Aliens: Colonial Marines, by Gearbox Interactive for Sega
Before I analyze this video, I wanna establish a few things… I am a super-fan the Alien films. All of them. Including Alien3 and Resurrection. I enjoyed AvP and stomached Requiem. I’m ecstatic about Prometheus even if it conceptually veers from the Xenomorph path of the other movies. I am also an avid FPS player. I played most of the big franchises (Halo and Battlefield being my faves), and my love for POV goes back to the interior sections of Rescue and Friday the 13th (both on NES, look them up). I also love a good multiplayer game, it’s my main vice for gaming these days. With all that in mind, and this is not a review, here’s what I think about this gameplay video.
As this game is a work in progress, I wanna point out two things that caught my eye within seven seconds of play; a) This game looks sharp, sharper than 2010’s Alien vs Predator but b) This game doesn’t move nearly as well. The animation looks choppy, and instantly reminded me of Turok 2 on N64. The game is not done, I understand that, but I really hope they didn’t work on getting the game looking ‘screenshot’ ready rather than moving well. Hi-res is nowhere near as important to me as a smooth gameplay experience. Hopefully the movement will complement the visuals with more dev time.
The environments look good, very reminiscent of the set-pieces in Aliens. The lighting sets the mood, and the beeping of that motion tracker gets me every time. And on the motion tracker, you have to pull it up yourself. There is no HUD, and that isn’t some missing asset from an unfinished build – this video is what you’ll get. So the tension is there, and you can feel it in the video…
My issue is whether or not the marines are too capable. I won’t even touch the questionable ability to aim down your gun’s sights, and how that always seems out of place in a sci-fi shooter, but you can sprint as well. And you have melee. AvP also had melee, but as a part of an inspired melee system (that I enjoyed a lot). This game could have differentiated the abilities of humans and aliens further by giving the humans no melee capability at all. For one it’s well established that the xenomorphs can and will beat humans in a straight-up one on one, but gameplay wise I don’t wanna think I have some offensive option against a xeno other than my shotgun up close. You can’t whack a xenomorph back, you should be terrified one got that close.
Taking a page from Left 4 Dead’s competitive multiplayer, there will be special Alien types to face. In the video we see what may be a Bull Alien, which acts like the Tank Zombie in L4D. That’s cool, but does a conceptually offensive xenomorph type betray the mood they’re setting out for in this game? I’m looking down dark corridors and air ducts for these bastards, and here’s one you can’t miss. Perhaps this makes for a challenge and a nice break for the alien player, so maybe it works out – I just don’t find it fitting overall.
There’s more than a few Call of Duty tropes here. The sight aiming I covered, but there’s also an ‘X’ hit indicator for the marines. Honestly, aside from acid blood splatter, I would leave player in the dark as to whether their shots landed or not. Going with the theme of immersion and no HUD, I would not have had a hit indicator letting players know they’re doing damage. I always fancied this function something for realistic shooters to show contact in a game where part of the tension and satisfaction was landing a shot. It also helps you lead and land shots against other gunmen. In this game? Way too much assistance.
The Aliens appear to have this stealth kills and pounce moves that is sure to startle players who aren’t using their radars. I like them, though they don’t seem as slickly implemented as in AvP. They also seem kinda long, which led to issues in AvP’s multiplayer that Gearbox has a chance to improve on here.
I like the video and despite how I sound here, I am looking forward to playing this. I point these things out because I care, and I wanna have the best experience I can with this awesome franchise.