Aliens: Colonial Marines Hands-On: A Pants-Crapping Experience
Aliens: Colonial Marines needs to be great.
After the flop that was 2010′s Aliens vs. Predator, this may just be the last big play the franchise will get to make before it’s flushed down the toilet, a Hail Mary pass to save our beloved Xenomorphs from video game permadeath.
We haven’t had a great AvP game since 2001′s Alien vs. Predator 2, and we haven’t had a great Aliens game since 1995′s Alien Trilogy. Can Colonial Marines resuscitate the franchise from over a decade of stagnation? My hands-on play experience at E3 2012 showed some promising signs.
The Colonial Marines station offered a six-on-six multiplayer team deathmatch, pitting media and attendees — as the marines — against the Gearbox developers themselves, who took on the role of the Xenomorphs. [Insert jealous muttering.]
Full discretion: I’m a PC gamer and staunch defender of the mouse and keyboard. My experience with a gamepad consists of a dozen hours spread over the past decade, and — the icing on the cake — I’m left-handed, so my manual dexterity on the right thumbstick is cringe-worthy. In short, my performance on a gamepad is only slightly better than what you’d expect from a monkey. And not one of those smart monkeys; the kind that flings feces.
I loaded into the match, gripping the gamepad anxiously as I found myself within a dimly-lit complex. Vent in the corner. Pipes on the ceiling. Darkened passage to my left. I spun around frantically, counting the places a Xenomorph could ambush me from, knowing an attack might come from any direction.
I needed to find a safer place to hole up while I oriented myself, a place where I could put my back to a wall and limit the enemy’s angles of attack.
What was that? Did something move on the ceiling?
No; just a shadow.
A black blur rushed me, and I opened fire. The ra-tat-tat-tat-tat of my gun rang out for a second as I sprayed lead in a wide arc ahead of me. My torment was brief — the Xenomorph grabbed my head and plunged its inner jaws through my skull.
I exhaled. Respawn.
Heart rate: accelerated. Breathing: shallow. I knew I needed to stop reacting instinctively and start thinking strategically if I’d have any hope of accomplishing something. Then it dawned on me — teamwork.
I scurried through passages until I found a group of marines holed up in a well-lit room. Perfect. There were plenty of entrances, but between the five of us, we had them covered.
Or so I thought.
By the time the first shots rang out, it was already too late. I spun around to see a Xenomorph among us, standing over a fresh corpse as marines opened fire on it. The alien collapsed under a hail of gunfire, and my spirits rose — they’re mortal. We can take them.
Then the swarm came.
Xenomorphs everywhere. There couldn’t have been more than five of them, but it felt like fifty — claws, tails, teeth… everywhere.
I never stood a chance.