When Alien vs Predator (2010) was coming out, I remember the uproar at the lack of iron-sights. At the time, I really didn’t see the need. The action would mostly be up close and personal, you would not have the time to really use the sights. That said, in the multiplayer sections I sometimes found myself wishing I could zoom in slightly when I was taking shots at distance.
So I was a bit hesitant with their inclusion in Colonial Marines. That said, as I played the multiplayer it felt natural. I played it like I would Battlefield or any modern FPS. Go from the hip if they’re too close; go for the sights if they’re too far. It worked just fine.
However, when it came to single player it almost seemed like they had slowed down the Aliens for the benefit of sighting. In both the demonstration and my hands-on, I noticed that the Aliens would almost seem to wait for you to sight in on them. They would just linger around you, giving you plenty of time to get a shot in. It took a lot of the threat away. Whether this was down to the difficulty level (I am not sure what I was playing, must have been easy or normal), I am not 100% certain.
But that only seemed to be once you had noticed the Aliens. I found myself being side-swiped by the Aliens a lot during my playthrough. I found it pretty important to be aware of my surroundings, a complete 360º of them. While I never actually bite the dust, I kept coming awfully close during the assault on the operations centre due to focusing too much on one direction and being attacked from my blind side.
Over all, though, I didn’t find the level I played (or the demonstration) to be particularly scary. For all its flaws, I thought Rebellion’s AvP was good at scaring me. Colonial Marines seems to be filled with plenty of bright blue tones. Tonally, Aliens was very blue and Colonial Marines seems to be carrying that onwards in its desire to be the “true” sequel to Jim Cameron’s film.
Now this is going to depend on what you want from an Aliens game. I always liked to have mine to be scary, I liked to be fearful of rounding that next corner. However, Aliens isn’t as much about horror as its predecessor so I can understand Gearbox Software not trying to focus on that aspect.
Then it was time for me to try my hands as an Alien. The multiplayer games we played gave us the choice of the three aforementioned variants of Aliens and I tried my hand at all three of them. The only one I felt particularly comfortable with was the Lurker.
It became really obvious to me early on that you would need to play the role of the Aliens to get anywhere with the game. I tend to prefer the lone wolf approach and that just didn’t work for the Warrior or the Spitter. I would go running out, try and jump onto the ceilings and stalk my way over to the Colonial Marine players and I just couldn’t make it fast enough. I’d be blown to pieces before I even got close.
Then I discovered the Lurkers offensive ability: a brilliant pounce that would cover a distance and if I aimed at a marine, it would pin him down and let me pummel him with my claws. I soon found myself flanking while the rest of my hive attacked from the front. I was picking off the stragglers or those that tried to make a break for it.
There are also finishing moves. I only managed to successfully execute one of these and that was from behind. I cannot be a 100% certain but I think these are the “lethal” moves that you activate with B (these are also changeable). I had to get up behind the marine player and activate it. That said, I have seen frontal engaged “lethal” kills. These are the short animated, trophy-style kills that we have seen.
A staple of Xenomorph gameplay is the ability to walk on walls. I found it a little awkward to do so with my time at the controller. In theory, the 3rd person perspective should help make the transitions smoother but when the actual game makes this difficult it doesn’t quite work.
It wouldn’t always allow me to transition between surfaces with an ease. I’d find myself sort of moving about until I could move onto the new surface and in a game where one of your allies is your speed this can really hinder your enjoyment of the experience.
As with the Aliens, the Colonial Marines need to play the role properly. You need to stick together, you need to have someone on the tracker, you need to have someone going for the objectives and other people covering.
This is somewhat of a problem at events like this (and MCM Expo) where you’re playing with a bunch of people you do not know and you’re not co-ordinating. I can see it being intensely fun when you get together with your friends and you’re working together properly as a team and that’s really essential.
I didn’t notice it much during the demonstration (I was too focused on the action) but during the loading screens for the multiplayer games, we were treated to a small piece of Kevin Riepl’s score for the game. It sounded very militaristic, with similar movements to James Horner’s but without being derivative of his work. It felt like it fit.
An issue I did have was with the animation of the Aliens, in particular their attacks. The animation didn’t look very fluid, the attacks took too long to animate and the resulting animation looked particularly, well, funny. It didn’t look threatening. It seemed to start as if they were going for a nice big friendly hug. I really hope that is something that is fixed.
This is something that leads me to be concerned regarding how some of the unlockable Alien abilities will look. The abilities I mentioned earlier could look absolutely awful if they are not animated correctly (whirlwind, for instance) and I think it is really important that the game does not become a joke.
Another bother I had was with how the Xenomorphs exploded. It was overly comical, over the top and immensely green. It looked very out of place and made me cringe somewhat. The intensity of the green that is being used for Alien blood could do with being toned down slightly.
However, a brilliant thing regarding the Alien deaths is that Gearbox Software created a highly detailed Alien model which includes internal organs.
The developers talked proudly of the work they had done to create a completely model of the Aliens which included a whole anatomical system so that when you are blasting away Aliens, you will be able to see what the insides look like (when they do not explode in a ridiculous manner, that is).
At the end of it all, I really enjoyed my time with the game. It was not without some issues as I’ve mentioned but having the time to really get to play with it, I came away from the event with a much more positive and informed impression of the game. I am eagerly awaiting the final product.
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