Title: Aliens: Colonial Marines
Developer: Gearbox Software
Release: February 12th 2012 (North America/European Union)
Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U
Format previewed: Xbox 360
In recent years, few games seem to have been delayed for as long as Aliens: Colonial Marines and even mentioning this game on some forums now will launch comparisons with 2011's critically damned Duke Nukem Forever, particularly as both titles carry the Gearbox label. However I can confidently say that aside from a few minor issues and the presence of evil alien enemies, the similarities seem to end there.
In the initial opening stages of Colonial Marines which I played today, the action takes place on the U.S.S. Sulaco shortly after the events of the first Alien movie and the Colonial Marines have been dispatched on a rescue mission with all occupants of LV-426 assumed dead. From the very beginning the development team's homage to the movies which inspired this game become evident with the bottom half of the treacherous android Bishop strewn across the docking bay and areas of the level such as floor grates left as they were by the now absent, and assumingly deceased, crew.
The protagonist is advised to simply get in and rescue the target however plans inevitably go quickly awry and the player is dragged along on a mission to secure data leading to a fight for survival against all manner of Xenomorphs, Facehuggers and opposing human mercenaries.
Visually, Colonial Marines is unlikely to win many awards. Like many titles which share a similarly long development cycle, the graphics really show their age compared with some of the more impressive titles from recent years however obvious care has been paid to the trademark off-white aesthetic and lighting which helps to gloss over some of the occasionally ropey detail and bland low-resolution textures. The audio design on the other hand is superb and anybody with a great sound system or paid of surround headphones is bound to be immediately impressed. The Xenos let out life-like and horrifying screams, Facehuggers scuttle in the distance, clattering with the surfaces and scenery and the legendary sounds of the motion sensor and pulse rifle will evoke feelings of nostalgia in any fan of the franchise.
The AI is also similarly impressive, the Xenos will hunt in packs and work together to outflank the player, climbing along the walls and ceilings. AI companions seem capable of handling themselves realistically although notably the initial mission which I played involved several instances of defending your AI team mate whilst they cut open a door and in almost every case the enemies seemed to target the human player, even walking directly past my AI team mate on one occasion. The now industry-standard regenerating health bar is ever present however acid blood splashes and spit from the Xenos will impact harm upon the player, causing health to regenerate more slowly and damaging armor and to recover health completely after taking massive damage will require a medi pack which are only sporadically placed on normal difficulty.
Overall, this looks like it could be the most promising Aliens tie-in since the original Aliens Vs. Predator games on the PC and whilst my initial time with the game failed to invoke the kind of fear and terror which I experienced with something like Dead Space, Colonial Marines could still turn out to be the game which Aliens fans have been so patiently waiting for since this current generation began.
Images courtesy of Destructoid