How We Beat Gearbox at Their Own Game – Aliens: Colonial Marines Hands-On at PAX East
This is a tale of Aliens: Colonial Marines (A:CM). The tale starts in a line with the want for a bandanna and the need to see what Gearbox was going to offer us. The first marine was the bearer of the bandannas, she was unsure how long the wait was, though she had to be certain that we were committed to the line before she gave us a gift. We considered the other options around us, then made the commitment. We received our face-hugging bandanna and began our near two hour wait.
As we came closer to the doors, it was then that we saw the other marines wielding weapons that were too amazing to be true. (Later I found out that the marine gifting bandannas also had a weapon of epic proportions, but those pesky pile of bandannas prevented her from showing it off.) Of the three marines Sean Maio had the best weapon on… well, on his body. He had a smartgun, and it was a beauty. He is also part of an Aliens super-fan group that creates their own outfits, guns and more, all modeled after the franchise. Maio’s enthusiasm and dedication was a welcome distraction that helped get us through the line.
Moments later, we were inside a dark room with two Gearbox devs who presented the walkthrough,which began about 10-15 minutes into the game. (Unfortunately, the video above is terribly out of order and leaves out parts that received the big crowd reactions.) A:CM is a true sequel that takes places 17 weeks after the second film and 14 weeks before the third. The great thing about it being a true sequel is that Gearbox worked closely with the teams that made the films. Environments will include the Hadley’s Hope, the Sulaco and LV-426. Players will also be able to see areas that weren’t explored in the films.
The visuals of the game quickly drop players into the world. Areas within the ship are set up to invoke different emotions, not limited to “Hell yes!” or “Aw man.” Aliens fans are not going to be disappointed by the effort Gearbox put into getting things right. The music is fantastic and didn’t provide cues of something coming up. At one point the music lowered and we thought an alien had slipped out of the room – then, bam! – the monster was in our collective faces. To the room’s surprise, the dev playing through the demo let out a shocked response to the alien’s sudden return.
Gearbox didn’t change anything in the way of the music or acting style. The score remains classic while the voice acting brings a cheesy but serious flair to the game. Finally, single player will feature drop-in, drop-out co-op for up to 4 players. Any time, anywhere, bring a friend, leave a friend – fun for everyone!
(This doesn’t do multiplayer justice — I blame the poor editing.)
The fun continued in the multiplayer section of A:CM. Nowadays, the addition of multiplayer can be hit or miss, but Gearbox continued to be awesome and kept putting their best foot forward. For this portion players watched the Gearbox devs, playing as aliens, destroy the marines. It was six on six; we stood behind each dev, thinking that they (of course) would have an unfair advantage. What kind of strategy would prevail against them? Teamwork, disconnecting the controllers, blindfolds? Then the round was over and it was our turn.
We moved to the other side to play as the marines. The marines are in first-person view, unlike the aliens who are in third-person. There is nothing new to the controls, so they were easy to pick up. There were only two guns available for the playthrough, but as players progress in the game more guns will be unlocked. The guns were good, but the one equipment option that will help players survive is the tracking device. Before the demo began, our guide told us to stick together and good luck.
We all spawned and for the beginning moments of the playthrough, we did stick together. It was the worst idea ever. Aliens came from everywhere; crawling on the ceiling, popping out of vents, tearing through us. When a player respawns they aren’t put back in the area where they died; they wind up on their own only to hear gunfire and screams in the distance. When I respawned, I ‘d either wait for another marine to spawn or would quickly sprint towards the screams with my radar out.
With A:CM, sticking together was a good way to die, but had we been talking to each other I think approaching it as a team would have worked. We broke off into smaller groups and then would all come back together, where the slaughterfest had bottle-necked in a hallway. There the six of us were, being attacked from every direction, shooting aliens off of one other. Then a big son of a bitch showed up: the Crusher. Marines and aliens dropped left and right, acid pouring over the floor and burning anyone that stepped in it. It was a massacre of death for both teams. Then the round was over.
“VICTORY” appeared on the screen. I looked at the other players that were with us, each of them wearing a smug look accompanied with a head nod of approval. Yes, we beat the developers. We all left the booth, heads a little higher than when we had entered. The two hour wait – what wait? It didn’t matter, we won. We’ll also be buying that game.
The round lasted about 10 minutes, but in that short time, I knew I needed more. Each side able to exploit some type of strategy, but not for long because it’s very easy to turn the tables. To compare the multiplayer to an existing game, it felt a lot like Left4Dead 2‘s versus mode. With the large areas of the ships to run through, multiplayer will offer more than just a couple of hours of playtime. Grab your guns and prepare to get angry, there’s definitely going to be some matches that will piss you off.