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Aliens: Colonial Marines 360 is a squad based shooter that promises the most well-realised depiction yet of marine versus alien. The role of a space trooper on something other than just another bug hunt fills me with dressup anticipation.
Since watching the Aliens films in the 80's, the terror of colonial marines facing xenomorphs has fascinated me, and I've been intrigued about opportunities to join them in their struggle. Obviously, that would be from the perfectly safe interface afforded by video games. No other science fiction film since has ever quite captured that same feeling of standing against the seemingly unstoppable horde with only their combined courage giving them any hope.
Aliens: Colonial Marines aims to put you in just this situation, as I've followed closely since its announcement three years ago. Last year's Alien Vs Predator attempted to deliver a similar scenario, but ultimately fell flat due to lazy design and perhaps the weakness of the crossover licence. Conversely, Colonial Marines feels like the big budget version that might finally deliver the boyhood scares of those movies.
This time the development falls to Gearbox who are well practised in the art of delivering squad based first person shooters with their Brothers in Arms series.
The story of Aliens forms the backdrop for Colonial Marines with your squad being sent to LV426 to investigate why the colony first went dark and then was engulfed in an explosion that should have ended the alien menace, but things are never that simple.
Sitting down with the developers for a demo recently I felt as nervous as they were - them seeking approval of their approach and myself desperate to understand what this role it might feel like to pick up the pulse rifle.
It included all my childhood wish fulfillment.
Once the lights went out and the sound was cranked up, and I caught my first glimpse of the game proper. It included all my childhood wish fulfillment. The iconic weapon sounds, the motion trackers, the muzzle flashes in the dark and the spray of acidic blood were all delivered. It brought to mind Dead Space and other recent games that have combined space horrors and a high level of visual polish.
Amongst the darkened corridors, the marine squad spread out to secure the area, whilst we waited for the motion trackers to start the inevitable peal of impending chaos and sure enough, the red dots surrounded us and the air filled with shotgun shells and the ear piercing squeals of aliens leaping from the ceiling and floor vents. As well as the signature small arms we also saw the loader exoskeletons, remote sentry guns and the drop ships giving us our full dose of fan service. Whilst the full list of alien variants hasn't been announced, we saw the most well-known including the face-huggers, standard aliens and much larger queen, which was as destructive to our environment as you might expect from a 6m tall mass of Chitinous rage.
A key element of delivering a convincing horror role are the tensio rich slower moments.
A key element of successfully delivering a convincing role to play in this kind of horror shooter are the tension rich slower moments that match the more straight forward action. Unfortunately it's impossible to say whether Gearbox have got this right, since the demo was focused very much on dynamic sequences. When questioned they reaffirmed that this was a first person shooter first and foremost, but there will be elements of exploration and a quiet build of tension.
Sharing the experience with a room full of journalists was never going to be the way to gauge this game. Given my own darkened room (face hugger in a jar optional) and away from the non-stop action, I am hoping that I will finally get to face my childhood terror when this ships early next year.
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