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I'm Worried About Aliens: Colonial Marines
by Joseph Christ on Feb. 5, 2013

We're just a week out from the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines and I have to admit I'm a bit skeptical about the prospects. Gearbox is a fantastic studio, but almost everything that we've seen up to this point has led me to believe the Colonial Marines experience may fall far short of the tension-filled, atmospher driven experience an Aliens game should be.  In fact, I think it may be a disaster.

At this point the blame could just as easily be put on the marketing than anything having to do singularly with Gearbox. But I'm seeing a lot of smoke, and I'm hoping the fire is just part of my imagination. So what are my issues? Here they are, and they seem to go far deeper than anything that can be solved with an 9 foot Alien Prop.

Over Attention to Multiplayer

Look, I love Aliens vs. Predator as much as the next guy. This seminal work of 1999 captured the hearts of sci-fi enthusiasts and charged them into a newly emerging mutliplayer experience the same year that Team Fortress Classic turned servers around the world on fire. But that was 1999, and we've already had that experience. Multiplayer is also not the niche market with that air of new-car smell that it once was either. By today's standards, unless a multiplayer is cosmically exceptional -or done in an out-of-the-box way like Dark/Demon Souls- it is easily forgotten after a short time, leaving a single player experience to take the reigns on writing the history of what that game has achieved.

How will Colonial Marines single player stack up? We hardly know because we've hardly seen it. Convention after convention, trailer after trailer, have focused primarily on the multiplayer experience. There may have been one or two single player trailers -some of them made up of the same re-edited footage- but they are nothing compared to the deluge of MP info we've gotten. And it's not like there isn't any source material to work from. The Aliens franchise is bubbling with scenario's and conventions that would serve as a hearty single player experience...even work better as a single player experience, but for some reason this cooperative/MP element has gotten undo attention.

Why?

The Audio Problem

Let's be honest, Gearbox is good at making fun and interesting worlds. Comic characters and stylized graphics are undoubtedly their forte. Sound however has never stood out as being something Gearbox has shown a prowess in. Don't believe me? Pop in Borderlands 2 and tell me how the guns sound. Do they sound beefy? Huge? Do they envelop the ears and the world around you each time they fire? No. Simply put, the sound in Gearbox games is minimal at best, which puts a game like Aliens -which should be drenched in atmosphere and audio horror- in a precarious situation when it comes to creating those tense moments when you're walking down a darkened tunnel and listening intently for the sound of scurrying claws to begin finding their way to you.

Gearbox can certainly excel in this department just as they have excelled in most other areas of game creation. I just hope they have taken the necessary steps.

The Atmosphere Problem

I do keep harping on things like atmpshere and tension in Alien games, but I don't think I can really understate the imporance they play. In an Alien game the amount of time where nothing happens should exceed the amount of time where it does. Those extended areas of 'nothing' are actually filled with everything. Tension, horror, atmosphere. The dichotomy of Aliens is that the Aliens-formula begins to disintegrate as soon as they begin to show up. And to make this work at all -to supplement the disintegration- a hearty amount of tension must be induced to carry the player over the hump of 'shooting things' like you do in every other game.

It's a delicate balance and something that is completely uncharted territory for Gearbox, a developer who's last game taking place away from a comical, heavily-stylized world was 2005's Brothers in Arms. A game, though in more serious tone than anything since then, was not about atmosphere but instead about squad tactics in a WW2 Call of Duty atmosphere.

Again, Gearbox is a capable developer who most probably has the ability to turn on this particular dime. But the track-record worries me.

BLAM, ACTION, WUB WUB, SWEARING

This trailer:

Over-reliance On Elemental Alien Tropes

Alien movies have gotten a little out of hand over the years. Dog Aliens, underground prisons (I kind of liked that one) Predator-alien hybrids. The canon seems to be so open-ended that almost anyone with a good imagination can get in there and do something special. And if not special...at least something different. So why then is Gearbox relying on every basic Alien trope they can find and pushing that to the forefront? It's like they had a big meeting and said “OK...ALIENS! What do people think about when they think about ALIENS?” *Person raises their hand* “POWER LOADERS SIR! Wasn't that in the second one?” *Another person raises their hand* “PULSE RIFLES! They make that cooool sound!” *person three* “That girl who flies the transporter! She wore those hipster glasses...that's a whole new demographic!!”

I'm sure you see what I mean, and I don't remember reading anywhere they were specifically re-making Aliens (the second movie) in any of the press releases. But this appears to be what's happening. Just without Riply, or Lance Henriksen. It seems to be either very lazy, or very fearful, to be reproducing these elemental bits. Being the latter is certainly no excuse, and if it's the former....hell, you're Gearbox, use that imagination and add to the canon rather than reciting it.

Maybe It's Just Me...

Truly, maybe I just want a different type of game. Maybe my nostalgia is too far down the rabbit hole of the original Alien while other people have fonder memories of, and think they might make a better game of, the more action-esque sequences that, although fun, I probably glossed over for the more serene moments in the movie. And I'm not even thinking beyond film here. The Aliens franchise is bigger than the first few movies and much bigger than the movies at all. They span comic books, novels, and multiple video games. Should I be forgetting all of that? But again...is Gearbox? It may just be that the Alien franchise is too big to make anyone 100% happy with any final product. There are just too many different tendrils to that beast for any soup to hold all the ingredients.

I can't help but believe, however, there are some central spices that must be included. Fear, horror, tension, darkness, solitude...to name a few. Without these Aliens: Colonial Marines will be just another first-person shooter with the enemy supplemented for the flavor of the week. And once again we'll find ourselves doing nothing more than shooting our way out another mess we've found ourselves in.


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  • Meltdown 2 years, 5 months ago

    I absolutely agree with the statement about the sections where nothing happens should be more numerous. I remember back to the first Alien movie near the end, when it's just Ripley left alive. There's a segment that felt like it took forever to play out. It's just Ripley slowly trying to get to the escape pod and the Xenomorph never turns up during it, but it's one of my favorite parts of the movie. The anticipation I had to be ready for a jump scare that never came matched by the fear in Sigourney Weaver made that segment stand out to me. I agree that that's what should be a huge part of an Alien game. The anticipation and fear of something that can kill you in an instant, that can come from anywhere, but rarely shows it's face. Sadly, I really don't think that's what you're going to get here.

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  • Absolutely Daft 2 years, 5 months ago

    Kick Ass trailer? More like a lame ass trailer. But seriously that trailer has turned me off from this game because of the dudebro guy sounding way too damn dudebro. I was never really into the Alien series, but I hope it's all a marketing nightmare. Then again...

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  • CommanderZx2 2 years, 5 months ago

    This definitely doesn't feel like an Aliens game from the released footage, however what it does feel like is Starship troopers. Now I know it is a completely different beast, but if they're willing to go all out and be a total satirical pseudo-fascist future with America fuck yeah vs the Aliens like a starship troopers movie I think I could play this game and pretend I'm shooting bugs.

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    • Joseph Christ 2 years, 5 months ago

      You know what game Gearbox would make awesome? A Starship Troopers movie.

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      • daethwing188 2 years, 5 months ago

        so yes.

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  • Golem100 2 years, 5 months ago

    Wub Wub Swearing indeed. A truly embarrassing bit of voice over work there and while it can always blamed on the idiotic marketing drones it's not particularly edifying or promising. Nor was releasing this so close to Dead Space 3 going to ever help them much either, but there you go. I'd like to be surprised by this but Joseph was quite correct and that multiplayer focus is not a good sign at all. Hard to say whether an Aliens game could be groundbreaking and still deliver enough of the punch and atmosphere of the movie these days but it will never stop people from trying even if this does turn out to be underwhelming. When a game eases the fuck off with the QTE's and cutscenes and uses the gameworld and the central game mechanic itself to tell the story, as you are playing it, then you get immersed enough to get totally blindsided by shocks while getting sucked in deep by the atmosphere. If ACM does that then I'd be happy but it doesn't look like it so far. The only other thing I'd add is that too many gamestudios are under the illusion that they can deliver a blockbuster movie. No, you can't. There's a whole lot of shit movies out there anyway from people who do it for a living. So why not try making the game as good as you can and not get into a convoluted plot with multiple characters that you can't pull off.

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  • StückBrot 2 years, 5 months ago

    We all are Joseph, we all are.

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  • pioshfd 2 years, 5 months ago

    While watching the trailer on Trailer Talk, I suddenly had the brilliant idea of an Alien vs Predator RTS game.

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    • Joseph Christ 2 years, 5 months ago

      Then may I introduce you to Aliens Versus Predator Extinction for the PS2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLYybR8tfu0

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      • pioshfd 2 years, 5 months ago

        My god.... Why isn't there a sequel to this already?!?

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  • Nolan Hedstrom 2 years, 5 months ago

    I've never been the biggest fan of shooters; they just don't seem to do it for me. Shooters have to have something special to them to catch my attention like an interesting co-op, more RPG like elements (skill trees). Aliens: Colonial Marines just isn't doin it for me. =/

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  • Waari 2 years, 5 months ago

    I feel like people are expecting something entirely different and Gearbox is trying to make a dudebro shooter game. Are you even allowed to feel disappointed if the game turns out to be exactly like the marketing was?

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  • Soha E. 2 years, 5 months ago

    Oy. I don't like the direction this is going at all.

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  • sam 2 years, 5 months ago

    Anybody get a Duke Nukem vibe from that trailer?

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  • TheKimOFJongIL 2 years, 5 months ago

    HEWasRight

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