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'Aliens Colonial Marines' preview: Embrace the terror

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'Aliens: Colonial Marines' screenshot

© SEGA


Aliens Colonial Marines is potentially a lip-smacking prospect for fans of the science fiction series. Players will get to use all the famous weapons from the series, including the pulse rifle and the flamethrower, as they tackle those still-terrifying Xenomorphs. How do you kill a creature with acid for blood? Shoot it as far away as possible...

Billed as a true sequel to James Cameron's 1986 film Aliens, the story takes place 17 weeks after the film, and puts you in the boots of US Colonial Marine Christopher Winter, who has the rather odious task of finding out what has gone wrong on the USS Sulaco, the ship that ferried Ellen Ripley and co on that fateful mission to the planet LV-426.

To cut a long story short, Winter's team arrives on the planet, finds it full of Xenomorphs and then things to go very wrong, very quickly. For the fans, this means a chance to discover more information around the fate of the Sulaco. Indeed, developer Gearbox Software clearly has a deep love for the franchise, and says it has drawn on all source material, including most recent movie Prometheus.

'Aliens: Colonial Marines' screenshot

© SEGA



Call of Duty meets Aliens

Going hands-on with a campaign level, we played as part of a team that had just landed on LV-426, the planet where Ripley's crew first encountered the Alien eggs. We were then tasked with heading for the human colony of Hadley's Hope. It sent a tingle down the spine to see Bishop in the squad, and then to hear them talk about what has happened to Ripley. These are titans of comics and cinema, brought to life in a game.

However, despite the science fiction thrills, Aliens Colonial Marines plays like a pretty standard first-person shooter. Certainly anyone who has ever picked up a Call of Duty game will feel the pang of familiarity. Using the official guns from the film and comics, it doesn't take much to neutralise the aliens, but their speed, numbers and sheer aggression means they still keep you on their toes.

Xenos can emerge from seemingly anywhere. They drop from the ceilings, lash out from the walls and swarm up from the grates below. This means that you never feel truly safe, and are always on the move. They run around walls, charge you from behind and attack en-masse. A cover-based shooter this certainly ain't.

'Aliens: Colonial Marines' screenshot

© SEGA



A Xenomorph turkey shoot>

Aliens Colonial Marines is one of those game previews where you feel simultaneously excited and concerned. This is a first-person shooter where you get to dive head first into the Aliens universe, battling Xenomorphs on a far-flung planet with some tasty weaponry. Yet, there is also something rather vanilla about the game.

Everything seemed a bit ho-hum. Many of the sequences felt like they had been lifted straight from Doom or some other science fiction horror shooter. Indeed, some of the action even had a whiff of 2010 shooter Aliens Vs Predator about it. There was just an over-reliance on last stands and 'cover me while I open this door' moments.

Our playthrough started off with slow pacing, and it was here that we really felt the tension ramp up deliciously. But it soon descended into an all-you-can-eat killfest. Sure, it was fun to blast away at the Xenos, watching their skulls split apart in bursts of tissue and acid. Yet also, the impact was somewhat lacking. These are aliens - the greatest and most storied predators in the galaxy - yet at times it felt a bit like a turkey shoot.


Multiplayer: Aliens versus Marines

To be fair, though, Aliens Colonial Marines still has a lot to love. The graphics are beautiful, including the chilling vista of the grey planet, juxtaposed against the still-hellish red of the Sulaco crash site. Gearbox said that the environments will get tougher as you progress, giving more places for the Xenos to attack, while spitter aliens, face-huggers and others will bring new threats to the slash fest.

There is also a big focus on earning achievements and experience in the game, which can be spent on upgrading kit and unlocking new camouflages. We also tried out the muitplayer suite, which pits a team of Marines against a team of aliens. As the marines, we had to destroy a load of aliens' eggs while also retreating to set objective points on the map. In turn, the aliens had to stop them.

Playing as a marine puts you at an advantage as you can take down the aliens pretty easy from distance. But becoming an alien means being more crafty. You can use vents, climb walls and detect your prey from distance. If you can sneak up close, you can tear the humans to shreds in no time. It's not exactly a revolution, but there is some scope here for fun.

Aliens Colonial Marines could prove to be an absolute fans' delight. There is pent-up demand for a really great Aliens first-person shooter, and all the elements are here to make it happen. But let's just hope Gearbox can strike the right balance between tension and action - between Alien and Aliens - in the full product when it is unleashed next year.

Aliens Colonial Marines is scheduled for release worldwide on PlayStation 3, Wii U and Xbox 360 on February 12, 2013.

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