Gearbox’s Aliens: Colonial Marines was in danger of descending into the realm of legend, like the Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster. In development since the distant, dusty days of the PlayStation 2, Colonial Marines is bested only by Duke Nukem Forever (which, ironically, Gearbox is completing on 3D Realms’ behalf) in the protracted gestation stakes.
And yet, through thick and thin, some of us have kept the faith. James Cameron’s classic 1986 movie, with its gung-ho space marines and acid-powered monsters, is the perfect setting for a first-person shooter, and it had to be the case that, if just remained patient, Gearbox would one day deliver the goods.
Finally, just when I’d begun to wonder whether Colonial Marines was lost to history, Gearbox has finally given us a glimmer of hope that the game will one day be completed and – who knows – available to buy in shops soon.
First, let’s get the disappointing stuff out of the way. Given that it’s five long years since the existence of Colonial Marines was announced, the official teaser trailer, unveiled at E3 a couple of days ago, is hideously disappointing. Showing us little more than a close-up of a flickering computer screen, it affords us next to nothing of the game itself. Sure, there’s the tantalising glimpse of an alien at around a minute in (which, admittedly, is perfectly animated), but what we want, to reward us for our patience, is surely a proper look at the game itself?
A far more encouraging look at the game came from an unlikely source: the preview footage from Nintendo’s forthcoming, incredibly weird Wii U console. Crammed in among the numerous third-party releases scheduled for the system was no less than 23 seconds of in-game footage. Since the Wii U is said to be technically on a par with the Xbox 360 and PS3, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that this is a fair representation of the finished game on those consoles, too.
If this is the case, there’s every reason to be extremely excited about what Gearbox has in store for us. The snippet may be brief, but we’re given a flash of a marine hauled up into a duct by an alien, leaving a shower of gore in his wake. We see a facehugger attack us from a first-person perspective, our hands desperately struggling to hold the terrible thing at bay. We see a xenomorph scuttle away from the muzzle flash of a pulse rifle. Then there are leathery eggs, the metallic catwalks and stairs of Hadley’s Hope, and the moody skies of LV-426 itself. From a movie nerd’s perspective, it looks glorious:
With Gearbox’s extensive experience in making first-person shooters, there’s a fairly decent chance that Aliens: Colonial Marines will be exactly the game devotees of the franchise have been waiting for. Certainly, the screenshots that have emerged from E3, which show a space marine battling an alien queen in a space loader, among other things, are all supremely encouraging – we’ve got a complete image gallery for you in a separate post.
Those lucky enough to have seen the game in action at E3 have also been hugely positive about what they’ve seen. It’s a little unfortunate that, with Colonial Marines being set after the events of the movie, we won’t get to see digital versions of Michael Biehn or Sigourney Weaver running around, but the news that Gearbox has added a four-player co-op mode is compensation enough.
Annoyingly, we’ll have to wait until spring 2012 before we can get our hands on it, but in the meantime, we’re at least encouraged that Gearbox appears to have taken the time to create a genuinely faithful recreation of the classic movie’s environments and props. The result, we’re hoping, is a satisfying, stand-up fire fight, and not another mediocre licensed bug hunt.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is due out next spring for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Wii U.