Aliens: Colonial Marines Preview (Xbox360)

First the bad news. Despite being promised a play on the recently announced ‘Escape!’ multiplayer mode I was unable to do so since it’s not quite ready for public consumption. SEGA and Gearbox are being a bit mysterious about it but from what I gathered using my PR interrogation skills it’ll be similar to Versus Mode in Left 4 Dead (not the last time I’ll mention that game in this preview), with a team of Marines desperately trying to get away while a team of Aliens hunt them. I was sad I couldn’t try it, but instead I got a few rounds with straight Team Deathmatch across two maps.

The good news: it’s excellent. It takes a lot to make standard Team Deathmatch awesome but if anyone can do it, Marines vs Xenomorphs can. And do. There were two maps on offer, both of which were superbly designed and incredibly nerve-wracking – at least if you’re not an Alien.

There’s a Smart Gun on the right. Better pick it up. Just sayin’.

‘Last Hope’ was set inside the Hadley’s Hope facility and comprised of numerous corridors, rooms, and a larger room which seemed a good defending point for Marines until you realised that the Xenos could attack from any angle. Having a two-tiered level is all well and good until a monster jumps down from it. Worse, they can stick to the ceiling – where the darkness and pipework makes it very easy for an Alien to hide.

The best the Marines can hope for is to grab hold of the auto-targeting nightvision Smart Gun that occasionally spawns. I did of course, but with a finite amount of ammo and the obscene amount of time it takes to ditch the thing when it runs dry you’re looking at a near-definite death at the end of the rampage. Best take as many with you as you can, and luckily it’s an Alien-killin’ beast.

When it came to Marines, backing together and attempting as a team to cover every single angle seemed to be a wise tactic. Not a successful tactic by any regard, but a sensible attempt. Colonial Marines already seems to have the biggest problem with Left 4 Dead Versus utterly sorted, which is when the survivors bunch together in a corner nothing can touch them (even throwing in a Spitter). With every Alien’s ability to cling to the ceiling, jump really far and really fast, and kill a panicking Marine in just a few hits, that annoying advantage is immediately negated. Marines respawn so unlike L4D it doesn’t matter if they die… except that they’re no longer in a tight-knit group and are instead lost on their own on the other side of the map.

The other big comparison to Left 4 Dead is the occasional appearance of a devastating heavy-hitter enemy. In L4D it’s the Tank, in Colonial Marines it’s the bull-like Charger Alien. Ploughing through the scenery kicking ass and taking names, casually offing Marines, it takes a lot of firepower and team coordination to take it down – not helped by the rest of the Xenomorphs taking advantage of the huge distraction. Still, you get a lot of XP taking one down.

That’s me right in the middle. Dying, or about to be dead.

Ah yes, it’s a multiplayer FPS in 2012 – of course there’s XP, and load-outs to choose from of course too. There’s the traditional Aliens Pulse Rifle, a slightly more powerful Assault Rifle but which only fires in short bursts, and the Shotgun (for close encounters, heh). Oh, and a pistol, but NO ONE WILL EVER USE THAT BECAUSE ALIENS. It’s more useful to smack an Alien in the face with your Rifle, which you can totally do. You’ll get a knife-tail in the face afterwards, but it’ll be funny for half a second.

The other map was the more open ‘Origins’. With no ceilings, more light and the outside offering less places to attack from it was a little more Marine-friendly map. Once again though the tactic of 'Staying Together And Not Letting Those Bastards Get Close' failed to pay off as we once again got scattered across the map (and I didn’t even find a Smart Gun this time). The Xenomorphs move so damn fast it’s difficult to hit them, unless you get lucky and catch one chewing your friend’s face off. Then the Charger showed up again and we all died.

The funny thing was, unlike Crysis 3 where constantly dying just drove me mad, in Aliens: Colonial Marines I never felt I was having less than loads of fun. Maybe it’s the fact that I could always see the Xenomorph who killed me rather than a cloaked sniper half a mile away, or that I immediately wanted to fight against the evil hideous penis monsters from nightmare instead of some burly dudes armed with a crossbow (sorry, Compound Bow). It may have all seemed slightly biased towards the Aliens, but frankly that’s faithful to the franchise. I couldn’t care less, I was enjoying myself too much to think about it.


Playing as a Marine was oppressive, tense, and exciting. Playing as an Alien is like a cat playing with a mouse. The first important distinction between Colonial Marines and the Alien vs Predator series is that unlike the Marines the Aliens are controlled in third-person. This is entirely to combat the feeling of not knowing what surface you were stuck to in the AVP games and whether you were close to your target. The controls seemed easy to pick up and the players playing Xenomorphs were happily running around the walls, bounding huge distances teeth first and slicing up humans in no time at all, which is quite an achievement on Gearbox’s part. I didn’t get as much time with them as I’d like but I’m already itching for more.

Right out the gate Gearbox have already made a fun pick-up-and-enjoy multiplayer game that absolutely no one went away from without a smile on their face. Whether we won or lost was immaterial (we lost) – we just wanted to get back in there and play again. I was never that enamoured with AVP’s multiplayer as it just felt too confined and rushed. Colonial Marines is already open, polished, and superbly entertaining. And that was only an early look at Team Deathmatch. Game Over? Not likely.

Most Anticipated Feature: If Team Deathmatch is this good, what’s Escape and the campaign co-op going to be like?

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By stuntkid (SI Elite) on Oct 11, 2012
Looks like a fun co-op game. Can't wait to hear more about the other modes
By nocutius (SI Elite) on Oct 11, 2012
You make this sound awesome compared to the last Aliens game, we needed a good aliens game it's been ages since the last one.
Being similar to l4d in game modes is a bonus as well, I have a buddy who will like this to no end :).
By The_Tingler (SI Core) on Oct 11, 2012
Having seen and/or played both the main campaign and multiplayer, I am tremendously excited. It's all coming together beautifully and most importantly it's already fun months before release. This is going to be incredible.