First Look – Aliens: Colonial Marines

By Dan Grill on June 21st, 2011 at 12:00 pm.


When I was over at Heatwave earlier in the year, checking out Gods & Heroes, a huge bug cropped up during Scrum. The team stopped gabbing. The silence of clever people racking their brains filled the room. From the back came a lone grunt, followed by “nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” That’s how pervasive Aliens is, especially in games. The movie was fundamentally different from its subtle, stealthy predecessor Alien, owing more to Robert Heinlein’s book “Starship Troopers” or Night of the Living Dead, than Giger’s disturbingly sexual xenomorph. “It’s the game I’ve been ripping off my whole career” says the effusive and ubiquitous Randy Pitchford of Gearbox, demoing Aliens: Colonial Marines, “we put facehuggers in Duke Nukem 3D and working on the Half-Life series with its head-crabs and when we helped Microsoft bring Halo to PC, there’s the dropships and the sergeant is basically Apone. Yet we’ve never had a sincere, true sequel to it in videogame form”.

Apart from Rebellion’s amazing first attempt at Aliens versus Predator, I have to add.

Colonial Marines has been built with an entirely new engine – Pitchford describes it as an attempt to raise the bar with dynamic lighting and real-time shadows. “We love the dark corridors of games like Dead Space and we want to push it to a whole new level… Aliens is a team sport with the highest stakes. Squad-based tactics with survival horror, and it’s all canon.” Up to four players can play together and drop in and out during the campaign, and you take the part of the elite Marines, with their huge arsenal of ludicrous weaponry.

The game takes place after the events of Aliens, but brings us back to LV-426, exploring the wreckage of the colony Hadley’s Hope, finding the derelict spaceship where the crew of the Nostromo first encountered the alien eggs in Alien, and boarding the abandoned Sulaco. Our demo however starts with the marines waking from deep sleep into an evacuation scenario, there’s a crash… and three of them wake up on the planet, separated from the main team. Just another glorious day in the corps. A bit of mildly witty dialogue and they’re off, into the station.


The tension music builds as they walk through the damaged operations centre of Hadley’s Hope and we get a chance to look out over the colony. It’s a total wreck, with the familiar shell of the atmospheric processor that blew up at the end of Aliens squatting in the middle, like a popped blister the size of Nebraska. “Here we’re going to discover what happened to Hudson, Burke and all those guys who were left behind; but we’re also going to uncover new secrets.”

As we turn away from the window, that familiar, traumatising beeping starts up, getting faster. Yep, the motion tracker’s back. One of your teammates is dragged upwards, horrifyingly, as the aliens swarm everywhere, out of the ceiling, the floor, the panelling, the goddamn walls. Though they’re fast, they’re not as fluid and relentless as they were in the movies or AvP, but this is still early in development.

The protagonist kills a few with short, controlled bursts, then beats off an alien with his machine gun’s butt (not bad for a human) and runs for it, following his remaining squaddie out of the window and into the piles of wreckage from the explosion. There we encounter an entirely new type of alien – larger than AvP’s Praetorians, a great battering ram of an alien, with a huge wedge-shaped armoured head. Predictably, your small arms fire just bounces off this huge carapace.

It starts smashing through the wreckage after our fleeing soldiers and, thankfully for us, is distracted by one of our NPC squadmates, who it flattens before we can even shout “get away from her, you bitch”. Dodging past it, we run into a blockhouse and slide under the door just as it’s shutting. The giant Alien slams into the door, but can’t quite batter it down. Inside is temporary calm, in a hanger with a large number of marines getting into defensive positions in the hope of help arriving. The tracker shows the monster Alien retreating. I feel safer already.


The acting sergeant orders us to support a grunt named Bronson, who’s defending the lower passageway. We descend beneath the hanger and set up a sentry gun, just as aliens start pouring up the corridor. We hear shooting up above as well, and the enemies just keep coming. After a minute of bloody confusion in this express elevator to hell, Bronson is dragged away and we’re ordered back upstairs, leaving the sentry behind. In the hanger, it’s chaos; everyone’s being overrun. We just got our asses kicked. We choose to flee, heading for the APC at the back of the base. The lights go out and Pitchford moans “what the hell, they cut the power, man.”

In the back room, it’s last stand time. so they’re getting a cargo exoskeleton ready, attaching flamethrowers to it, setting up sentries and checking their nukes, knives and sharp sticks. It won’t make any difference; we’re all gonna die. Aliens pour in from all directions and despite the the flying lead, they overwhelm the troopers; the exoskeleton staggers down with aliens all over it, just as the tank Alien burst through the wall. It pauses, pensively crushing a marine in one of its four arms, then lollops over to us, grabs us and screams triumph in our face.

Game over, man. Until Spring 2012, that is.

(And, yes, I filled that preview with Aliens quotes. Can you spot them all?)

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89 Comments »

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  1. poop says:

    hope this game isnt too fanservicey

  2. CMaster says:

    I’m confused by the switch from “they” to “we” and mixing of speaking as in character and as an observer here. Did you play the game Dan, or just watch Randy play? Is there really any deciding going on, or is this just CoD style dramatic scripted experience (which is probably the best way to do Aliens, mind)

  3. Premium User Badge

    mpk says:

    My inner fanboy is screaming at the mention of a new kind of alien. My outer fanboy is drooling with anticipation. If it’s as good as Borderlands, I’ll be happy.

    (Yes, I did, for I am the ultimate badass.)

  4. FakeAssName says:

    oh for fucks sake, it’s based off of the kenner line of Aliens action figures:

    http://www.toyarchive.com/Aliens/Toys/AliensFigures.html

    … gimme a fucking break man, how many more classic products from the 80’s & 90’s are they gonna give to these guys to fuck up?

    • Nallen says:

      Queen Facehugger? What the fail?

    • Spacewalk says:

      I got a bad feeling about this drop.

    • FakeAssName says:

      exactly, though truth be told that one was nowhere near as bad as any/all of the humans.

      I did have the Scorpion figure as a kid, but I had to dig long and hard to find it, and the only reason I put in the effort was because it was too painful for there to actually be Aliens toys yet all of them suck.

      anyone else read this and constantly think, gee that sure sounds like something from “Natural Selection 2″ only minus the alien gameplay and strategy stuff.

      http://www.naturalselection2.com/

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I am fully in favour of Night Cougar Alien.

    • Premium User Badge

      lurkalisk says:

      I am confused by this mention of NS2…

    • FakeAssName says:

      Sorry: “anyone else read this article and think of NS2?”

  5. Moni says:

    I got, apart from the obvious ones in quotes:

    “I feel safer already.” – Can’t remember who says that.
    “express elevator to hell” – Someone talking about the dropship.
    “We just got our asses kicked.” – After escaping to the APC.
    “It won’t make any difference. We’re all gonna die.” – Newt when they’re trying to work out a plan.

    • FakeAssName says:

      the first three were hudson.

    • frenz0rz says:

      You forgot “short, controlled bursts”.

      The pulse rifle is one of the best sounding weapons ever imagined.

    • Premium User Badge

      mpk says:

      “Just another glorious day in the corps” – Apone (paraphrased, iirc)
      “the goddamn walls” – Hudson
      “short, controlled bursts” – Hicks
      “nukes, knives and sharp sticks” – Hudson
      “Game over, man” – Hudson again.

    • Baboonanza says:

      “what the hell, they cut the power, man.” – Vasques I think

    • Premium User Badge

      Sinomatic says:

      Not bad for a human – Bishop

    • Griddle Octopus says:

      Excellent work. :D

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      We won something, right? Like, say, fish? Fish sounds good?

      Where’s our fish Brendy? WHERE’S OUR FISH? O_O

    • anotherman7 says:

      I’ve picked out most of these and have never seen an Alien movie. I’m a boss.

  6. frenz0rz says:

    Crikey, you mean to say that they came out of the goddamn walls?

  7. westyfield says:

    Really looking forward to this game, the recent AvP game was a big disappointment – Left 4 Dead with Aliens sounds good to me!
    I only saw Aliens a few weeks ago, I think I got all the quotations as it’s fresh in my memory.

  8. Nallen says:

    I guess she doesn’t like the cornbread either.

  9. Premium User Badge

    MajorManiac says:

    Sounds exciting, but I was thinking this would be a little more like a sci-fi version of SWAT 4. The tension would have been insane.

    • Ian says:

      That’s the impression I’d got from the original previews.

      This still sounds like it could be good, mind.

    • subedii says:

      Sci-Fi SWAT 4 is all about controlling the aliens with harsh language.

    • CMaster says:

      Thing is, SWAT 4-style, as fun as it might be, isn’t really anything like Aliens.
      Aliens featured a bunch of yahoos with high tech equipment completely unprepared to deal with an actual enemy and careering around without a plan. SWAT is all about being a high disciplined, highly prepared team executing a plan (albeit often an improvised one) very methodically.

    • Ian says:

      CMaster: You’re right, I guess what I’d thought was one turning into the other. Like, initially trying to work toward wherever the queen is (or perhaps it being L4D-style maps and that ALWAYS being what you’re doing.) So at first you’re dealing with smaller numbers, having time to scan and sweep rooms in a bit more organised fashion before you got to the point where planning wasn’t going to happen as you get swarmed.

      This was all based on nothing more than my own random speculation, obviously.

  10. Redcoat-Mic says:

    Aliens owes more to Starship Troopers?

    The movie maybe but the book? Where in Aliens do they all sit down and start discussing civic responsibility?

    • viverravid says:

      James Cameron had all the actors read Starship Troopers as part of their pre-filming boot camp.

      Unfortunately he had to cut the mess room morality and civics discussions from the released version.

    • Nick says:

      How exactly do you propose Aliens could have owed anything to Starship Troopers the movie? Obviously the book.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      “Unfortunately”?

    • JurassicPork says:

      Fail -Aliens is like 15 years before the Troopers movie.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Sinomatic says:

    Total aside: they should make a wii u version where the motion tracker is displayed on the controller-tablet-thingy*.

    *technical term

    • FakeAssName says:

      aren’t they?

      I remember reading about something to do with the motion tracker being on the controller-tablet-thingy, and a VG journalist complaining about how that would screw up gameplay because you gotta take your eyes off the game to look at it vs having the more functional standard (though much less gimmicky) of having it up on the hud.

      … or maybe they were just using that as an example.

    • Premium User Badge

      Sinomatic says:

      They are/may be?

      I have no clue to be honest. I know little to nothing of consolery, as I am not in possession of any box-to-tv arm-waggling device. I just thought the motion sensor seemed like a good fit for that wii u gun-style controller.

    • Griddle Octopus says:

      Randy did say in the demo that they are making a Wii U version – but they themselves probably have no idea what they’re doing with it yet.

  12. Premium User Badge

    TheApologist says:

    The Dead Space comparison is an encouraging one. It is one of the only games I have ever played that feels *violent*, really violent in a way that would suit an Aliens game I think.

  13. DXN says:

    It just occurred to me how many previews/trailers etc end with the a shot of the bad guy or thing lunging at you with its jaws, or smashing you with something, or shooting you in the face, or at least getting all up in the camera with the threatening roars and whatnot. Even more so in some of the Bioshock first-person trailers, where the player is violently taken apart by a Big Daddy. HERE IS OUR GAME. YOU WILL BE KILLED. RARR!

    • FakeAssName says:

      and they you play the game and find out that it’s got recharging shields / health and you literally have to be trying to get yourself killed in order to do so.

  14. DXN says:

    Edit: double-post. :I

  15. Ginger Yellow says:

    Aliens is a team sport with the highest stakes.

    Say what now?

  16. Sentinel Red says:

    Sorry, wait, what? Set in the remains of the colony? What remains? It was a pre-fab about 2 minutes away from ground zero from a nuclear explosion apparently the size of Nebraska. Never mind that the planet itself is tiny anyway, a mere 1200km in diameter.

    [/sperge off]

    • Nick says:

      Yeah, this confuses me as well. “You find out what happened to the guys who got left behind” Um.. they were vapourized along with all the aliens in the blast radius?

    • Griddle Octopus says:

      I know… but they really want to tie this into the movies, so I think they’re ignoring that.

    • FakeAssName says:

      that’s been covered already: Randy looked deeply into the camera and proclaimed “well duh I know what “cannon” is …. it shoots balls! hehh, I said balls.”

      no seriously, the dude said he doesn’t give a shit about cannon or physics. he wants the game to be on the same planet as the movie, with the same locations (conveniently making the amount of necessary original concept art virtually zero), and is willing to retcon anything and everything he has to to get it.

      including a nuclear explosion.

    • Premium User Badge

      Chaz says:

      I know, would it have been so difficult to set it on a different coloney somewhere else on a different planet?

      Also I was hoping for something a little more tactical and free roaming than just a straight linear run and gun. Some thing like having a objectives to achieve in a certain area and having blueprints of the building before going in, and having guys kitted out for different roles, engineeers sealing off doors etc.

      I’m still hoping this will be a fun game anyway, but this is starting to look like it will be another game with lots of missed opportunities to make something really standout special.

  17. Duke of Chutney says:

    ” get away from her you bitch”,

    its not in there but i have put in ” A day in the Core is like a day on a farm, every meal is feast, every pay check a fortune…. I love the core”

    or “drop your linen and start your grinen”

    has any film, defined video games more than Aliens?
    – AVP games
    -Starcraft
    -Halo series
    -half life series
    -Unreal (2 at any rate, never played 1)
    -Quake 4

    pretty much any game with space marines/soldiers, aliens, things going wrong, or a black sargent

    • starclaws says:

      I am sure Rambo style films are up there too. Considering giant fiery explosions is the norm now for the copy+paste linear shooters.

    • Nick says:

      “Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen” actually!

    • viverravid says:

      has any film defined videogames more than Aliens?

      No. 50% of every space game ever comes from this movie. (85% if your game is Natural Selection, and 90% if it’s Natural Selection 2).

      I was thinking deployable turrets were a gaming innovation relative to the Aliens arsenal, then I watched the directors cut.

    • Lightbulb says:

      Corps not core[/pedant]

      Trying to think. Obviously Star Wars had a fairly major impact – seeing as there are about a hundred Star Wars games…

      Saving Private Ryan helped kick start the whole WW2 genre – I think its large enough to be its own genre.

      But no can’t think of anything else that had such an influence.

    • FakeAssName says:

      “every meal a banquet” (just to be dickish)

      and yes, sadly, this movie has been used as source material for virtually every Sci-Fi video game since it came out. which really pisses me off, I was in the Marines and I fucking hated it, so it’s like nails on a chalkboard every time some excessively angry ethnic minority character screams “lets go marines!”

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      @ FakeAssName

      Yeah…but…you still like Aliens, right?

    • FakeAssName says:

      I want to, I really do. unfortunately I have got a really hard time stomaching it:

      as a nerd-kid the movie was a total wet dream for me, but now that I have grown up ….. lets just say I prefer the first and third movies now.

      resurrection is an atrocity, I personally count the true continuation of the series to be the comic books and novels.

  18. Eraysor says:

    it’s hangar, not hanger

    /pedant

  19. Bhazor says:

    I have to ask. Is the aliens mythos really deep enough to warrant such a big franchise. The first two films were great and all but how many times can you have the same big twist before it just gets ridiculous.
    “You mean that shadowy corporation was trying to breed xenos as weapons? How unexpected!”

    Also the main creatures name is literally “a monster”.
    http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/xenomorph

    • Nick says:

      Thats because that is what “the company” named it.. its not like a race called the xenomorphs.

    • Triangulon says:

      The books in the franchise are actually pretty good. There’s some interesting stuff in there about synthesising drugs and the like from alien compounds and royal jelly.

      Also, Alien 3 is also quality.

    • Lightbulb says:

      Aliens 3 director cuts made it a good film. Unlike the first two films where it added very little really…

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Bhazor

      Actually, yes. There was a whole set of comic books that were pretty awesome and deepened the mythos and sweep of the films.

      Basically, what happened next was the aliens are unleashed and destroy the earth, but there are plenty of other planets, and so plenty of other places to have aliens vs marines, especially as the aliens could mate with any of the local hostiles (think: giant fish aliens or birds).

      Some strips went religious and got into the whole angels v demons thing, sometimes with aliens as demons, sometimes with aliens as angels cleansing the universe of sin. Another was about farming an alien/human hybrid for an addictive drug, that had a whole city under siege from aliens and bounty hunters.

      I think if they went the comic book route they could have had multiple planets with hostiles to remove, space stations and cities, tropical paradises and ice cold caverns, instead it looks like a rather straight forward corridor shooter.

  20. diebroken says:

    “(And, yes, I filled that preview with Aliens quotes. Can you spot them all?)”

    Mostly.

  21. Richie Shoemaker says:

    “Apart from Rebellion’s amazing first attempt at Aliens versus Predator, I have to add.”

    I thought the Jaguar version was overrated myself. Rebellion’s first PC attempt was much better

  22. Anaraavi says:

    Looks up.@@ at diebroken
    Impressive! :D

  23. MeestaNob says:

    I want to be excited about this but frankly Gearbox just aren’t a very good developer.

  24. BreadBitten says:

    I swear if I even see one nudge to the Predator franchise I’ll blow my top!

  25. bill says:

    I thought it was “the only way to be sure” of killing all the aliens? Because they all got nuked.

    Wasn’t that why the company went to so much trouble to get hold of Ripley in number 3?

    PS/ This sounds very linear and scripted in a CoD style…

  26. BobsLawnService says:

    Let me guess cover based, regenerating health, two weapon limit and checkpoint saves?

  27. chopsnsauce says:

    Err, does anyone else think the fact they’re ignoring the whole MASSIVE NUCLEAR EXPLOSION AT THE END OF THE FILM and saying:

    “Oooh! The facilities just A BIT damaged and there are still Aliens and that left(!)”

    Automatically makes this game SHIT?????

    • 0p8 says:

      erm…yeh; we’re trying to ignore that.
      (just go along with it)

  28. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Sounds cool, though I’d personally like to see a bit more depth and mystery added to the Alien franchise (somehow! No idea how. If I did I’d be fanficking it).

    I’ve always loved Giger’s artwork and the concept of these strange, eery biomechanoid species infecting starships and killing the inhabitants for no reason other than ‘that’s just what they do’ appealed to the Lovecraft fan in me, and so I really loved Alien (complete with the almost indestructable antagonist with it’s bizarre physiology and seeming ability to survive in the vacuum of space).

    ‘Aliens’ sort of lost something. It had too many of them, and they could be shot with pulse rifles. It was a bit like a cross between a ‘Nam film and a zombie flick. It lost the creepy silence of space too, and even though I fancied Vasquez and generally enjoyed the film it’s not one that I return to time and time again.

    I’d like to see a mod (or something) akin to Alien, or Alien 3 – a survival horror with darkness, silence, very limited weapons and only a tiny chance of survival against an insurmountable foe. Something that requires careful thought, planning and strategy, as well as basic animal cunning, to survive.

    • chopsnsauce says:

      “fancied Vasquez ”

      LOL.

    • Premium User Badge

      Sinomatic says:

      Vasquez was hot. Don’t be an eejit.

      Anyway, yes, Aliens did lose the slow, creeping psychological horror of Alien, but I was always quite pleased it went in a different direction with the sequel (which I love equally). I’m not sure a straightforward, similarly themed sequel would have been compared favourably against the first, whereas the action-shootery of Aliens couldn’t be directly compared. If anything, Alien 3 is probably more of a sequel to the first in terms of atmosphere (as Resurrection is to Aliens).

      Aliens lends itself more easily to gaming on the action side of things, but I think to get a true experience of Alien you’d probably have to make something similar to Amnesia. Christ even thinking of playing an Alien-themed Amesia makes me uneasy.

    • 0p8 says:

      “Christ even thinking of playing an Alien-themed Amesia makes me uneasy.”

      i have just soiled myself

  29. pupsikaso says:

    So… can you tell me anything about the game itself? I mean you’ve just described to me the roller-coaster, but what about the game?

  30. pagad says:

    If they ignore the Alien 3 film I will be very happy indeed.

    • EOT says:

      I urge you to watch the Director’s Cut. You may change your tune.

  31. WJonathan says:

    ” then beats off an alien with his machine gun’s butt ”

    Oh sure it looks good in the previews, but…oh never mind.

  32. Wartooth says:

    Is this gonna be a standup game, or another bughunt?

  33. RegisteredUser says:

    Best not be ruining this with checkpointinghealthautoregenduckandcoversystem crap.

    I want oldskool Aliens Vs Predator (PC) gameplay of the marine..with darkness and a sincere feeling of threat, a pulse tracker only revealing a rough 90-120 degree arc ahead of you..and nothing else..just atmosphere and sound…
    BOOYAH.

    That’s a colonial marine game.

    If this instead ends up Yet Another Space Marine Game I will sacrifice innocent puppies to the altar of evil, to summon the dark lord to eat up the souls of all PC games hating consolegame makers.

  34. Dynotaku says:

    So… is this a first person shooter or what? I can’t tell from the preview or the screenshots.