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Aliens: Colonial Marines is a 2013 first-person shooter video game developed by Gearbox Software and TimeGate Studios and published by SEGA for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A Wii U version was being produced for release but was eventually cancelled on April 5th 2013.[1] Taking place in 2179, the game is a sequel to the 1986 film Aliens and takes place after the death of Ellen Ripley in Alien3. The player assumes to role of Corporal Christopher Winter, part of a detachment of Colonial Marines dispatched to LV-426 to investigate the loss of the USS Sulaco. Upon arrival, they quickly discover that the Weyland-Yutani Corporation has been secretly breeding and researching Xenomorphs on both the Sulaco and the moon below.

Gearbox Software aimed to create a first-person shooter Aliens title which retained the atmospheric look and feel of the original Alien films while leveraging the next-generation technology to create an entirely new interactive Alien experience. The game's plot has been stated as canon by 20th Century Fox, but was criticized for its large plot-holes and lackluster writing, thus leaving most fans unsatisfied with the supposedly canonical events that took place in the game; as a result, the game has yet to be mentioned in any subsequent installment of the franchise, even being excluded from the Weyland-Yutani Report. A singleplayer expansion, Stasis Interrupted, was later released for the game July 23, 2013 in the form of downloadable content.

Plot

17 weeks after the events of Aliens, a full battalion of Colonial Marines travels to LV-426 aboard the USS Sephora in response to a distress call sent by Corporal Dwayne Hicks. Upon arrival, the Sephora docks with the USS Sulaco, now mysteriously in orbit around LV-426 despite last being sighted above Fiorina 161, and sends Marines aboard to investigate. A massive Xenomorph infestation is discovered inside the ship and several Marines are killed in the initial onslaught. While investigating the ship, Corporal Winter, Private O'Neal and Private Bella Clarison discover Weyland-Yutani PMCs are now in command of the Sulaco and have been breeding Xenomorphs on board for study.

The hostile corporate mercenaries attack the Sephora using the Sulaco's weaponry and both ships are destroyed after the Sephora retaliates. Winter, O'Neal, Bella, their commander Captain Cruz, Sephora android Bishop and pilot Lieutenant Reid escape aboard Reid's dropship and head down to LV-426, where they take shelter in the ruins of the Hadley's Hope colony, now almost completely destroyed after the detonation of its Atmosphere Processing Plant. Cruz orders all remaining Colonial Marine survivors to gather at the colony, in the hope of holding out until a rescue arrives. While investigating the ruins of the colony, Winter discovers Xenomorphs that only react to sound and movement and attack by suicidally exploding, as well as the corpse of Sulaco Marine Private Hudson.

With their position as secure as they can hope to make it, the Marines learn that Weyland-Yutani are in possession of a high-value prisoner, apparently a survivor from the Sulaco. Thus Cruz orders Winter to travel to the nearby research facility that the company has set up around the derelict ship on the planet, so that he might recover a manifest that identifies the individual. Learning that Bella is impregnated with a Chestburster, Winter and O'Neal accept the mission in the hopes that they can find a way to save her at the facility. However, upon arrival, a Weyland-Yutani medical officer explains to them that Bella's life cannot be saved since, even if the embryo is successfully extracted, the creature's invasive placenta is cancerous and will kill her anyway. Bella dies when the Chestburster hatches as she says goodbye to Winter and O'Neal.

The two Marines recover the manifest they were sent to find and rescue the prisoner, revealed to be Corporal Hicks, who explains that Weyland-Yutani intercepted and boarded the Sulaco prior to its arrival at Fiorina 161. A fire in the hypersleep bay subsequently caused RipleyNewt and Lance Bishop to be jettisoned from the ship in an EEV, along with the body of an unidentified man who was subsequently mistaken for the Corporal when he died in the crash landing on Fiorina 161; Hicks himself was actually captured by Weyland-Yutani personnel and subjected to torture during interrogation, overseen by Michael Weyland in an attempt to learn more about the Xenomorphs' origins and to gain control of the Sulaco's weapon systems.

From Hicks, the Sephora Marines learn that an FTL-capable ship is docked at the research facility, representing the last chance for the survivors to escape the moon. After gathering the remaining Sephora personnel and fighting off a Xenomorph attack on the colony, Captain Cruz orders an all-out assault on the Weyland-Yutani complex in the hopes of capturing the FTL vessel. Winter and Hicks spearhead the advance, but the ship leaves before they can reach it. In a last desperate attempt, Cruz pilots a dropship up to the escaping vessel and crashes into its hangar bay. Within, Winter is confronted by the Xenomorph Queen, and he attempts to eject her using a cargo launching system, but fails when she climbs back aboard. Cruz sacrifices himself by launching the crippled dropship directly into the Queen, propelling both out into the upper atmosphere of LV-426 and to their deaths.

Winter, O'Neal, Reid, Bishop and Hicks find and confront Michael Weyland, but Hicks deduces he is merely an android double left behind as a decoy and summarily executes him. In search of useful intelligence, Bishop connects to the destroyed android's CPU and states that he has "everything", setting the stage for further confrontation between the Colonial Marines and the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.

Voice Cast


Gameplay

Aliens-Colonial-Marines-preview-thumb-large

Colonial Marines is a sci-fi/action first-person shooter which puts the player in the role of a United States Colonial Marine like those seen in the film Aliens, and as such the player has access to iconic weapons from the movie such as the flamethrower, Pulse Rifle, Smartgun and robot sentry turrets. In addition to these, many new weapons are added, and many of the game's firearms can be customized through the addition of underbarrel attachments, optics, extended magazines, fire mode modifications, alternate ammunition types and paint jobs. Players are also able to use a welding torch to seal doors as in Aliens, and can also equip a motion tracker to detect unseen enemies, although doing either will leave the player unable to use their weapon simultaneously.

Initially it was announced that Aliens: Colonial Marines would employ squad-based gameplay, allowing the player to issues orders to AI controlled Marine allies using context-sensitive commands. However, Gearbox Software later revealed that this feature was dropped to make gameplay more accessible. It was also reported that the game would have no traditional HUD to provide onscreen information, leaving players dependant on the ammo counter on their Pulse Rifle and their motion tracker to keep track of situational factors. A HUD was ultimately present in the released version of the game, although it is removed on the hardest difficulty setting.

Players in the game earn experience points by killing enemies, accomplishing objectives and completing levels, and these points carry across both single- and multiplayer modes. As players accrue points and rank up they will unlock "commendations" that can be used to purchase upgrades for weapons in singleplayer, as well as unlock weapon upgrades and player customization options, both visual and gameplay-affecting, in multiplayer. The game also includes a raft of specific challenges that can be completed, both in singleplayer and multiplayer, for additional experience points and customization options. The experience point systems extends to the game's Xenomorph class, although this is only available in multiplayer.

The primary enemies of the game are the Xenomorphs from the first two films, which include the Facehugger, the Warrior and Queen from Aliens. It was also stated that the Runner Xenomorph from Alien3 would appear, but this ultimately turned out to be untrue; it is likely the Runner was cut during the game's troubled development cycle. The game also features never before seen Xenomorph types created by Gearbox Software. The specifics of these new alien types were kept a secret prior to release, with the exception of the Crusher, which was revealed in the E3 2011 walkthrough demo. Along with being able to traverse different surfaces from any angle, Gearbox and SEGA have also stated that the Aliens' AI will use the environment to set up sneak attacks and group tactics to overwhelm the player. Not all enemies will be aliens as players will find themselves also fighting human enemies in the form of Weyland-Yutani PMCs.

It had been stated that with the Wii U integration players would have been able to use the new controller to act as a motion tracker, but the Wii U version of the game was cancelled.

Multiplayer

Aliens: Colonial Marines features dynamic drop-in/drop-out cooperative play in its main campaign, allowing up to 4 players online or 2 players locally to play the game's story together. There are also a number of competitive multiplayer modes that allow players to play as both Marines and Xenomorphs in a series of different modes. Each competitive match consists of two rounds, with teams switching species at half time and scores totalled across both rounds. Multiplayer modes include:

  • Team Deathmatch: Traditional team deathmatch mode pitting two teams of up to six players against each other in a straight fight to the death.
  • Extermination: A king-of-the-hill style game mode for two teams of up to five players. Extermination tasks Marines with destroying Xenomorph Egg clusters while the Aliens attempt to stop them. To destroy an Egg cluster, Marines must stand within the designated radius for fifteen seconds; if all of the Marines leave the circle or are killed, the countdown resets.
  • Escape: An objective-based game mode for two teams of up to four players where the Marine team must complete tasks to facilitate their escape from the map. The Alien team simply has to kill them to prevent this happening. The Marines have massively increased health and endurance compared to the Aliens but have only one life; conversely, the Aliens have unlimited spawns and can continue the attack until the Marines are wiped out. The Marines must complete objectives to progress towards the escape point, such as unlocking doors or calling elevators. The game ends either when the Marines escape or they are all killed.
  • Survivor: A horde-style game mode for two teams of up to four players. The Marines must survive for as long as possible against repeated attacks by Alien players. As with Survivor, the Marines are far stronger in this game mode than the Aliens but have only one life, whereas the weaker Aliens can continually respawn. The Marines can complete various objectives in the map to aid in their survival, such as locating ammunition supplies, placing sentry guns to defend weak points or welding doors to deny access. The game ends when the Marines are all killed.

Multiplayer characters can be customized in terms of both appearance and gameplay characteristics. Marines share weapon customization with their singleplayer counterparts, but can additionally have their physical appearance extensively modified. Options include armor artwork, tattoos, and skin and clothing color. Xenomorph characters can also be modified, albeit far less extensively, with different skin tones and carapace styles. Both species can also accept a number of gameplay-affecting perks or traits which need to be purchased using the commendations awarded for increasing in rank.

Xenomorph Gameplay

The multiplayer gameplay for the Xenomorph players is significantly different to that of the Marines. Xenomorphs will adopt a third-person perspective, as opposed to the first-person used throughout the rest of the game; this was implemented to help overcome the situational awareness problems inherent with the Xenomorph multiplayer faction in the previous Aliens vs. Predator video game. Like the 2010 game, Xenomorph players are able to see Marines through objects and walls to help balance the advantage afforded the marines by their motion trackers.

Aliens can cling to walls and ceilings, and can use vents to ambush Marines. Their main weakness is that they are primarily melee combatants and have to move in close to their target to attack, necessitating the use of stealth, surprise or simply swarm assaults to ensure a successful kill.

Unlike Marine players, Alien players can select one of three "breeds" of Xenomorph, each having different abilities. The Soldier class (based on the Warrior from the films) acts as the infantry of the Xenomorph faction, generally having well-balanced offensive and defensive capabilities. The Spitter class possesses a ranged attack in the form of acid that they can spit at enemies, but are not as physically robust as the Soldier. The Lurker class is likewise weaker than the Soldier but capable of attacking from long range with a pounce attack and can move undetected by motion trackers at low speeds. Players can also play as the Crusher, a massive quadrupedal Xenomorph with a bulletproof head crest that charges enemies, and the Boiler, which has a powerful short-ranged acid spit attack and can also use a kamikaze attack, tearing itself apart and showering its foes in acid. The Crusher and Boiler cannot be selected but must be found and activated in the map, and the number of times they can be used by the Alien team is limited.

Beyond the different classes, players are able to customise their multiplayer Xenomorph characters with a variety of skins and skills. Each class has its own unique primary attacks, secondary attacks, abilities, traits and fatalities.

Development

Aliens: Colonial Marines had a long and troubled development cycle, much like that of Duke Nukem: Forever, another high-profile Gearbox release from around the same time. A previous game under the Colonial Marines name was developed by Check Six Games and was to be published by Fox Interactive and Electronic Arts for the PlayStation 2 in 2001, but it was cancelled before it could hit shelves. A more traditional first-person shooter, it shared the same subject matter and setting as the Gearbox-developed game — it was to take place between the events of Aliens and Alien3, following a rescue team of Colonial Marines searching for the Sulaco. Despite the similarities in gameplay and story, however, Gearbox has stated that their game is unrelated to the Check Six version.

On December 11, 2006, SEGA had announced that they had purchased the electronic rights to the Alien franchise from 20th Century Fox. On December 15 of the same year, Gearbox Software and SEGA announced that they were working on a completely new game based on the franchise. A little over a year later in February of 2008, the game's title was officially announced as Aliens: Colonial Marines and it was featured as the cover story of Game Informer magazine.

The development team took great pains to recreate the vehicles and settings of the films by using original set designs to recreate the exterior and interior of the Sulaco and LV-426. Concept artist Syd Mead, who had worked on Aliens, was hired to design areas of the Sulaco that did not appear in the film but would be used in the game.

A Shacknews article dated November 21, 2008, reported that Aliens: Colonial Marines game had been delayed, supposedly because of layoffs at Gearbox Software. However, Gearbox president Randy Pitchford continued to insist that development on the game continued. In a Kotaku article, SEGA had announced that their new Aliens vs. Predator game was to be released in early 2010 would be the first of the Aliens games to be released since aquiring the property, meaning that Aliens: Colonial Marines would come sometime afterwards.

At the 2010 Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), Gearbox showed off five screenshots and stated that the game remained a priority for them.

In the beginning of June 2011, Gearbox unveiled a teaser trailer and officially announced that Colonial Marines would be presented at E3 2011 and that the game was expected to be released in spring of 2012. However, by January 2012, SEGA had announced that it had decided to delay the game yet again, pushing it to a fall 2012 release date. In addition, Gearbox Software also announced that they would be releasing a new trailer. On May 21, 2012, Gearbox Software had announced a February 12, 2013 launch for Aliens: Colonial Marines on PS3, 360 and PC with a Wii U release date announcement "at a later time". However, following the poor reception the game received, this port was ultimately cancelled.[2]

Much of the game's plot was written by re-imagined Battlestar Galactica writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle. Gearbox has stated that they were invited to speak with Ridley Scott and view the script for his "Alien prequel" Prometheus, and several subtle references to Prometheus appear in Aliens: Colonial Marines. Ahead of release, it was rumoured that the prison colony on Fiorina "Fury" 161 would appear as a location in the game, although this was ultimately dropped from the campaign before the final release. The prison later appeared in the Movie Map Pack DLC for the game's multiplayer, and also made an appearance (in several cutscenes) in the game's singleplayer expansion, Stasis Interrupted.

Collector's Edition

As well as various standard editions, a deluxe Collector's Edition of the game was also made available, containing both bonus items available to the player in-game and exclusive physical memorabilia. This edition came packaged in a "Xeno Hive" cardboard box. The exclusive in-game content was later made available separately as DLC, but the physical items remain exclusive to the Collector's Edition.

The exclusive items packaged with the Collectors' Edition include:

  • A Power Loader figure depicting a Marine fighting a Xenomorph Warrior
  • A USS Sephora blueprint
  • A USS Sephora mission briefing printout
  • A USCM graduation certificate
  • A USCM recruitment card
  • An LV-426 reconnaissance photograph
  • Two iron-on USCM badges

Downloadable Content

See: Aliens: Colonial Marines downloadable content

Reception

Aliens: Colonial Marines received primarily negative reviews upon release. Critics praised the nostalgic feel, the authentic Alien design and the ability to visit recognizable locations from the movies, but criticized the story, voice acting, A.I., gameplay and outdated graphics. The game's multiplayer modes were received a lot more warmly, although many reviewers noted the imbalance between the Marine and Alien factions. 

Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Xbox 360 version 55.26% and 50/100, the PlayStation 3 version 47.33% and 46/100 and the PC version 37.46% and 42/100. However, EGMNOW online rated the game with a score of 9/10 and Forbes Games Reviews gave the game a score of 8/10. GameTrailers gave Aliens: Colonial Marines a 5.9/10 score and the Official PlayStation Magazine (US) gave the game a 6/10.

Michael Biehn himself, who returned to voice Hicks, seemed to hold low regards towards the game, calling it a "passionless" project and cited his experiences voicing the character as "not fun at all".[citation needed]

Additionally, much controversy surrounding the disparity between the demo version of the game shown at E3 2011 and the final product has surfaced since Aliens: Colonial Marines' release, with the demo being unanimously considered superior, with better graphics, animation, writing and voice acting. Many comparisons between the two versions can be seen on review websites and on YouTube.

Unlike the actual game, the first DLC pack has received positive reviews, with critics praising the recent upgrades to the enemy AI from the original title, the new map designs (above all the massive map Tribute, which recreates accurately the entire Hadley's Hope colony before its destruction) and the new multiplayer modes.[3]

Despite being panned by critics, Aliens: Colonial Marines was a profitable video game for publisher SEGA: As of May 2013, 1.31 million copies of the first-person shooter were shipped to stores after being initially sold-out in the different console and PC formats.

Developer response

Following the game's release and negative reception, the following was said by an anonymous developer on Reddit: "First off, due to me breaking NDA, I can't provide any proof that I'm not just talking out of my ass. But I figure you'd be interested in hearing what I have to say regardless. I've been on the project for around a year and a half, so some of the following are things I've heard from more senior guys. Pecan (the internal codename for ACM) has a pretty long history. SEGA, GBX and 20th Century FOX came to an agreement to produce an Aliens game around 6 years ago, after which SEGA almost immediately announced it, long before Pecan had even started production. The game has been in active development in the past, only to be shelved in favor of another project (Borderlands, Duke [Nukem Forever], etc.), and each time it was resumed it would undergo a major content overhaul. SEGA, naturally, wasn't super pleased about the delays, but GBX got away with it for a long time and the contract between SEGA and GBX kept getting augmented to push the projected release further and further back. The last time it was resumed, GBX outsourced a good portion of the game to outside companies. Initially, the plan was for TimeGate to take the majority of campaign, GBX would take MP, Demiurge and Nerve would handle DLC and various other focused tasks. This decision was made mostly so that most of the developers at GBX could continue working on Borderlands 2, while a small group of LDs, coders and designers dealt with Pecan."

"Somehow the schedules for Pecan and Borderlands 2 managed to line up and GBX realized that there was no way they could cert and ship two titles at the same time. Additionally, campaign (which was being developed by TimeGate) was extremely far behind, even as Pecan's Beta deadline got closer and closer. In April or May (can't remember which), Pecan was supposed to hit beta, but GBX instead came to an agreement with SEGA that they would push the release date back one more time, buying GBX around 9 mos extension."

"About 5 of those 9 months went to shipping BL2. In that time, TimeGate managed to scrap together 85% of the campaign, but once Borderlands 2 shipped and GBX turned its attention to Pecan, it became pretty apparent that what had been made was in a pretty horrid state. Campaign didn't make much sense, the boss fights weren't implemented, PS3 was way over memory, etcetcetc. GBX was pretty unhappy with TG's work, and some of Campaign maps were just completely redesigned from scratch. There were some last minute feature requests, most notably female marines, and the general consensus among GBX devs was that there was no way this game was going to be good by ship. There just wasn't enough time."

"Considering that SEGA was pretty close to taking legal action against GBX, asking for an extension wasn't an option, and so Pecan crash-landed through certification and shipping. Features that were planned were oversimplified, or shoved in (a good example of this are challenges, which are in an incredibly illogical order). Issues that didn't cause 100% blockers were generally ignored, with the exception of absolutely horrible problems. This isn't because GBX didn't care, mind you. At a certain point, they couldn't risk changing ANYTHING that might cause them to fail certification or break some other system. And so, the product you see is what you get."

"Beyond gameplay, the story has been raised as an issue several times. I can't really comment without feeling bad beyond saying that the script was approved by 20th Century FOX, and that the rush to throw a playable product together came at the cost of the story. Campaign does a pretty bad job of explaining a lot of the questions raised at the start of the game, and so hopefully there will be DLC to flesh that out a bit better".

Merchandising

Dark Horse Comics published a prequel comic book, only available as a free give-away handed out at San Diego Comic-Con 2012.

Trivia

  • The first trailer for Aliens: Colonial Marines came out on October 10, 2011 for the Xbox 360. While the game was originally set to come out in the spring of 2012, it was pushed back to the fall of 2012. Later, it was delayed again, and was finally released on February 12, 2013.
  • The plot of the game is notably very similar to the base story in the tabletop role-playing game Aliens Adventure Game, released in 1991, in which a second team of Marines is dispatched to LV-426 to investigate the disappearance of the Sulaco. The game even includes hostile "Weyland-Yutani military forces" that are present on the moon.
  • The majority of the trophies/achievements in Aliens: Colonial Marines are named after lines of dialogue from Aliens and its extended Special Edition.
  • Gearbox was invited to speak with Ridley Scott and view the script for Prometheus, leading many to speculate there would be connections or references to the film in the game.
    • When you first come across the Engineer from Alien on board the derelict, Winter says, "My God!" to which O'Neal responds, "That isn't your God..." This is likely a reference to Prometheus, which begins with a member of the same race sacrificing himself to create the first life on Earth, a role typically associated with God.
    • Another instance that relates both films is in the level "Derelict Reclaimed", where some W-Y flying devices identical to Fifield's "PUPS" can be found scanning inside the derelict.
    • Finally, a hologram depicting a space battle between the saucer from the Prometheus prologue and the derelict from Alien can be activated if the player shoots at the Space Jockey's head in the level "Rampart".
  • New Xenomorph types are introduced in the game, such as the Crusher, Spitter and Boiler, although several of these share characteristics with previously established Xenomorph types from the expanded universe. Their specific origins are not revealed in the game. 
  • If you stare at your shadow in the campaign long enough your player will begin doing idle animations such as checking the room. Strangely these actions are not actually preformed by the player in first-person view, creating a disconnect between what the player's shadow does and what the player is actually doing in first-person.
  • Magazines (for firearms) are incorrectly referred to as clips in-game.
  • Even after Microsoft replaced Microsoft Points with real money, the Downloadable Content store on the Xbox 360 version of Aliens: Colonial Marines still uses them for the price of the available DLC.
  • It is possible to glitch the game so that when picking up a dog tag, the "Press (action/reload button) Retrieve Dog Tags" will stay on the screen, but should eventually disappear.
  • The Xenomorph depicted on the cover is a Warrior (referred to as "Soldiers" in-game).
  • The artwork on the covers of the books Alien: Out of the Shadows and Alien: River of Pain were derived from in-game captures from Aliens: Colonial Marines.
  • Bug Hunt, the name of the first DLC released for the video game, was also used as the title of the anthology novel Aliens: Bug Hunt, which focuses on the Colonial Marines.

Goofs

See: Aliens: Colonial Marines goofs

See Also

Gallery

References

  1. "Aliens: Colonial Marines Wii U Gets Cancelled". GamingUnion.net (2013-04-06). Retrieved on 2013-04-06.
  2. Thomas Whitehead (05 Apr 2013). "Aliens: Colonial Marines Cancelled on Wii U". Nintendo Life. Retrieved on 2013-04-7.
  3. Lara, James (March 22, 2013). "Aliens: Colonial Marines Bug Hunt DLC Review". MP1st. OPNetwork. Retrieved on March 29, 2013.


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