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The Game Effect News

PAX East 2012: Aliens: Colonial Marines Hands-On

Single player sizzles but the multiplayer is hotter than zenomorph acid

By Daniel Jones on 4/9/2012
There were some excellent booths at PAX East this year. Fans were able to check out some of their most anticipated games in huge booths with eye catching displays, but none of the demo experiences were quite as fantastic as the one Sega and Gearbox supplied for Aliens: Colonial Marines. Along with the stand-out display, fans who stuck it out through the long wait were treated to a screening of a single player demo and then got a chance to meet with some of the developers and play against them in a round of multiplayer. Being able to play against the developers was certainly a highlight of the show for many people but how did the game actually play?

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Luckily, Aliens: Colonial Marines played great. The game is a canon sequel to the film Aliens. The plot involves a crew of Colonial Marines that has been sent to the planet LV-426 to rescue the survivors and wipe out the xenomorph threat. The single player demo showed off a sequence on the spaceship Sulaco in which the crew first encounters the alien creatures.

The first thing we noticed in the demo was that the game literally oozes atmosphere. The ship looks just like it did in the movie, with wires hanging, lights flashing, and xenomorph ooze dripping down the walls. Jump scares abound in the demo we saw, and the aliens moved with a natural flow to their animations, hunting and stalking the player. The acting was on par with the film, which is to say it was suitably over-the-top.

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Gearbox is working hard to make this an authentic Aliens experience. The team brought in franchise and Hollywood veteran Sid Mead to help design the parts of the Sulaco that weren't shown in the film. The story is canon, so the writers feel a deep responsibility to make an accurate portrayal of the universe and characters. Small details such as familiar locations and names on lockers recalling characters from the film are designed to provide fan service. Overall the single player demo will impress fans of the series but we came away feeling slightly underwhelmed.

On the other hand, the multiplayer impressed us with it's frantic human vs. xenomorph action. After choosing our loadouts, we started the match. Our team of six took the role of the marines while the developers played the role of the xenomorphs. Pickups were scattered around the map that players could use to unlock new abilities such as a smart gun for the humans and a Crusher xeno for the aliens. This beast suits its name with the ability to charge at the humans and run over them like a dump truck, but its limited mobility made it easy to handle from a distance.

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The mobility of the xenomorphs is their greatest strength and also what makes the multiplayer stand out. As the humans, our team had to stick together to survive and often found ourselves shoved in a corner while xenos clamboured towards us through the vents, on the ceilings or on the walls. Smart players used the xenomporphs in packs to overwhelm the marines much like the zombies in Left 4 Dead. Some of this may conjure negative memories of last year's Dead Space 2 multiplayer, but whereas that game was saddled with awkward mission objectives and cramped level design, Aliens has a much nicer flow to the matches.

We were not able to get our hands on the xenomorphs to see how they handled in the multiplayer, but from the human point of view, the matches were fast paced, frightening, and hectic. Likewise, we weren't able to get a hands-on with the single player or the co-op but the multiplayer was a great experience from start to finish that left us wanting to play more. If that's not a good sign, we don't know what is. Keep an eye out for Aliens: Colonial Marines when it hits Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC this fall.
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KrazyTaco1 on April 16, 2012
This movie scared me a ton.
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quantifier on April 10, 2012
This is a series I definitely like seeing made into video games. Great background, characters, creatures. All of that sets it up for gaming gold. Hopefully this one comes through for the franchise.
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