Aliens: Colonial Marines is finally out over more than half a decade of waiting, and the disappointment is real enough to lick. It's a terrible letdown, to the point that this particular Aliens fan -- who buys almost anything Xenomorph related -- refused to make good on his purchase of a Colonial Marines collector's edition. I want that Power Loader statue ... but I never want to touch the game again.
It's a very sad day for Aliens fans. The game we hoped -- and had been told -- would be the ultimate love letter to the franchise turned out to be insulting junk. However, we need not totally despair. As far as licenses go, Aliens games have had a better run than most, and there are some very solid games on the market.
If you were planning on having fun while blasting Xenomorphs today, why not try these worthy alternatives?
I have fond memories of Alien 3. Not the most refined of games, this sidescrolling shooter nonetheless maintains its own unique charm. A nice little soundtrack, an atmospheric (for its time) visual style, and a genuine effort to be authentic as possible within the 16-bit limitations, Alien 3 is worth giving a spin. If you're into vent crawling, ladder climbing, prisoner rescuing and Alien blasting, you'll get your fix right here.
The fact I still remember that stage intro screen after all these years has got to say something!
PlayStation, SEGA Saturn, PC
Okay, Alien Trilogy isn't that good of a game, and it's here mostly for nostalgia. I played the everloving hell out of it when I was a kid, and I recall many a school sick day spent playing this little number. The music still induces a little shiver down my spine.
Trilogy is a fairly basic little DOOM clone. You run around various stages inspired by Alien, Aliens and Alien 3, blasting Alien warriors, Dog Aliens, and excruciatingly annoying Chestbursters. The game's stingy with its ammo and can be pretty damn cheap, which is why I rarely felt shame inputting the famous password: 1GOTP1NK8C1DBOOTSON. That's, "I got pink acid boots on" for those lacking an eye for subtlety. Great cheat name, and the unlimited firepower was certainly nothing to spit at!
You can pick PSOne discs up for peanuts on eBay, and it'll work on your PS3. Worth a spin, if only for reminiscence's sake.
Aliens vs. Predator 2
If I'm quite honest, I never really gelled with any of the Rebellion/Monolith AvP games, but AvP2 is so fondly regarded, I'd not be doing my job if it was omitted from the pile. This game is widely considered the last word in terms of Marine-on-Xenomorph-on-Predator action, with its three-way battles designed to make Preds feel badass, Xenos feel insidious, and Marines shit their pants. In many ways, playing as the terrified and powerless humans was the most fun part of the game. You are gonna die, but sometimes it's hilarious to be so utterly screwed.
I may not have quite appreciated it the way some people did, but I'd be a fool to contest the assertion that it pretty much codified the idea of what an Aliens vs. Predator game should be, and has not been topped by anything in the field. There just doesn't exist a worthy adversary to this particular installment.
Anybody who hangs out with me for any length of time will soon learn one thing -- if there's an Extermination arcade machine in the vicinity, I'm going to find and play it. A few places local to me always seem to boast one of these, and I consider it a failure of a trip if I visit one of these places and don't waste at least one coin.
Extermination is a typical lightgun shooter. You grab your plastic pulse rifle and face the incoming horde of screaming Xenomorphs. It's silly arcade fun that never tries to be anything else, and while it looks pretty dated now, it still offers a pretty good commitment to detail and some cool environments. Plus, who isn't a sucker for a solid plastic-gun-holdy-shooty game?
Aliens vs. Predator
Aliens vs. Predator for arcade is one of those games that really make me hate the dodgy world of licensing. Capcom made this, but SEGA owns the rights to Aliens games, so the chances of it ever getting a re-release are minimal at best. Still, if you can get a chance to play it, do so. It's bursting with character, is entertainingly ridiculous, and delivers some righteous brawler action the only way a Capcom arcade game can.
You get to be either a Marine or a Predator, and face off against an army of increasingly colorful and bizarre Xenomorphs. It's as garish and neon as any nineties brawler could be, and I love it for that fact. The Alien designs are outlandish and strictly nonsensical, but that doesn't stop them from being cooler than they had any right to be. I have a lot of time for this little beauty.
SEGA's run with the license may not be the most glorious chapter of interactive Aliens history, but it is at least responsible for bringing us Aliens: Infestation, a genuinely great scrolling shooter from the fine folks at WayForward. Atmospheric, original, and closer to the spirit of the property than Colonial Marines could ever hope to be, this unique little spin on the Aliens universe is challenging, engaging, and quite a lot of fun.
Players get to switch between four Marines at any one time, and there is a small army of 19 heroes to rescue and play. The twist is that once one of them dies, they're gone for good. If you start growing fond of one (which is possible, as they all have their own neat looks and personalities), you may very well find yourself in mourning.
For a retro-style shooter, Infestation is surprisingly scary. Aliens hit hard, and hit fast, while the dismal environments can be genuinely foreboding. While the difficulty can border on the wrong side of unfair, it at least makes Xenomorphs intimidating, credible threats, returning some of the edge they've lost in the transition from indestructible stalker to mindless bug.