Most Wanted is something I would like to do as a regular slot. So, as this is the first of many I figured I would write about something special. Aliens: Colonial Marines is shaping up to be great looking game, with quite the production history. And because Most Wanted is about great games of tomorrow that we want today, it is the perfect candidate for us to start off with. You will probably be able to find out all the information on this project on the web, but most wanted is about striving to bring all the information here onto your one stop shop for your informational needs, BoneFishGamer.com. So here it is, all you could ever want to know about Aliens Colonial Marines in one place.
The Back Story
Ok, before we start I would just like to say SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!. Seriously, if you haven’t seen any of the films and don’t want to ruin the storyline, then skip the next bit. On the other hand, if you don’t mind the occasional spoiler, then read on.
Colonial Marines is based on a series of movies from the 70’s 80’s and 90’s, that I have loved from a very young age: The Alien Saga. So I figured this would be a great place for me to start. Because, believe it or not, some people still haven’t seen it yet…. I know! Crazy isn’t it?!?
The first film was directed by Ridley Scott, and was truly a ground breaking horror for its day. Released in 1979, the world was not ready to witness the visceral gore and sheer terror, brought to the screen by Ridley and his monster, that was designed by a Swiss artist called H.R.Giger. Known for his peculiar bio-mechanical art style, Ridley was keen to bring Giger on board for his monster design, knowing that the artist had a creative vision that was truly disturbing, and yet somehow elegant and beautiful at the same time. It was set on a ship called the Nostromo, a cargo ship built by, and working for a company called Weyland Yutani. The crew wake to find that their return trip to Earth has been cut short, when they’re only half way home. The computer (called Mother) has brought them out of hyper sleep to investigate a beacon, coming from a small moon called LV-426. But when they get to the planet, it soon becomes clear that its not a distress signal, its a warning. Three crew members went to investigate the source of the signal, (Dallas, Lambert and Kane), and when they get there, they find a crashed ship. Looking like a giant black wishbone, the ship is clearly not a human vessel. When they get inside, they find a ten foot Alien that is fossilised. This is the space jockey and not part of the same species of Aliens the film is based around. This is the premise for the upcoming prequel/spin off movie being directed by Ridley Scott, which will explain where the aliens come from…well as far as I can tell anyway. Further inside the ship, Kane discovers a huge cavernous room filled with large leathery eggs. Having clearly never seen a horror movie before, Kane decides to get a closer look at one of the them. Suddenly, a parasite jumps out of the egg and attaches its self to his face. After getting him back to the ship, the crew try to remove this “Facehugger”, only to find that it bleeds molecular acid and nearly burns a hole in the hull. After a while the facehugger just seems to detach itself and die. Kane awakens with little to no memory of what happened, and the crew decide to have a last meal before they go back in to hypersleep. During the meal, Kane starts to convulse and suddenly a three foot worm-like alien, bursts out of his chest and skitters away. This scene was extremely graphic for its day, with Ridley using real pigs blood for all the gore, it horrified audiences all over the world. The small Alien doesn’t stay small for long, turning into an 8 foot killing machine, it starts to munch its way through crew of the Nostromo. By the end, Ripley (the lead character), blows up the ship and escapes in an escape pod. Thinking the Alien that killed her crew was dead, she settles into hyper sleep for the journey home. After being a smash hit at the cinema a sequel was inevitable.
This is where James Cameron steps into the picture, and the premise for this game was made. Aliens, the second film in the franchise, was released in 1986 and was considered the best film in the franchise by most people. After floating through space for 57 years, Ripley is picked up by a deep space salvage team and is awakened to find that the company she works for doesn’t believe her story about a killer Alien, (that they sent her and her crew to get without them knowing), and blames her for the loss of the ship and its payload. After her pilots license is revoked, Ripley finds out that Weyland Yutani has set up a terraforming colony on LV-426. Its not long before the proverbial poop hits the fan and they lose contact with the colony. Seeing another chance to get a sample of the Alien for their bio-weapons division, the company convince Ripley to go back to the planet that ruined her life. They say she will get her license back, and she will be re-instated as a pilot. This time though, she wont be alone. She is sent into the fray with a team of battle hardened Colonial Space Marines, to find out what happened to the colony. The Marines quickly find themselves fighting for their lives, in what has become one of the most legendary action, sci-fi, war films of all time. Only four people survive the hellish planet and make it back to the ship. These are, Corporal Hix the highest ranking marine after the rest get killed, half of bishop, a synthetic (Android) who gets ripped in half by the queen, a young girl named Newt, (real name Rebecca Jordan), a survivor from the colony, and of course Ripley.
Alien 3 was released in 1992 and was not received as well as 20th Century Fox would have liked. After leaving LV-426 Ripley and crew again go into hyper-sleep, and have a rude awakening when they are ejected from the ship due to a fire on board. Unfortunately for her, Ripley finds that she has crashed onto a prison planet called Furina (Fury) 161. All the other survivors from the Sulaco are dead and she is the only one left. And, to top it all off, in the climax of the film, she kills her self in an attempt to kill the unborn alien queen that is gestating inside her chest. This is actually where the game kicks in but it will not be featured in the game. I just thought it would be nice to have a bit of back story for the noobs to the series.
I wont say much about this because it has nothing to do with this game. I just couldn’t leave it out after doing the first three. Ripley awakens again, two hundred years later, slightly confused as to why she has woken, because she is meant to be dead. She soon finds out that she is a clone of the original Ripley, made by united systems military using a blood sample from Fiurina 161, in an attempt to bring back the now “supposedly” extinct Alien, or “xenomorph” as they are called. Needless to say this didn’t end well for all involved. This film was again received well enough, but not as well as the first two.
That’s the Alien saga out of the way. But seriously, if you need to read this because you haven’t seen these films, then you need to watch them. Classic cinema from some of the worlds greatest directors….. sorry didn’t mean to gush.
In this section, I would like to give you some info on the game as it developed, because it is a drama in itself. Although Gearbox maintain that there is no connection, it is hard to imagine that this game has nothing to do with a game that was meant to be released for the Playstation 2, also called Aliens: Colonial Marines. This game was to be developed by Check Six Games, and published by Fox Interactive and Electronic Arts but, despite showing a lot of promise, it was cancelled long before it was finished.
After the collapse of this project, nothing was heard of this, or any other game based on series, for a long time. Not until Sega bought the rights to the franchise in December 2006. Sega announced that they were working on two titles, one was to be an FPS and the other was to be a third person RPG, much like Mass Effect. The RPG was still in its early phases when it too was cancelled, but the FPS lived on. Nothing was heard for a long time, until in February 2008, Games Informer splashed the now titled, Aliens: Colonial Marines, on the front cover of the magazine, and gave an early review. It was said in the article that the game was being handled by the competent hands of Gearbox, and that it was to be a direct sequel to the second film, but was actually set after the third. It was to be based on a squad of marines sent to find Ripley and the ill fated crew of the Sulaco, who were stranded on the planet LV-426. After a while with no news, rumours of the games cancellation started to circle the net, but this was neither confirmed nor denied by Gearbox or Sega.
Gearbox, at this time, was working on Borderlands which, when it was released in October of 2009, turned out to be a smash hit in the games sales charts. Although it turns out it wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, it was, in most peoples opinion, a great game that I personally loved. In February of the same year, Sega made things worse by announcing that they were going to be rebooting Aliens vs Predator for the current generation of consoles and the PC. While this was great news for the fans of PC games back in the 90s, it was bad news for ACM (Aliens: Colonial Marines) because AvP (Aliens vs Predator) would be coming out first. On top of this, the sales from AvP would decide the fate of all future titles in the Aliens franchise.
Fortunately for us, when AvP was released in 2010, it shot straight to the top of the charts. But its glory was short lived, as it plummeted to the bottom again a week or two later. Players felt disappointed with the title due to a good, but brief single player campaign, and a flawed multiplayer mode. With the predator being overpowered, unbalancing matches, and a lobby system that left a lot to be desired, AvP bombed. So again, things were looking grim for Colonial Marines. Fortunately enough, the initial sales was enough to convince Sega that there is a market for the Alien franchise. However, it was shortly after this that Gearbox announced that because of the success of Borderlands, they were going to put ACM on the back burner, in favour of working on new DLC (downloadable content) for Borderlands. With some passing comment by Randy Pitchford, stating that they were still going to finish ACM, they just wanted to finish Borderlands first, nothing more was said. Finally, on the 28th of September 2010, the last DLC for Borderlands was released and work resumed on ACM. It was only a month later, on the 28th of October, that Gearbox released some new in-game screen shots at a press conference.
Again, there was a long silence from Gearbox. Sega on the other hand, were busy announcing yet another game they were working on with Total War developer, Creative Assembly. Not much has been said about this title yet, but we’ll bring you the news on it as soon we have some. It was from a Gamer wesite called Kotaku, we finally heard some strange, but good news. On the 26th of May, Kotaku found a package on their desk with a charred dolls head in it. On the back of the head, was carved the name Rebecca. And wouldn’t you know it, when they checked the return address for the package they found it was sent by a Miss Rebecca Jordan. As I stated above, in the section about the second movie, Newt (AKA Rebecca Jordan), carried a dolls head called Casey. Kotaku took this to mean that Aliens colonial marines was to be at E3 2011 and, as it turns out, their guess was correct. It was just days before E3, on May 1st, Gearbox officially announced that ACM would be displayed at the Expo.
Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)
The E3 festival started on Friday the 7th of June, but as far as I can tell, nothing was heard of ACM until Sunday June 9th. It was in a private booth, and was guarded by guys dressed like colonial marines. Pitchford was quick to point out that the 30 minute video of in-game footage was for their eyes only, and if anyone was caught using their phones to send e-mail or take footage, they would be escorted out. While I wasn’t lucky enough to be there to see it, I can give the scoop from the various write ups I have seen.
The Demo showed the first part of the second act, starting with the the marines crash landing on planet LV-426. As they come to Hadley’s Hope, (the colony from the film), it drips with nostalgia. Every detail is faithfully reconstructed, from the sound of the motion tracker bleeping, to the look of the marines themselves, and even the accurate floor plan and look of the colony. Everything is as you remember from the film. This was done purposely by the team at Gearbox, with Pitchford stating “This will be a true sequel to the film”. It’s very clear that the team working on the game are massive fans of the franchise, and are putting a lot of love and care into what is for them, the project of a life time. At one point, the lights suddenly go out and the red emergency lighting comes on, and you know what’s going to happen. Suddenly, the motion tracker beeps to life, and all hell breaks loose. Xeno’s pouring in from all directions, this is straight out of the film and it’s moments like this that really make me excited about the project. It looks and feels like you are interacting with the movie.
The only creative license I have heard about, is the showing of a new type of Xeno, a giant dino size monster that uses it’s head as a battering ram. This worries me a bit as I’m really hoping they don’t take too many liberties with the franchise, but on the hole I trust Gearbox to get it right this time. As the marines fall back through barricades, they find themselves at a dead end and decide to fortify this position. Quickly, they set up auto sentries, and start welding doors shut. But, its not long before the Xenos are on them again. In the ensuing chaos, marines are being killed left and right, and the sound of pulse rifles is constant. When, suddenly in bursts the queen. The massive 16 foot beast looks just like you remember, and she doesn’t waste any time when it comes to the killing. She brutally kills one of your fellow marines, and then turns to you.
This is where the demo ended, but all in all, there is a lot to be excited about. A lot that was in the demo, isn’t just cut scenes or set piece events triggered by invisible walls. This all happens in real time with the Xeno’s thinking about the best way to get to you, and tactically assaulting from both the front and the sides, via vents and other tunnels…….. Oh how I wish I had been there.
Gearbox have decided to use the Unreal 3 game engine for ACM, focusing a lot on lighting to create the appropriate amount of terror. But, the game-play itself won’t be too dissimilar to that of Left 4 Dead, boasting drop-in, drop-out multiplayer, while boosting difficulty on the fly to account for extra players joining the game. It also promotes team work by equipping each of the four playable squad members with certain tools or ability’s. For example, one will have a motion tracker, while another will have a welder to weld doors shut. This forces the squad to work as a team and is expertly handled in single player by letting you change characters with a click of a button. These abilities will come into use a lot in the last stand moments. When this happens, your team will have to scramble to set up defenses, by sealing up doors and setting up auto sentries.
And then they come, the horde of Xeno’s will flood you and your defenses, forcing you to fight for survival. There are even close combat moments that will be handled by QTE’s (Quick time events), which means you have to press the button as it appears on the screen. Most of the fighting will take place at range, though with a whole array of weapons, both from the series, and new to the franchise. Some of the old favourite weapons we can expect to see will be the likes of, the pulse rifle, smart gun and flame thrower. There are supposed to be new guns for the series, but there isn’t much info on this as yet. It is even rumoured that there will be XP driven customisation for the characters. So as you play through, you unlock new armour and things to personalise your look. You will also unlock new perks as you level up, so there is a little bit of an RPG element as well, although this is not that deep apparently.
It is also alleged that there will be a competitive mutiplayer mode, based on a player made mod for Quake 2, called the gloom mod. This was made by fans of Quake, and is a team based death match, style game. I never played it myself, but from what I can gather, there will be class based systems, so some people will be engineers and will be able to set up defenses while others will be medics and can heal their allies. You and your team also get a set amount of re-enforcements, which will decrease every time you lose men. While doing this, you will also have to try and take enemy command posts, with the eventual aim to either kill all enemyies, or take all the command posts, cutting off their re-enforcements. Neither Gearbox or Sega have commented as to whether you will be able to control the Xeno’s in this mode or not, but either way it, sounds like a lot of fun to me.
So there it is, the totality of my knowledge on Aliens Colonial Marines. I think its pretty clear that I am really excited about this project, but I don’t have to say that we have all been burned before with poorly handled games from the Aliens franchise. So I would like to know your opinion on the subject. Will it be a triumphant piece of Xenomorphic genius, or another steaming pile of fail? Let me know in the comments.