All the Ways Aliens: Colonial Marines Breaks the ‘Aliens’ Story
Begin the Retcon!
Colonial Marines begins to rework this timeline almost immediately after the ending of Aliens. We’re assuming you’re familiar with the events of the game. If not, spoiler: Hicks is alive and in Weyland-Yutani custody until the game characters rescue him.
As fans of the films remember, Ripley’s ship Nostromo was first dispatched to LV-426 under Weyland-Yutani (Company) orders in Alien, and the colonists of Hadley’s Hope investigated the derelict ship there 57 years later and were infected because of a dispatch from Carter Burke in Aliens. However, by Alien 3, Weyland-Yutani is not only fully aware of the alien species, it’s attempting to get hold of it through Ripley. At some point between Aliens and Alien 3, the sleeping giant of Weyland-Yutani is awakened, and not just by the news that Ripley is alive on Fury 161.
In the Colonial Marines timeline, Hicks sends his distress signal (that video from the opening of the game) sometime after the events of Aliens (he was unconscious aboard the Sulaco and then in cryosleep during the ending of the film, so he couldn’t have sent the message sooner). After that, according to Hicks’ account of events during the game, the Sulaco is intercepted by WY private military contractor troops — mercenaries. When the Sulaco is boarded, the ship’s automatic protocols engage and Hicks is thawed from cryosleep to see what’s up. Apparently, the following events in the Colonial Marines timeline are what kick off Alien 3 (these are almost all conveyed through dialog or evidence found throughout the game, or inferred based on the information available):
When the Sulaco is boarded, Hicks must fight off at least one of the WY troops — apparently depositing that guy in Hicks’ cryotube before it was ejected. We know this because a body is later discovered in that tube on Fury 161 in Alien 3, but obviously it doesn’t belong to Hicks, since he’s alive in Colonial Marines. It seems that the facehugger attack on Ripley at the start of Alien 3 must take place sometime between when Hicks sticks a dead guy in his cryotube, and more WY PMCs arriving on the Sulaco to capture him. We know this because the cryotube is ejected with someone who is presumed to be Hicks inside, but it is ejected before Hicks has a chance to thaw everyone else out; we also know that WY is unaware of Ripley’s location on Fury 161 until the company is notified by the prison colony’s warden.
After the tubes are ejected and while Ripley is on Fury 161, Hicks is captured by the WY troops. The Sulaco, now with Ripley, Newt and Bishop gone, is taken back to LV-426, where the company begins experimenting with the aliens; this follows both Hicks’ account and evidence seen in the game.
It’s not clear if the WY forces brought the alien that eventually infects Ripley to the Sulaco with them, which wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility, since they turn the Sulaco into a secondary hive to study the aliens during the 17 weeks before the start of Colonial Marines. During that 17 weeks, back at LV-426, WY creates research facilities near the derelict ship where the alien eggs were first discovered, and also monitors either the existing xenomorph hive (if it survived the blast of the atmospheric processor) or creates a new one (like they did on the Sulaco). It’s not clear which, precisely, but it is clear that WY helps the alien hive along and captures a number of specimens, including a queen.
When the Sephora shows up and investigates the Sulaco, the marines there apparently find not only loose xenomorphs, who grab, cocoon and impregnate them almost immediately, but also PMCs who have been stationed on the Sulaco. The game events follow, with the marines eventually rescuing Hicks and apparently capturing data on the LV-426 research to use against the company at the end of the game.