Aliens: Colonial Marines has been a long time coming. Originally announced in 2006, Gearbox and Sega have been tight lipped about their new entry into the revered Aliens film franchise... until now. The wait may have been worth it, as Colonial Marines definitely appears to be more than your typical movie tie-in game, with an officially recognized plot in the series lore, a dynamic engine to help create tension and extensive coop features to boot.
During our demo at E3, Gearbox was eager to emphasis that Colonial Marines is the official sequel to the Aliens film. The team is working in tandem with 20th Century Fox and Battlestar Galactica writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle - apparently Ridley Scott has also been consulted in some form - to create a story worthy of its name. It's a positive sign for games in general, because the medium is being taken seriously and incorporated into a revered film series' fiction.
Gearbox has also created a highly modified version of the Unreal engine specifically for Colonial Marines. The emphasis for them was on minimizing scripted events, ensuring that the AI, lighting and other environmental factors were dynamic. This move could potentially increase the game's replay value, but also proves quite beneficial for building tension. One sequence tasked the marines with holding out against an ambush of xenomorphs. Without warning, the lights cut out and the creatures charged in. Faint flashes of gun fire, followed by bright red emergency lighting, eventually revealed some of the carnage. It was an effective way to demonstrate the impact of their engine work.
Colonial Marines will also attempt to distinguish itself amongst the endless sea of first-person shooters by offering a range of cooperative options. Drop-in, drop-out online coop for up to four players will be a key feature, as well as two player splitscreen offline. These modes will fit nicely into the Aliens fiction and likely give the game staying power. Competitive multiplayer is included too, but Gearbox isn't ready to discuss it just yet.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is shaping up to be a strong entrant into the acclaimed sci-fi film series. Gearbox's role on the project gives it credibility, and the clear love being shown for the fiction will hopefully make this an experience fans can treasure.
Look out for Aliens: Colonial Marines on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC in the spring of 2012, as well as on Wii U at some point.