E3 2011: Colonial Marines (Impressions)

by: Chuck -
Game: Colonial Marines
Developer: Gearbox
Release Window/Date: 2012

We saw Colonial Marines at lunchtime on the third day of E3, a day when most journalists and presenters are a bit dead from the E3 grind or the parties that go on every night. Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox Software, is not most demo presenters and he had an enviable amount of energy. Honestly I think he had enough energy to power the entire Sega booth as well as a few neighboring booths.

It’s no wonder he’s got that kind of energy though as he’s finally getting to work on an Aliens game, a property that he jokes about stealing from for years. The game he’s trying to build is a true sequel to Aliens and tracks a group of marines that are sent out to find out what happened onboard the Sulaco (the ship from the second aliens film). He’s also doing so with the full blessing of Ridley Scott and the folks at 20th Century Fox and Randy mentioned that they were able to tap into that knowledge base to get all the information and secrets of the series (like what the deal is with the Space Jockey from the first film).

We are given a short montage where we see things going to hell as the ship the marines brought with them (The Sephora) is plummeting through the atmosphere of LV426 along with the Sulaco. The marines escape before the ship crashes and begin to setup base in Hadley’s Hope which is a bit of a mess after Ripley destroyed most of it with by blowing up the atmospheric processor (it WAS the only way to be sure you know). There are some very cool throwbacks to the film like the map table that was used to shore up defense and the appearance of the gun sentries (only seen in the book and the director’s cut of the film) that should make fans of the franchise happy.

What may make fans of the series unhappy is that Gearbox is adding aliens to the canon. This includes bull alien with a flat, bulletproof head that flattened a few marines. I have to admit that its appearance left me a bit cold. I realize that gamers require more than the two types of aliens seen in the film but I had hoped that Gearbox would resist gamifying the series that much. It will be interesting to see what other types of aliens appear in the series but I’m guessing this won’t be an issue for non-purists.

One interesting gameplay mechanism that shown was that the motion sensor wasn’t built into any of the guns shown, it was a separate box that you had to bring up to see separately. It’s a cool idea and game mechanic but I’m wondering if gamers will have flashbacks to Doom 3’s flash light or not.

The demo shown was very good looking and certainly felt like the Aliens universe from the sound of the pulse rifles to the power loaders that were used to fight off a very large horde of enemies at the end of the game.

If it sounds like I’m a bit down on the demo it’s because I’m a bit wary of Aliens games. The franchise is dear to my heart and it’s very easy to muck up. I have faith in the Gearbox thanks to Borderlands but so far they’ve only shown that they’ve gotten the easy stuff, like the sounds and the visuals, down pat. I’m interested to see how they do with the “feel of the game as that’s where most games fall down. How well will they get and maintain that constant claustrophobia and sense of terror that the films had without catering too much to the gaming crowd’s need for achievements and rewards? I guess we’ll find out next spring with the game ships for every possible HD platform.  I’m also hope that I get to eat every negative word I’ve written above.
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