Against the harsh winds of LV-426, our squad trudges forward. Away from the lava pits that pock-mark the planet’s surface and towards Hadley’s Hope. Our squadmates – a cigar-chewing grunt, a female marine formed from Vasquez’s mould, and wide-eyed Bella – have no idea what a singularly terrible idea it is to enter the terraforming facility that H.R. Giger’s totally non-phallic monsters ransacked in the 1986 movie, turning humble, God-fearing oxygen farmers into birthing piñatas to breed yet more dick-beasts. But they haven’t seen the movie – they’re living out the sequel.
They don’t get a nostalgic tingle like us when we explore the corridors of the facility just as Gorman’s men did in the movie. They certainly don’t pause to admire how the much-trumpeted deferred lighting engine takes a slightly dated interior and swathes it with atmosphere and vaguely xenomorph-shaped silhouettes. They don’t know that an army of acid-filled nightmares awaits us the second we finish setting up these motion sensors to establish a perimeter on the ground floor – but you and I both know exactly what’s in store.
What’s in store being a screen full of xenomorphs, of course. Crawling out of the air vents, dropping down from the ceiling. Moving dynamically, rather than closing in on set paths. They move more convincingly than we’ve seen in earlier builds, finding a middle ground between the charming “that’s a man in a rubber suit” vibe of the film and a more convincing animation cycle.
When they get close enough, you can push them back and jam a shotgun in their face. When they take damage from a distance, they slink away to recover. Comparing this build to a version we saw earlier in the year, it’s clear some serious man-hours have gone into this.
But like painting over a mark on a grubby wall, it now shows up how unconvincing your squad-mates are. Their aim is nearly Elena Fisher bad, and if they ever did go through ultimate badass training, their movement in combat doesn’t show it.
Your best bet’s going to be filling those AI slots with co-op players, online as a quartet or in 2 player split-screen. Having played the single player, this now looks like the best way to enjoy Colonial Marines. A means of bypassing hapless AI comrades, and enjoy the undeniable atmosphere with like-minded fanboys.
Levels are dictated, from what we’ve seen so far, by the set layouts from the movie. It’s a strong nod to authenticity that means objectives often involve revisiting locations – like planting motion trackers here and there in Hadley’s Hope, or running back to an earlier location to grab a sentry, and set up to take a wave of xenos.
There’s nothing implicitly wrong with that approach to level design – Bioshock nails it, for example – but here it feels inhibitive. Like if you fled in the wrong direction from the horde of xenos you’d fight a group of set gaffers, stubbing out their breaktime cigarettes and staring at you in bemusement. Don’t get the wrong idea, it’s playable, even enjoyable; but the reality is Aliens Colonial Marines is a quite good shooter about to be released into a snake pit of rabid sci-fi and shooter fans who demand nothing less than in-canon perfection.
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