It’s no surprise after spending just a few minutes previewing the upcoming videogame, Aliens: Colonial Marines, that developer Gearbox Software must employ a ton of Aliens fans.
During a recent hands-on preview event, the developers mentioned so many references to that film that appear in the game, I wound up just smiling and nodding—I didn’t want to confess how little I remember of that film.
(Guess that means I’ll be re-watching all four movies this holiday season.)
That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a phenomenal time playing thirty minutes of the single player campaign. The level I played through takes place about one quarter of the way through the game. While I played it single player, you can play the game four player co-op drop-in, drop-out.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a first-person shooter in the vein of the Dead Space franchise—while weapons and ammo are more plentiful than in that game, you’ll experience the same thrill and dread around every corner.
At least in this game, however, you’ve got access to a motion tracker. When activated, it allows you to see where you need to accomplish the next objective as well as where the aliens are moving around. You can’t, however, fire your weapons while looking at it but if you do pull the trigger, your character will put it away and switch to a gun.
In the level I played, I first had to start by placing 5 sensors. It definitely took a little bit to get used to glancing down at the motion tracker/objectives while trying to keep my eyes peeled for enemies. When they did eventually strike, lucky for me, I was packing quite an arsenal.
As you come across new weapons, you’ll be able to carry as many as you want—though you’ll need to designate a primary and secondary weapon. You can even level up and upgrade your weapons—add a sight, change the skin, etc. You earn points to spend on upgrades at the end of each level depending on how you played.
The developers told me that you cannot, however, level up everything on your first play through of the game. Luckily though, the multiplayer and single player campaign share the same unlocks meaning you can transfer what you upgrade in single player to the multiplayer.
If you are hit, you’ll lose health bar segments that can only be replenished with med-packs. You can pick up armor and I found it to be quite plentiful in the level I played. Sometimes, you’ll get knocked back hard enough that you have to fire at the enemies with your side arm until you can pick yourself up again.
If you’re not playing the game co-op and are relying on AI as I did, you do need to pay somewhat attention and make sure your friends aren’t gunned down. If they are—you have to revive them. In co-op, I was told that if one of your teammates dies, they won’t re-spawn until the next checkpoint.
The demo ends in the only way I would have expected it to—with a shock and a scream. (Yes. Perhaps I was a bit startled.)
While there wasn’t time for multiplayer, developers told me fans can expect four kinds of matches: team deathmatch, survivor, escape and extermination. You can also fully customize the look of your character, or if you pre-order from Gamestop, have access to four legacy characters from the movies. (You can even customize the look of your alien if you choose to play as one.)
The game is truly made for fans, but that doesn’t mean non-fans like me won’t enjoy it. The gunplay felt a little too familiar – as in I’ve played A LOT of it all before – but the setting and ambiance was more than enough to keep me interested. And as a rare person who values story in first-person shooters, it seems like Gearbox is going to make sure the story is good enough for fans and non-fans.
Plus, even I had to smile upon learning that Gearbox flew Sean Maio, who made his own smartgun replica, out to be mo-capped in the game. Why? Because his replica was so authentic, they just had to have it in the game.
If that’s not love for a franchise, I don’t know what is.
Aliens: Colonial Marines launches on February 12 on XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3.
It will also be coming to the Wii U in a “launch window” which means anytime between February 12 and March 31. The developers didn’t share any Wii U specific gameplay elements at this time.