying to eat your face, we were also shown a whole new species of Alien. Conjured up specially for the game, itâs called the âCrusherâ and resembles a huge armour-plated triceratops that moves with devastating speed. The mix of different enemies across wide-open spaces and small claustophobic corridors will be a big selling to point to Colonial Marines. The weaker Aliens will attempt to sneak up or outflank the player, forcing you to use tactics to stay on top of them. Facehuggers will often catch you by surprise, latching onto your face when you least expect it. Alien âRunners" are fast and intelligent, sometimes choosing to watch you from a distance to plot their next move. Of course, you can rely on an appearance from the Queen herself too.
The really surprising feature of Aliens Colonial Marines however was the suggestion that the game will feature drop-in / drop-out multiplayer co-op where up to 4 players can join forces. The details are still sparse, but Pitchford mentioned the concept of working together, planting gun turrets, covering each others six and sealing up doors in an effort to survive waves of in-coming âhostilesâ. At this point it would be safe to say that the entire audience were all imagining screams of âTheyâre in the air-vents!!â or âGame over man! Game over!â.
Aliens Colonial Marines is set for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC releases. But, amazingly, Gearbox have been working on getting it ready for the launch of the Wii U console as well. It doesnât take a genius to realise the perfect opportunity that the hand-held screen presents, making for an ideal movement sonar as seen in the movies. Imagine being hunted by a group of aliens, hearing the ping and having to look down at your controller to figure out where theyâre coming from. It would be every Alien fanâs dream come trueâŚ I mean nightmare come true. And we canât wait.
The Good: No Predators in this one
The Bad: Facehuggers want your babies
The Ugly: HR Giger vision