Aliens: Colonial Marines has the blessing of 20th Century Fox to create an official Aliens story, recognized as part of the franchise in a way that comic books, past games, and even some of the movies have not. Gearbox has an impressive amount of creative freedom, and aims to use that to delve deeper into the universe. The key, however, is maintaining a sense of mystery.
"All the best stuff in Aliens is not over-explained," lead writer Mikey Neumann informed me. "The people telling the story understand exactly what it is, but they hint at it."
This mentality is something Neumann holds dear to his heart when tackling the script for Colonial Marines. The game will delve a little deeper into the life cycle of the Xenomorphs, and even dabble with the potential for mutation, but players won't get to know exactly what's going on.
"We have a lot more going on with different types of Xenomorphs," he explained. "Alien 3 flirted with that a little bit with the Dog Alien, and we explore that a little bit. We explore what happens in seventeen weeks, what they evolve into, especially with the atmosphere processor exploding, and radiation, what does that do?
"We did a lot to make sure all the Xenomorph types make sense, but not to over-explain them. We don't even really talk about what the radiation is doing, it's just kind of there."
One thing Neumann is incredibly proud of is the fact that, aside from exploring the theme of Alien diversity, he has also been able to add an official new element to the Xenomorph's parasitic life cycle. The iconic way in which the Aliens breed will gain a fresh new idea, all thanks to this game.
"I did get to submit some canonical stuff about the life cycle of the Alien. I added to that, in what I thought was a really clever way, and it's cool. I totally submitted shit that is now canonical Alien life cycle stuff. I can talk at Comic-Con and be, 'Ha ha, I'm an expert! Me and like, two people!' No, it's fucking awesome.
"It doesn't hit you until you're sitting here, talking to Destructoid. It's all true, it's not a dream, it's real, I did that."
When Neumann talks about his writing duties on Colonial Marines, the sense of pride in his voice is impossible to miss. This is a guy who cares about Aliens as much as I do (most of our interview was wasted due to our having nerdy conversations about the merits of Alien Resurrection) and he wants to treat this series right. He cannot emphasize enough the idea that to do an Aliens story right, you need a sense of mystery.
"The biggest mistake anyone touching the canon can do is over-explain everything," he stressed. "Like, cutting to Xeno-Vision would be a fuck-up. We do learn a lot about what [the Xenomorphs] are and what they can do. We've gotten a lot of questions about how the atmosphere processor blew up [at the end of Aliens]. Well, there is more than one hive. LV-426 is a porous, cave-like planet with mad amounts of space.
"So it's like, 'How many hives are there? How do they stay warm in the cold? Do they eat anything? It's one of those, 'Do you answer this question?' things. Because they don't fucking eat anything! In any of the movies! I think the only thing it ever kills, in any of the movies, with its little mouth, is ... there are two kills in Resurrection. But the little mouth doesn't really do anything! All these questions are interesting, but God what an asshole I'd be if I said, 'No, they eat carrots!' I have no idea what they eat."
I pointed out during our conversation that the awful Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem did attempt to show a Xenomorph eating a person with its little mouth. Neumann just got angry.
"You know what? I am going to shit on that movie. It felt like really bad fan fiction. Like, "OKAH AH MAHK A ALIENTH VERTHAH PRED'TAH!' Seriously, it was fan fiction, and they can quote me. They can call me up, whatever. I didn't enjoy it."
Like I said, the man cares about his Aliens!