Release Date: March 31, 1998
Publisher: Kesmai Studios
Developer: Mythic Entertainment
Aliens Online was a 1998 online multiplayer shooter game for PC, developed by Mythic Entertainment and published by Kesmai Studios. It was free to download but you required a subscription to GameStorm to play it.
The basic game mode was Eradication which was basically Team Deathmatch. You could play as either a Colonial Marine with a Pulse Rifle or as a deadly Xenomorph. You had a limited number of respawns.
There were five different maps to choose from at the start including the colony from Aliens and the derelict spacecraft containing an Alien hive. Three more maps were added in subsequent updates: Military Base, Waste Facility, Undersea Base. Each map was filled with narrow air ducts or sewer pipes which the Xenomorphs could use to quickly get around or to sneak up on the Marines.
The Colonial Marines had the Medic, Scout, Solider and Heavy Weapons classes. Marines had a multitude of weapons to choose from. Single Marines could access the pulse rifle, pistol, shotgun and motion tracker. Later game updates introduced proximity mines too.
A group of 4 Marines could team up as a ‘fireteam’ which unlocked heavy weaponry like the flamethrower and smartgun. Each Marine also had a helmet-cam just like in the movie and you could open a window and see a feed of what the other player was seeing. As you killed Xenomorphs and won matches, you were awarded experience points. As you progressed through milestones, you became stronger.
The Hive Alien faction had the Facehugger, Drone, Queen and Empress classes. They could easily leap towards vents and scurry along air ducts and had a radar of the entire map. Players had to attack at close range using their tail or claws. You could also gain experience points as an Alien by neutralising Marines and if you acquired enough points in a match, you could play as the Queen Alien.
Originally, Facehuggers were going to be the starting point for players and when the player made a few kills, they would continue up to the rank of an adult Drone and later a Queen. This idea was scrapped as it was incredibly hard to kill somebody as a Facehugger and it only took one hit from a Marine to be wiped out. Facehuggers were playable in the game, but players generally used them as a joke or a bit of fun.
When Aliens Online was released, there was only one game type – Eradication where Marines fought until they ran out of supplies of respawns or until every Alien was neutralised. A map could have a over a hundred AI Xenomorphs wondering around. When an Alien was killed, the player would simply jump to a new one while Marines could kill as many as the AI Aliens as possible to prevent the player from jumping to a new one.
The developers released new patches which added more game types. There was Capture the Flag where Marines had to battle the way through to the Alien hive, and then transport a number of eggs to the drop zone. Another mode was Demolition which had Marines carry explosive barrels from their dropzone to different parts of the map. Another game mode was Stranded which had the Marines reach an evac point in the map but couldn’t respawn once they had been killed. The final game mode was Retrieval where Marines had to locate a data core and return it to the dropzone.
Gamepro (November 1997) Next Generation (July 1998)
The game was free to download and was automatically updated but you needed a subscription to GameStorm which cost $9.95 per month to play the game. Aliens Online featured an active online community and was the first sort of Alien game where Clans were formed where they’d plan formations and tactics for each game. Community nights were organised quite often and players were also writing fan fiction and posting it on message boards. Online play was shut down on May 29, 2000 after the GameStorm network was sold to Electronic Arts in 1999.
Aliens Online was fairly well-received upon its release.Next Generation Magazine scored it 3/5 praising the atmosphere but criticised the lack of customizability and the levels looking quite similar. Summing up, they said “Overall, this is a wonderful addition to Gamestorm. we just wish there was more variety so the thrill could last.” Gamespot awarded it 7.2/10: “Of course, I’m not sure if the frame rate can be improved with engine tweaks alone. But with so much to gain and absolutely nothing to lose, any self-respecting Aliens fan should give Aliens Online a try.”
Science Fiction Weekly gave the game an A score saying the game had a lot of bugs: “Keeping in mind that this is a beta version of the game, and that there are still a few…ahem…bugs to be worked out, it’s clear that Kesmai has what it takes to satisfy both the Aliens fan and the hardcore gamer. “