Studios that Could Make Better Aliens Games than Colonial Marines


(This is another edition of /RANT, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)

Word on the street is that Aliens: Colonial Marines is terrible. Really, really terrible. Almost as bad as a thousand online game reviewers thinking the headline, “Game over, man” would be hilarious for their reviews. Whether the result of incompetence, bad budgeting, or rumored dodgy dealing from a studio that simply didn’t care, Colonial Marines has been a let down to fans of Aliens, fans of Gearbox Software, and fans of games that aren’t bloody awful. Rebellion and Gearbox have both had a crack at the Aliens IP now, and both games failed to set the world on fire. 2010′s Aliens vs. Predator was alright, but I know we can do better. We have a ton of great studios out there, many clearly influenced by Aliens’ iconic legacy in some way or another, and yet more that’d do a damn fine job with the license. Obviously, with SEGA holding the rights, not all candidates are realistic. It’s fun to dream, though, so let’s look at some studios with the proven ability to do Aliens right. Things can only get better for Aliens fans now!

EA Visceral

By far one of the least likely studios to ever acquire the license, given their binding ties to Electronic Arts, Visceral nonetheless owes Aliens a huge debt. Its flagship Dead Space series borrows heavily from the classic movies in terms of atmosphere, environmental design, and enemy behavior, as protagonist Isaac Clarke picks his way through vent-riddled spaceships crawling with bladed, screeching killing machines. Visceral’s love of moody environments, methodical combat, and panic-inducing jump scares provide a most fertile bed for Aliens magic to grow. Aliens is my favorite science fiction property of all time, and Dead Space my favorite new IP of this generation, so a marriage between these two creations would probably be my idea of the perfect videogame experience, and I do not say that lightly.

In fact, I’d probably cry at the thought. Out of every hole in my body.

Telltale Games

Most Aliens games end up as shooters of some kind, which means they invariably draw their inspiration from the “bug hunt” of the second film. Gung-ho marines, big-ass pulse rifles, and armies of bugs lining up for the slaughter. This is perfectly acceptable, but the universe of Aliens is about more than that. Fantastic character development has always been a series staple, as has creeping, paranoid, dreadful cosmic horror. Neither of these elements get to make it into the shooters, but if one studio could capture the more personal horror found in Alien and Alien 3, it’d be Telltale, makers of last year’s impeccable The Walking Dead. The studio’s already made a deeply personal, beautifully written, subtly horrific game — applying those elements to the Aliens universe would be as simple as switching out the zombies for xenomorphs.

Okay, maybe not that simple, but you get what I mean.

An Aliens adventure game would be a perfect way to pay interactive homage to the elements of Aliens videogames so often miss. Less a case of space marines yelling “Hoorah” and more a case of ordinary humans in the cold depths of space, coming face to face with their own insignificance and a creature better suited than they to the one thing that matters anymore — killing. Telltale has the chops, and could bring that to gorgeous life. And yeah … it could end up like that Jurassic Park game, but I think Telltale’s learned its lesson there!

Rocksteady Games

If there’s a studio to be crowned king of the licensed games, Rocksteady is surely in the running. There’s little left that needs to be said of its stellar work on Batman: Arkham Asylum and sequel Arkham City, but let’s all just remind ourselves of their startling quality. This studio could have easily cobbled together some braindead, buggy piece of crap and let the Batman name rake in the dollars, but it actually gave a shit about what it was doing and created proof that licensed games are more than capable of matching the best of the best in mainstream games publishing. As far as I’m concerned, Arkham Asylum set the bar for licensed games, and if you’re not matching it, you’re doing something wrong.

General commitment to quality aside, Rocksteady’s skill in Batman can be transferred to Aliens quite adequately. You want moody level design? They’ve got you covered! Fluid combat system? It’s there. Predatory stealth? Just imagine Rocksteady doing for a playable xenomorph what it did for Batman. I know thinking about that gets me excited. Rocksteady could do wonderful things with the license, if only SEGA could let them have a stab.

Valve

Okay, I admit this one’s a real stretch, but if there was any way Valve could get its hands on the license, I think we’d see some real magic happen. The creator of Half-Life is clearly already knee-deep in Aliens love, with so many visual design elements borrowed from the series. From the egg-like Barnacles to the leaping headcrab zombies, Valve wears its xeno-love on its sleeve for all to see. The studio’s also responsible for Left 4 Dead, a game well versed in asymmetrical multiplayer pitting human survivors against a horde of murderous creatures. Special infected like the Hunter are basically undead versions of xenomorphs, with their nightmarish screams, leaping pounces, and tendency to gore isolated victims to death.

Gearbox seemed to want Left 4 Dead’s charm in Colonial Marines’ multiplayer, but clearly didn’t have what it took. Who better to give it real justice than the home of Left 4 Dead itself? Like Valve’s zombie shooter, you can have common Xenomorph “drones” backed up by playable warriors, spitting subtypes, and give Tank duties to the Alien Queen. Of course, there are probably a thousand PC mods that already do this … but wouldn’t an official one be nice?  

4A Games

This one was suggested to me on Twitter, just as I was trying to think of one last perfect choice. The brains behind Metro 2033 and the upcoming Metro: Last Light? You damn right that’s a perfect choice! When it comes to claustrophobic horror on a deeply personal level, these guys really know how to knock it out of the park. Metro 2033 was a perfectly paced exercise in creeping through the dark, attempting to outwit stronger, more powerful opponents with nothing but skill and wit. It was a great game with a palpable sense of tension, and its dismal, beautifully bleak world of tunnels and shafts is the kind of thing that’d translate well to the Aliens universe.

4A is the kind of studio that can pit you against a mere handful of xenomorphs and make it as nailbiting and terrifying as any number of games that toss thousands into a corridor and tell you to get going. I think I’d love to just see these guys take on a space setting in general. The team certainly knows what it’s doing when crafting a post-apocalyptic russia. If it could take its survival horror elements and truly dark tone into the stars, I reckon we’d have a chance at a genuine System Shock 2 successor. With xenomorphs, of course. Lots and lots of juicy xenomorphs.

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11 Comments on Studios that Could Make Better Aliens Games than Colonial Marines

lol

On February 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Don’t you mean publishers? The whole reason why the game is crap is because of Sega.

They should of given it back to Activision, they would of made it epic like AVP and AVP2.

bob

On February 14, 2013 at 12:50 pm

the gamne is fine and great yes it has ai problems but only on console and you console dude need to learn that your system is 7 years old

Tobbii Karlsson

On February 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I want Aliens to get the Rid treatment by Starbreeze.

Cheese

On February 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

‘lol’ once again shows that he has no idea how videogame development works and merely sides with whoever has the most name value. Once a fanboy, always a fanboy.

DKJZ

On February 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Man, I would love a Telltale Aliens game

MPSewell

On February 14, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Give it to Ubisoft. Let them make an open-world of an alien world with a massive under-structure-like base that is studying an alien spaceship. You can move between the alien craft, the base, and the surface. It is always dark and scary as hell. In most of the alien ship you only have a flashlight to see with, making the motion-tracker a necessity. You are constantly being hunted by aliens. Your ammo is limited to the point of making RE1 look friendly.

There’s your AAA game.

Kre

On February 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I’d give it to Obsidian. Oh wait…

lol

On February 14, 2013 at 3:55 pm

@Cheese

Ever play the first two AvP games?

Ever play a good game published by Sega in the last 10 years?

Russell

On February 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Let ID Software make it, they did a great job with Doom 3…

Aedelric

On February 14, 2013 at 11:38 pm

The reason this game is mediocre was not entirely to do with publishers, but the developer the gameplay needed more work. The only blame I can see being directed at the Publisher is due to the PC version being a direct console port, which does ruin gameplay somewhat. Personally I did not find the game that bad, it was directed to the die hard Aliens fan and in that respect I found it quite satisfying.

@lol
“Ever play a good game published by Sega in the last 10 years?”

Yes, the Total War franchise, Sega has published other great titles also, but I do admit they do create a lot of crap too.

Tiagonal

On February 15, 2013 at 5:16 am

Hmm.. I might need some help here… Who would be a good developer for a Newt’s Tale videogame adaptation?