Aliens: Colonial Marines is a sci-fi horror-themed first-person shooter and was developed by Gearbox Software LLC and published by Sega for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Window's PCs on February 12th, 2013. A Wii U version was also in the works but was eventually cancelled on April 5th, 2013.
The game features an original story by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle of Battlestar Galactica fame which is playable as either a single-player campaign, a two-player split screen co-op or with up to four players online. Although players take upon the role of humans in the story mode the competitive online multiplayer modes allow players to take control of various members of the Xenomorph species.
Setting & Place in Alien Franchise
The games story occurs approximately 17 weeks after the the events of the second film in the Alien movie franchise (Aliens) and was announced as being official canon to the Alien franchise and universe at PAX East 2012. With the assistance of 20th Century Fox, Gearbox Software's intentions was to create the true spiritual successor to Aliens that fans of the film have been waiting for and were invited to speak with Ridley Scott (the director of the original Alien movie) and view his script and plans for Alien prequel Prometheus while the film was still undergoing development.
Randy Pitchford of Gearbox Software was given pretty free reins with the story and even got to add in his own tidbits to the Alien universe such as the Crusher, an enormous Xenomorph with a bulletproof head crest named after the way it kills its opponents.
Gearbox Software hailed Aliens: Colonial Marines as the true spiritual sequel to James Cameron's sci-fi film Aliens prior to the games release and claimed that it would tie up some of the plot-holes and loose ends of Alien 3, improving the overall integrity of the lore.
The game's story takes place approximately 17 weeks after the events of Aliens after the disappearance of the USS Sulaco and it is crew, when a search and rescue team is sent out to Acheron (LV-426) to investigate and learn the whereabouts of Ellen Ripley, Carter Burke and the rest of the crew in response to a distress call sent out by Cpl. Dwayne Hicks at the end of the Aliens movie.
What they find upon arrival is the same deadly creature the original crew found in Aliens as a massive Xenomorph infestation have overrun the ship and the craft itself is back in orbit over LV-426 and not planet Fury-161 as intended.
The game's story is told through the eyes of Corporal Christopher Winter who along with his four-man search and rescue team of the USS Sephora discover that Weyland-Yutani PMCs have taken command of the USS Sulaco and were breeding Xenomorphs for study on board the ship.
When the hostile mercenaries attack the squad of the USS Sephora they destroy both ships and Winter's and his squad are forced to escape aboard a dropship to the planet LV-426 below and take refugee in the now ruins of Hadley's Hope colony complex. The squad's captain, Captain Jeremy Cruz, gives the orders for all other surviving marines to make their way to the colony complex in an attempt to survive and hold out until a rescue arrives.
With their position secure Captain Cruz then orders Winters and his squad to venture to a nearby Weyland-Yutani research facility to recover a manifest that documents the capture an unknown prisoner by Weyland-Yutani. On route to the facility however one of Winter's squad-mates, Private Bella Clarison, becomes impregnated with an infant Chestburster and so in an attempt to save her Winters accompanied by Private O'Neal help escort Bella to the research facility in an attempt to force any surviving research scientists and personnel to remove the embryo and save Bella's life.
Upon arrival at the facility Winters and his squad interrogate a surviving Weyland physician who reveals that there is no possible way to save Bella's life because even if the embryo is removed, the creature's invasive placenta is cancerous and will ultimately kill her anyway. And so with the news that there is no chance of survival Bella dies while saying farewell to Winters and O'Neal when the Chestburster inside her hatches and violently kills her.
Having failed to save Bella's life Winters and O'Neal recover the manifest they were sent to locate and rescue the prisoner, revealed to be Corporal Higgs, who explains how Weyland-Yutani forces intercepted the USS Sulaco and how a fire in the hypersleep bay caused Ripley, Newt, Lance Bishop and an unidentified man to be evacuated from the ship in an EEV. Higgs meanwhile was held captive by Weyland-Yutani and tortured by Michael Weyland in an attempt to learn more of the Xenomorph's origins and to gain control of the weapons system of the Sulaco. Finally Higgs reveals that an FTL-capable ship is docked at the research facility and with it the stranded marines last chance of escape.
With news of the docked ship Captain Cruz orders all surviving personnel, led by Winters and Higgs, to launch an all out attack on the research facility in hope of capturing the vessel. The assault ultimately is successful although moments before Winters, Cruz and Higgs can board the ship leaves but in one last desperate attempt Cruz manages to pilot a dropship into the hanger of the FTL vessel. But just when Winters and his crew think that it's all over the Queen Xenomorph, who has managed to cling to the leaving vessel, appears and confronts the squad and as his final heroic act Captain Cruz sacrifices himself to save the rest of his men and kill the Queen once and for all.
Winter and the remaining members of his squad along with Higgs then set about finding and confronting Michael Weyland to bring the Weyland-Yutani Corporation down once and for all. Shortly after locating Weyland however Hicks deduces that he is merely an android double left behind as a decoy and executes him. In search of any remaining useful intelligence, Bishop connects to the destroyed android's CPU and states that he has "everything", setting the stage for further confrontation between the Colonial Marines and the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.
Single-Player / Co-op
As a marine, for the games single-player and co-op modes, the gameplay is that of a standard action first-person shooter. The game features various collectibles also which are scattered throughout each of the 11 mission within the campaign. These include audio logs, dog tags and iconic weaponry from the franchise which players may arm themselves with once said weapon is found.
The game also features an experience system in which players earn XP for finishing missions, killing enemies, finding collectibles or completing various challenges. The experience system carries across to the multiplayer mode also and as players level up and complete challenges they earn the ability to either upgrade or customise weaponry, alter their appearance or unlock traits and skills for both the Marines and Alien classes in the multiplayer modes.
As a marine, players have access to a wide arsenal of weaponry to deal with the opposing forces including machine guns, shotguns, pistols as well as the series renown flamethower and Smart gun. Marines also come equipped with motion trackers which allow players to detect unseen enemies although equipping the tracker does force players to lower their weapon thus leaving them open to an attack.
During the multiplayer aspect of the game players also take control of the Xenomorphs (the camera shifting to the third-person) and may select from several classes (or “breeds”) of the species each with their own skills and abilities although their primary method of attack is close quarters melee combat. The aliens also have the ability to see their targets through objects and walls using their pheromone sonar system and travel at much faster speeds than their human prey but to compensate for their additional powers they are much weaker and have a lower overall health.
Aside from the drop-in / drop-out online play for the campaign, the game also features a Versus Mode consisting of 4 game types in players fight off in an Aliens vs Marines battle. The matches all take place over 2 rounds, one in which you control the Marines and one in which you control the Aliens, with the winner being decided by the total tally of the 2 rounds. The 4 available game modes to choose from are:
- Team Deathmatch - Standard multiplayer affair of two opposing teams with most kills wins.
- Extermination - Most comparable to King of the Hill as the Marines attempt to capture various points around the map to destroy Xenomorph egg clusters while the aliens must prevent the Marines from doing so.
- Survival - The Marine team is tasked with surviving the Xenomorph attacks until the countdown comes to an end. Marines are granted one life and a finite amount of ammunition and armor although additional supplies or even XP bonuses may be earned by completing “Survival Ops” challenges.
- Escape - The Marine's goal is to escape the Xenomorph infested area in the fastest time possible. On their way to the exit the Marines must perform small objectives to open up the next section of the map and the winning team is that which either gained the most progress as the Marines or escaped the stage in the shortest period of time.
During the Survival and Escape modes players are granted one life and so the marines overall toughness is ramped up and rather than instantly die players go into an incapacitated state before death where a window of opportunity exists for them to be revived by a comrade. In the down but not out state players are given a pistol to defend themselves but remain open to attack from any alien threats.
Xenomorph Species Types
The following are the different types of Xeno species which are featured in the game. The Soldier, Spitter and Lurker are the three base classes for multiplayer, although the Boiler and Crusher are also playable but must be awoken during the match by players:
|Soldier||Soldiers are the most common variant of Xenomorph and act as the infantry unit of the species. They are primarily suited for close quarters combat due to their large amount of health and strong physical attacks.|
|Spitter||The spitter is one of the Xenomorph castes that was created by Gearbox Software for the game. As is implied by the name the spitter main attack is to spit balls of acid at targets from a distance. They also have a greater overall agility and can leap higher and run faster than other members of the species. Their weakness however is their lack of armour and strength in comparison to say the soldier which is why they are primarily suited to combat from a distance rather than at close quarters.|
|Lurker||Lurkers are both silent and fast. This combined with their ability to camouflage itself and pounce on top of its prey and kill its target in three quick swipes make it excellent for stealth attacks and scouting enemy positions. It is however extremely weak and easy to kill in comparison to the other members of the species.|
Another of the new Xenos introduced by Gearbox in the game the boiler features a unique attack whereby it will forgo the traditional attacks of melee or spewing acid and commit suicide by rupturing its own body, thus covering all surrounding enemies in large amounts of acid. They are extremely fast but also unable to climb walls and have a very limited radar sight.
(In multiplayer players have the ability to spit acid as well as perform their deadly suicide attack and are only playable if "awakened" by players during a match after a set period of time has passed.)
|Crusher||The crusher is the final alien created by Gearbox uniquely for the game. They are massive when compared to other Xenomorphs and can either attack by charging marines head on (killing them instantly) or by stomping on the ground causing damage via the subsequent shocks. They are bulletproof when shot at from the front due to their bullet resistant head and so must be shot at from either the side or behind to be taken down and eliminated.|
The game is also renown for its long and troubled development, so much so that Giant Bomb's own Alex Navarro was inclined to write an article discussing the disastrous launch and development. Link to said article
Some interesting points of note however are that the game was initially announced to have squad based gameplay allowing the player to issues orders to AI controlled marines using context-sensitive commands. Gearbox later revealed that this feature was dropped to make the gameplay more accessible.
It was also reported that the game would not feature a traditional HUD to providing onscreen information. This would force players to monitor the ammo counter on their Pulse Rifle closely and refer frequently to their motion tracker to keep track of situational factors. A HUD however was present in the released version of the game.
Finally a Wii U version was also revealed to be in the works but was ultimately cancelled on April 5th 2013. It had been stated that with the Wii U integration players would have been able to use the gamepad controller as the motion tracker.
PC System Requirements
- OS: Windows XP/Vista
- CPU: 2.4 Ghz or equivalent processor
- RAM: 1 GB (2 GB for Vista)
- HDD: 8 GB free disk space
- Graphics: 256 MB Graphics Memory
- Sound Card: DirectX 9 Compatible
- DirectX: Version 9.0c