Games based on the Alien movies and its many offshoots have been around for a while, with the PC versions of Aliens vs Predator having many fond memories, sadly slightly dashed by the recent release under the same name. Rather than throw more to the mix Gearbox have gone with the less is more approach, with a game based on the exploits of the Colonial Marines returning to LV426 to find out just watch happened to the last bunch of grunts during James Cameron's Aliens.
At the Eurogamer Expo there was a chance to try out the multiplayer element of Colonial Marines, a 5 vs 5 Team Deathmatch, Marines vs Aliens. To add a little challenge to the demo it was visitors playing as the Marines and developers playing as the Aliens, an unfair advantage made even worse as when queuing for a game you have to witness just how good these guys and gals are, with the sounds of screeches from the Aliens as they tear apart the soft and fleshy Marines, who in turn scream in absolute terror. Watching the Aliens at work you can tell a lot of effort has been put into the movement and general feel for the character, jumping around walls and ledges and using its blade-like tail to impale wandering Marines. The hive mind of the Alien has also been implemented really well, with Aliens able to detect each other by glowing outlines showing their positions, allowing for some devious teamwork to gang up on the unsuspecting victims. This form of hive communication is taken one step further with the ability to even show Marines in hiding, basically if an Alien can see them, they all can. The slow walk towards imminent death as a Marine worsened with the introduction of an Alien Queen to the mix, though not clear how she was unlocked this is one tough mother that sports a brutal charge move, killing pretty much anything in its wake.
Finally it's my teams turn to take on the Alien hive in a level very similar to the layout seen in the Aliens movie, with lots of corridors and walkways requiring close quarters fighting, not ideal when our enemy has acid for blood. Atmosphere is key here and Colonial Marines has it by the bucket load with pulsing lights, shadows and a great level design, you just don't know from what dark crevice or hole a Xenomorph will pop out from, making you constantly on edge.
A vital tool that has not really worked well in previous games is the motion tracker which thankfully isn't a disappointment here with you actually being able to quickly swap with a weapon so it's not a hindrance and in the level I played turned out vital to decipher if what I see in front of me is a shadow or incoming death.
Going for a classic weapons load-out of a pulse rifle, shotgun and a pistol it becomes clear very quickly that the key to winning as a Marine is sticking together, separate and those Aliens will tear you apart and even with all that firepower it was a challenge, quickly dropping the erratic fire of the rifle and going for the more satisfying one shot one kill of the shotgun, running the risk of an acid bath but getting plenty of kills.
Sadly, just as I start to get a feel for the level and all the weapons its game over and even though I managed an impressive 11 kills for my squad of five it still was not good enough to top the leaderboards, missing out on a rather cool looking t-shirt (just in case you are feeling generous Gearbox, I'm a XL)
Being a fan of all things Alien, this seems more on target then the previous AvP title; let's just hope the single player is as full of scares as the multiplayer.
Words by Ash Buchanan.