In Colonial Marines’ multiplayer, no one can hear you rage
Like the franchise’s trademark Xenomorph baddies, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a strange beast. Part adaptation and part sequel, Gearbox’s take on the popular film series revisits characters and locations from the iconic sci-fi film series, but it does so while telling its own story and presenting its own unique spin on the universe. We’ve seen plenty from Colonial Marines over the last few years, but at a special press event at New York Comic Con this past weekend, Ray and Josh finally got to go hands on with the game’s hotly anticipated Marines versus Xenos multiplayer mode.
Josh Harmon, Associate Editor: I’m not one to get overjoyed about a game this far out from release, but I have to say, I’m still on an endorphin high from the time I spend playing Team Deathmatch in Colonial Marines. I think we both knew what to expect on the human side of things, given all the demos we’ve seen of the campaign so far, but actually going hands on with the Xenomorphs for the first time? Wow. I know there have been a few games that let you crawl inside that shiny black carapace and hunt down some unfortunate schmucks, but this is something else entirely. The move set—crawling on walls, decapitating people with your tail, pouncing on them from twenty feet away—makes me feel like a fearsome predator.
Ray Carsillo, Reviews Editor: Yeah, playing as a Xeno was a very badass experience from the guys at Gearbox. The fluidity of movement was something to be admired and I couldn’t help but get giddy each time I stealthily outsmarted a Marine. You could literally get right next to them before proceeding to rip them to shreds with a rage that I could equate to what I feel when watching a sporting event and my team makes a bonehead play. I also loved the vents and grates you could crawl in to really push your already substantial natural advantage and actually instill the same fear in your enemies that the computer tries to instill in you in single player.
Josh: Then, of course, there was the evolution wall, which allowed you to transform into the massive, triceratops-like Crusher. Sure, you lose a lot of your hit and run mobility—you can’t climb walls, you’re too bulky to fit through some doorways, and your health no longer regenerates—but as a tradeoff, you get an absurd amount of health and the ability to one-hit kill anyone on the map by charging through them like an angry bull. There’s nothing quite like surprising a tightly grouped team of Marines and plowing straight down the middle, splattering a few and sending the rest scattering. I think it’s pretty clear Gearbox hasn’t decided how they’re going to balance him out yet, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him toned down a bit by launch. In the build we played, the Xenomorph team was able to spawn multiple Crushers simultaneously, which was predictably painful for the Marines. I mean, you saw that round where I took out 15 guys in a single life, Ray. Fun? Hell yes. Fair? Probably not.
Ray: The balance is definitely skewed at this point, Josh, and I’m sure that will come along through further iterations and builds until we get to launch. I imagine it’ll probably be fixed along with the few obvious bugs we saw, like players getting stuck in floors. But to be fair, an experienced player or group of players can handle the Crusher and the Xenos in general. Every match we saw early in the night had the Xenos win by a clear margin. As players started playing multiple times and learned to work as a team as the Marines, however, you saw a much more even playing field aside for the clear health and strength discrepancies. I personally took down a pair of Crushers in a single match. As long as you don’t panic, you can overcome. (2:1 Kill/Death ratio that match as a Marine, by the way.) Also, using the Crusher’s inability to climb to your advantage helps as the levels we saw all had multiple tiers. If you could get to high ground, you could pour bullets into the Crusher with little fear of being harmed by it—not to say other Xenos wouldn’t sneak up from behind while you were distracted though.
Josh: That definitely looks to be the intended tradeoff here. If you’re playing as the Marines and you can stick together and cover your teammates closely, you’re be able to wipe out the standard Xeno classes as though you were swatting flies, even if they attack as a pack. It’s all about playing smart, using your motion detector and range to your advantage, and emphasizing cooperative teamwork. It makes sense to me from a design standpoint, and it’s also a damn good choice to capture the sheer terror of the films, but I’m a little worried the general public won’t be able to work together well enough to make it a fair fight. Still, I absolutely adore the recent trend of asymmetrical multiplayer, and I think Colonial Marines has the potential to take that concept to new heights. The small taste I got was far faster-paced and more terrifying than Left 4 Dead or Dead Space 2, and I frankly can’t wait to see how it all comes together in the finished product.
Ray: I agree that Colonial Marines taps into the atmosphere of the movies like few other franchises and not only finds a way to put into the single player, but, more so than most games of this nature, also have it carry over to its multiplayer. I think a lot of this has to do with the low-light situations you’re often places in, and that more so than any other game, you don’t know where the threat will come from. When you combine this primal, paralyzing fear with crisp action and the fun of trying to tackle this challenge with friends, Colonial Marines has a winning multiplayer mode on their hands for sure.