[NYCC 2012] Preview: Gearbox shows the suspenseful side of Aliens: Colonial Marines
Up until now, a lot of what we've seen in regard to Aliens: Colonial Marines has been centered around the action-packed gameplay of SEGA and Gearbox's upcoming first-person shooter. But if you've ever seen the Aliens movies, you'll realize for as much action there was, there was equal amounts of suspense. For me, it's this suspense that has been lacking in Colonial Marines.
However, in a brand new demo shown off at New York Comic Con 2012, Gearbox unveiled quite a bit of new gameplay that shows the suspenseful side of Aliens, creating an experience similar to that of the films.
The first part of the demo shown to us was focused on a squad of marines who just crashed on the surface of LV-426, the very same location as the Aliens movie. It's important to point out just how important this setting is, because it allowed Gearbox to really go back to the roots of the film and recreate a similar experience. However, taking place 17 days after the events of the films, it also allowed them to craft a unique narrative that ties in closely with the films, while standing solidly on its own.
I say the demo was suspenseful because, like the movies, it really took a while to get to the action. Whereas past demos showed intense action scenes, this was all about the set up. We slowly made our way to Hadley's Hope, admiring the environment, shadows, and lighting, all rendered in real-time and made possible by a proprietary engine created exclusively for the game.
On our trek to Hadley's Hope we explored one of the many iconic locations from the films. We saw the final resting spot of the AVC which Ripley drove after the initial Alien attack on the marines. You may remember it as the part where she began grinding the metal. It was just one of the many Aliens film references you'll see in the game.
About 5-10 minutes into the demo (and still no fighting), we arrived at the colony - now destroyed by the explosion of the atmospheric processor in the end of the 2nd film. Although in bad shape from the explosion, certain areas were still recognizable. For instance, we saw another area where Ripley and Newt slept and were attacked by a face hugger.
It's that attention to detail that Gearbox chose to show off to us this time around. The tone set from this demo truly made it seem like a sequel from James Cameron himself. From the environmental details to use of shadows and lighting, to the similar music score, Aliens: Colonial Marines seems to capture every bit of the film's essence perfectly. For fans of the trilogy, it definitely does it justice.
With all of that being said, I still remain a bit skeptical about gameplay. After completing a generic mission where we had to set up motion detectors around the perimeter, aliens soon flooded our area. Armed with a pulse rifle and shotgun we sprayed bullets in every direction; however, it all seemed like scripted chaos.
Although Gearbox captured certain essences from the film - like the aliens' acid blood melting away your armor - I still fear some of the enemy AI. In the film, the aliens were intelligent; in this game, they not only appear clumsy, but clunky as well. Their motions and movements seem stiff and awkward. Once again, as I mentioned in my previous previews, a lot of their motions seem scripted.
It's not that the combat doesn't seem good, but it just doesn't seem authentic to the movie. For a game that takes so much pride in replicating the movie experience - and justifiably so - it just seems the combat is falling a little flat. Parts of it just seem clunky and generic. Once again, this is based only on what I've seen - not actual hands-on time with the single player campaign.
Having said all of that, I'm pretty confident that fans of the movie franchise will find pleasure in Aliens: Colonial Marines. As it stands now, the tone of the film Aliens is present with in the game. As I mentioned, the lighting, music, and environment is all spot on. It's the combat that's lacking, but with a release date penned for February 12, 2013, there's still time to improve that aspect of the game.