Aliens: Colonial Marines preview: Sweet torture for the senses

Aliens: Colonial Marines Xbox 360

Aliens: Colonial Marines, the video game sequel to James Cameron’s ship that launched a thousand space-marines-versus-monsters adventures, has a solid premise: Seventeen days after Lt. Ellen Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo disappear from the alien-infested planet LV-426, the 400-strong US Colonial Marine battalion aboard the spaceship Sephoro set out to investigate. When they arrive to rescue their comrades, they find the private military of the Weiland-Yutani corporation on site trying to cover up their attempt to secure aliens as biological weapons. The forces clash and subsequently crash to the planet below, where you control a marine stuck in a desolate place under familiar, dangerous, bitey circumstances.

The set up is strong, and developer Gearbox Software’s pedigree in games about shooting stuff is equally brawny, but when Digital Trends last spent time with Aliens: Colonial Marines, we came away concerned. It looked like Aliens and sounded like Aliens—right down to early game set pieces yanked right out of the movie with weapons like the pulse rifle firing off perfectly muted shots—but something didn’t feel right. The aliens themselves, so vicious in the movies that only one could decimate entire ship crews and prison colonies, didn’t seem very threatening. The action looked slow during Gearbox’s guided demo.

As is so often the case with video games, playing is a whole lot different than watching.

Aliens: Colonial Marines PlayStation 3

Sitting down with Gearbox for a twenty-minute session of Colonial Marines, those first impressions washed away. The game doesn’t just look and sound like Aliens. It feels like Aliens. The playable portion picked up very close to where the guided demo from October ended, with you and a few marines trying to secure the command center of the Hadley’s Hope colony. The colony’s seen better days. Not only is it still ruined from when the colonists and Sulacco marines tried to stop the aliens from turning it into a vile hive, but the walls are now blown out from the terraforming reactor exploding at the end of the movie. You’re trying to get the power running, but are also setting up motion detectors in the area to let you know when the locals are coming.

Then they come. In the previous demo, the aliens were right in the open, just waltzing up to the person playing and waiting to be shot. When I played, though, they were fast and hard to follow, even after tapping the left bumper on an Xbox controller to use a motion tracker to nail their position. (The motion tracker adds great tension since you can’t fire while it’s out.) I knew the vicinity of where the aliens were, but there were times when I’d turn and only see a spiked tail darting away on the ceiling. And these were just the basic scrub enemies.

Aliens: Colonial Marines Wii U

I had access to the full range of twelve guns in the game, a range of upgradable pistols, shotguns, and pulse rifles alongside some special weapons like Ripley’s duct taped flamethrower-rifle combo, but gravitated towards the shotgun for this first fight. This tactic wasn’t wholly sound since the enemies do in fact have acid for blood. The splash damage from the aliens wiped out my armor quickly. Back in the command center’s main room, I found that using secondary weapons like a taser to stun aliens and then shooting them from a distance was more efficient, at least until a few of them flanked me. All told, it was a tense fight.

After that was a trip into the bowels of the colony and it was here that Colonial Marines became excellent. Just one marine accompanied me into a section of the hive not featured in the movie. The game is quiet and dark through this portion, almost silent save the soft clicks of your motion tracker. A slightly different type of alien lived down here. Travelling in pairs, one will try to distract you while the other attacks from behind. I actually saw one hiding in a corner but it didn’t move. A Gearbox producer actually told me this was a glitch, but when I got closer, the alien sprung from the wall on top of me, forcing me to jab the ‘X’ button to get it off. Meanwhile my AI partner was in a tense fight with this alien’s cohort. He managed to fight it off, but I was told that was a rare occurrence, that if I didn’t rush to help him he would have been incapacitated, killed, or worse still, dragged off into the hive to be impregnated with a new alien. When asked if saving taken marines was a big part of the game, Gearbox replied with a coy, “Maybe.”

Aliens: Colonial Marines PC

Demanding frantic skirmishes and anxiety-fueled scrambles through the dark are the core ingredients of Aliens, but they’re nothing without unpredictability, and this promised dynamism gives me great hope for the finished game. It’s not just the potential for partners to die or be taken by the aliens that’s random and unpredictable either. Ammo and health drops are randomly placed in the environment each time you play so you can’t rely on planned boosts when you turn the game back on. Uncertain circumstances fuels doubt about your survival and that’s key for nailing the tone of the series. After five years of development, Aliens: Colonial Marines is shaping up nicely.

Gaming

Once the dust settles, 'Fallout 76' will be a nuclear wasteland worth exploring

The launch of Fallout 76 has been nothing short of apocalyptic, but that doesn’t mean the game is dead on arrival. Bethesda has a path forward, paved by The Elder Scrolls Online, another game that suffered a rocky start.
Product Review

‘Just Cause 4’ is mindless fun that leaves little room for much else

Just Cause 4 revels in explosions and over-the-top action, but its world feels empty and hollow. With few new ideas and a stale open world, it's a fun but shallow piece of escapism.
Gaming

It's dangerous to go alone! Have fun with friends in our favorite co-op games

Video games don't always have to be so brutal, dog-eat-dog experiences! Here are some of our all-time favorite co-op games across a range of platforms, genres, and difficulties.
Gaming

Joker from ‘Persona 5’ will take your heart in ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’

Joker, the leader of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts from Persona 5, will arrive to Super Smash Bros. as its first DLC character. The announcement was a surprising one, because Persona 5 is a PlayStation 4 exclusive.
Gaming

‘Magic: The Gathering’ enters esports relevance with $10 million prize pool

Wizards of the Coast is pushing Magic: The Gathering into esports relevance with a prize pool of $10 million across the tabletop version and Magic: The Gathering Arena. Will the game be able to compete with Hearthstone and Overwatch?
Deals

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for December 2018

Looking to score Nintendo's latest hybrid console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals right here, including discounts on stand-alone consoles, as well as bundles that feature games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Gaming

Get some bang for your buck with these Nintendo Switch console deals at Walmart

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are in the past, but you can still get some bang for your buck on game consoles before the holiday season is done. Walmart has various Nintendo Switch bundles on sale right now.
Gaming

‘CS:GO’ goes free-to-play and players are not happy about it

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), has gone free-to-play this week in a controversial move. Players are angry that the problem of cheating will get much worse now that anyone can make a disposable account to play.
Gaming

The most common Xbox One X problems, and how to fix them

The Xbox One X is a brilliant console, but it's not without its issues, ranging from simple annoyances to severe hardware problems. Here are common Xbox One X problems and how to fix them.
Gaming

How to delete and reinstall games on your Xbox One

Removing and reinstalling games on the Xbox One's hard drive isn't difficult, but it's a process that not everyone is familiar with. Thankfully, our guide will run you through each step so you'll know precisely what to do.
Gaming

‘Street Fighter V’ players will get bonuses if they allow in-game ads

Capcom will show in-game advertisements on Street Fighter V starting December 11. Players may choose to deactivate the ads, but they will miss out on some bonuses and content if they do so.
Gaming

‘The Walking Dead: The Final Season’ returns with Episode 3 next month

Skybound Games revealed the release date for Episode 3: Broken Toys of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead: The Final Season. Clementine's story will be getting the ending that it deserves after all.
Gaming

Take-Two Interactive takes down another ‘GTA Online’ modder, seeks $150K

Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games have filed a lawsuit against the GTA Online modder behind the software named Elusive. The publisher is continuing its crackdown against GTA Online mods.