Aliens: Colonial Marines Preview — Just Another Bughunt?
Aliens: Colonial Marines is clearly a labor of love. Levels were designed in collaboration with legendary futurist Syd Mead, who worked on Aliens. The services of Lance Henriksen as the voice of Bishop were secured, to ensure continuity. And the plot purports to tie together Aliens with Alien 3 — even to make more sense of that benighted sequel.
And yet, for all its effort to flesh out the universe, to widen the canon, to deepen the lore, one wonders if what the game is attempting to do is even worth doing in the first place. Part of the genius of the first two Alien movies lay in the way that they merely hinted at the larger world, leaving it to the viewer’s imagination to fill in the gaps. Does anyone think that Prometheus was a worthy or necessary expansion? Both that flawed movie and this forthcoming game smack of modern entertainment culture’s misguided need to explain things better left mysterious.
Weyland-Yutani is intimidating as a vast, faceless mega-corporation that spends most of the time offscreen, covertly instructing android Bilbo to do terrible things. When it appears as the sponsor of uber-generic mercs in futuristic body armor — as it did in one of the preview levels I played at a recent SF hands-on — it becomes forgettable. That’s right, Colonial Marines has human enemies, whom protagonist Cpl. Christopher Winter and his squadmates spend their time tediously shooting aboard the Sulaco, which has mysteriously reappeared.
Things were a little better in the other demo mission provided. Accompanied by Henriksen as Bishop (and a tough-talking lady marine who can’t hold a candle to Vasquez), Winter arrives on LV 426 and enters the colony of Hadley’s Hope, just as uncannily deserted as it is during Aliens, 17 weeks before the events of the game.
The skin-crawling atmosphere persists through most of a tense, if uninspired mission, which asks Winter to move through familiar areas of the station command center to attach motion trackers to walls. The music, level design, and sound design all combine to terrifying effect — try putting on a brave face when you’re listening to the tell-tale beep of the motion tracker.