All the Ways Aliens: Colonial Marines Breaks the ‘Aliens’ Story
Storytime is a recurring series in which we analyze the storytelling found in video games by looking at the elements that form those stories, the messages they deliver, and the people who create them.
THIS IS YOUR SUPER-CRAZY-MONDO SPOILER WARNING! Everything, from the endings of Aliens: Colonial Marines to the endings of Aliens and Alien 3 and probably other stuff is spoiled in here!
I finally finished Aliens: Colonial Marines, after reading much about the game (like Ben Richardson’s Aliens: Colonial Marines review). Turns out, that twist I was hearing about — it was totally obvious. And the ending that everyone hates? It really is terrible. And that “true sequel” story Randy Pitchford was touting for a year? Yeah, it breaks the movie continuity hard.
If we take Aliens: Colonial Marines to be a true sequel to the 1986 James Cameron film Aliens, as Gearbox President Randy Pitchford has repeated a number of times, then it’s worth analyzing how Colonial Marines alters the existing Alien canonical timeline. And as it turns out, Colonial Marines twists things up, uh… kind of a lot.
Read on to see the context of Colonial Marines as we expose the many new plot holes dug in the already shaky Alien franchise. You can also skip all this story discussion if you’re a big fan of Aliens and aware of all the plot points from the franchise and Colonial Marines, and go straight to our Big List of Plot Holes.
Previously, on Aliens…
Colonial Marines kicks off 17 weeks after the end of Aliens, so to fully understand how it enters the story, we’ll need to go back to the end of James Cameron’s movie and the beginning of Alien 3. As it turns out, Colonial Marines is actually a sequel to both films in terms of timeline continuity, because it occurs well after their events. I’m going to assume you’re familiar with the events of the films.
The end of Aliens
The final moments of Aliens take place aboard the Sulaco and find Ripley tucking Newt into a hypersleep chamber for the trip back to Gateway station, in orbit around Earth. Hicks, badly wounded by an acid splash during the escape from Hadley’s Hope, has been carried to cryo on a stretcher. When the alien queen attacks in Sulaco landing bay, it tears the android Bishop in half before Ripley blows it out the airlock.
This is where the continuity starts to break down. Ripley goes into hypersleep with Newt, and it’s generally accepted that the time between Aliens and Alien 3 is rather short — according to the Alien Anthology Wiki, the end of Aliens is July 28, while the beginning of Alien 3 is Aug. 8.
The premise of Alien 3 states that not only did the alien queen stow away on the dropship on its way back to the Sulaco at the end of Aliens, but that it brought an egg, or at least a facehugger, with it. That facehugger is of the “royal” variety, which means that the egg it implants will grow into an alien queen (coincidentally, it can also, apparently, infect a second victim with a second, normal alien larva). The start of Alien 3 shows the facehugger attacking Ripley in her hypersleep chamber, using its acid blood to cut through the outer casing. That blood starts an electrical fire; that fire causes the ship to eject the cryotubes housing Newt, Hicks, Bishop and Ripley, and they crash-land on prison planet Fiorina “Fury” 161.
During the events of Alien 3, we’re told that Hicks and Newt were killed in the crash — apparently, Hicks died when he was impaled by a piece of metal, and Newt drowned. Only Ripley survived the impact, with a damaged Bishop, whom she briefly reactivates later. The events of Alien 3 progress, with the royal facehugger stowing away with the cryotubes and creating a new alien warrior (or “Runner”) on the prison colony (apparently — a lot of the actual biology of the aliens here is inferred and unclear, but obviously a xenomorph is created somehow on Fury 161). Ripley eventually kills that alien and then commits suicide to kill the queen growing inside her, specifically to keep it out of the hands of Weyland-Yutani, the company that’s been trying to get hold of aliens all along.
The idea of Aliens and Alien 3 was that Ripley wiped out all known xenomorphs in the events of those two films — first through the destruction of the atmospheric processor at Hadley’s Hope, which annihilated the xeno infestation on LV-426, and then when she killed the remaining aliens at Fury 161. Weyland-Yutani was unable to get hold of any aliens, and in fact, humans would clone Ripley some 200 years in the future during the events of Alien: Resurrection, in order to also clone the alien queen inside her and create new aliens — presumably because it was impossible to find them anywhere else. (Worth noting: there’s all kinds of extended universe stuff about more alien infestations and attacks, but if we just go by the four Alien films, this is where we end up.)