Aliens: Colonial Marines Hands-On: A Pants-Crapping Experience
The rest of the match played out in a similar manner, ending with a Xenomorph victory and my pathetic score of 2 kills displayed in large type across my screen, just to ensure I was thoroughly humiliated in front of the dozen people waiting in line. Unfortunately, there was no sign above my head that read, “left-handed PC gamer here.”
I relinquished my station, miffed at the apparent unfair match-up — the Xenomorphs felt overpowered, especially in the hands of the Gearbox developers. But at least the game successfully captured the atmosphere of horror from the Alien films — from the first minute of play to the last. The helplessness, the sense of being overwhelmed, the paranoia.
I wanted to see what things were like on the other side of the coin.
Watching the Gearbox devs play as the Xenomorphs mostly dispelled the sense of imbalance between alien and marine — I saw the marines actually win a match. Once a Xenomorph loses the element of surprise, a marine can make quick work of it — but the combination of inexperienced marine and savvy alien led to some humorous multi-kills. I watched a dev creep along the ceiling, tail-lashing a group of marines below him, killing each with one hit and taking down four humans in about as many seconds.
Playing as a Xenomorph seemed immensely fun, and also much more fluid than in past iterations in the franchise. Climbing along walls and ceilings — and making the transition between surfaces — was awkward and disorienting in the past, and required a steep learning curve to master. In Colonial Marines, your camera angle remains in a static third-person view regardless of what surface you’re on.
Xenomorphs could see living beings through walls up to a limited distance and squeeze through vents too small for marines to crouch through. The second playable map — which was open to the sky — allowed the aliens to show off their impressive jump distance. There was even the option to spawn as a Xenomorph Soldier, which is the juggernaut of aliens — a hulking Xenomorph that trades agility for raw strength and tanking power. While I’m unsure of any requirements to spawn as the Soldier, it seemed there could only be one at any given time.
Overall, the multiplayer for Aliens: Colonial Marines is shaping up to be a fun experience. While I enjoyed the first-person mouth-view for the Xenomorphs in past games, it was disorienting and served as a barrier to entry for new players. There may still be some balance tweaking required before playing a marine is as fun as an alien, but Gearbox is on the right track with this one. We may just see a 79-yard touchdown pass.