Game News, Sega Retro

Aliens Colonial Marines Impressions from Gearbox Community Day 2012


Gearbox’s Community Day 2012 happened recently which gave the general public another chance of checking out Aliens Colonial Maries before its release next year. On their showfloor were two different multiplayer game modes; Escape (Previously seen at PAX,) and Team Deathmatch (Previously seen at E3 and Gamestop’s Managers Conference.) All of which running on PC hardware with Xbox 360 game controllers. There was also this Borderlands 2 nonsense going on there. Something about a launch party? Its now available in stores and popular digital services? Adam Sessler? Whatever. We’re talking Aliens here.

You’ll also find a small image gallery pertaining to the Video Game History Museum as they were also on the floor showing off old video game memorabilia which showcased old pre-order bonuses, prototype hardware, prototype games, clothing and more. All this and more can be found after the jump.

Both Aliens demos let players play as the marines. However  the Xenomorphs player spots were filled by Gearbox developers and testers due to the difference in playstyle. I got to play the game as much as possible with their VIP pass benefits. So much so that design director for the game, John Mulkey complimented me for my VIP’ness (His actual phrasing too.) He along with other Gearbox staff and Craig Ferguson from Sega helped fill in the rest of the details on the game modes for me. Team Deathmatch is the familiar team mode where the team with the highest number of kills wins. Marines are granted four loadouts before spawning in, while the fifth one was locked out until unlocked through perks. I found myself siding along with a shotgun as my primary and machine gun and had little to no trouble defending myself. To balance the game, the Xenomorph players can see the location of the players at all times as well as move around on ceilings, forcing players to holster their weapons and rely on their radar to detect the presence of hostiles, which allows for great team-based opportunities where one player commands others to direct their fire. When the marines crowd together and watch each other’s backs, depending on the other team, the aliens may have difficulty in breaking the other team’s line of defense. They must rely on either surrounding the marines, focus on one marine at a time which may cause them to risk death by using a pounce move that leaves the marine helpess as they’re ripped apart. Once a Xenomorph tackles a marine defenseless, the marine’s teammates have a small window of rescuing comrades by killing the alien who is entirely vulnerable until their attack animation finishes. The Xenomorphs team has three types of units. Two of them are openly available, one dedicated to melee attacks, the other who can spit acid from a distance. The last one could be best described as a tank. It’s most effective for breaking apart marines who have huddled together with a charge attack that performs instant death on contact and has a lot of defense and can take a good amount of fire.

The other game mode, Escape didn’t fare as well as the previous demo as it was faced with more technical issues and gameplay flaws. The game mode is a mission based gametype where the Marines must progress through by meeting certain conditions and reach the goal while the Xenomorphs must try to defeat all the marines. Marines will spawn back in between checkpoints if they die, and can be rescued before they bleed out. Both teams have the same amount of health between this game mode and the Team Deathmatch mode, however marines are now equipped with a shield which allows for longer life and can sustain more damage. That said, it was very difficult in producing the same teamwork as the other game mode as players must go between areas that are suspended by a switch or a conditional event. Objectives were clearly marked, and the same rules and tactics for combat still applied, however the level they had shown for demonstration exposed some of the weak points the build they had on show due to gameplay function issues, scripting errors and team communication for a group of people proves to be difficult in loud public events. For example a blast door must be opened with the flare torch by holding the highlighted button and the player immediately breaks into an animation to dismantle the door. Should a player not hold the button all the way or if they take damage, the animation stops and will have to start the sequence over and complete the animation before going past the event. It becomes problematic to the point that even if it appears that the player has performed the specified function, if the actual animation sequence did not finish, the game asks for you to start the process over again which kind of breaks the experience.

Checkpoints will not activate until all players stand in an marked space before the game progresses to the next area. This unfortunately is where a number of scripting errors would occur as the game would fail to recognize that all players would be present, and forced them to leave from the area and return back to progress. Keep in mind, the xenomorphs, who are still player controlled, are still attacking which also became problematic, especially for the midway point in the stage where most of the players have failed including myself. During this segment in the level, a player must trigger an animation sequence to hotwire a control panel located inside a cramped shack to open another blast door at the opposite end of the area. Since there was only one way in and out, it quickly became an issue where the xenomorphs could easily cause a bottleneck situation where the marines had little chance to deal with the acid spitters as the control panel could easily be targeted, making it extremely difficult to form a line of defense. In both modes were a handful of other gameplay issues such as falling through the floor during the pre-game session, reloading animations not giving you a reloaded clip until the animation completed as opposed to the clip entering the chamber and more frequent than not there would be times where the control stick axis for turning would not respond at all until a player died and respawned. Obviously a number of these flaws are not to representative of the final product which is shipping Feburary of next year. It’s only fair to let it slide for now. The staff had pointed out that a good number of these issues have been addressed compared to the build that was being shown off. The game does not feature the variety that you would expect for a game like Left 4 Dead, the human interaction is at the very least interesting, and theres still time between here and now until the final game ships for more details on multiplayer to surface.

Details of the other console versions have not been divulged as they’re still working on the main game itself. That said, the game is shaping up to be a fine shooter. The gameplay mechanics presented seem to bring a good depth of strategy aand stay true to the universe of Aliens. Gearbox also proudly states that unlike previous Aliens video games, they can freely admit to Colonial Marines becoming part of the normal Alien storyline cannon. So thumbs up to those guys. Now while I don’t really have pictures of the game in action, what does follow is an image gallery from the Video Game History Museum with some interesting Sega related items.


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    The info card for the Sega-sponsored Arsenal shirt is wrong. The red home kit used the Dreamcast logo, the yellow away kit used the Sega logo. The yellow shirt seen in the picture is actually the goalkeeper variant of the home shirt for the 2001-02 season (the season in which Arsenal helpfully went and won the double after the Dreamcast had already been discontinued). Sega spent way too much of its European marketing budget on football sponsorships…

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