Though I much prefer the isolated horror of the first Alien to its James Cameron directed sequel, it’s hard to argue that Aliens wasn’t the perfect sci-fi actioner. It’s because of this that it is the sequel that would make the far more tantalizing video game in terms of adrenaline fueled, horror/action combat.
At PAX we recently got to try its new “Objective Based” multiplayer titled “Escape”. Trey Highland and myself were given the roles of Colonial Marines trying to escape from a den of Xenomorphs. The experience is exactly as it sounds.
My surprise came from how well the game managed to feel terrifying despite being part of a four man team of hardened space warriors. The horror is the type that leaves one in a cold sweat and erratically darting back and forth in case of an ambush or surprise attack and it works in a game constantly testing your nerves. The aliens don’t have any projectiles (save The Spitter) and rely mainly on melee and close-combat (close-clawing). It wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that those Xenomorphs are insanely fast.
They can hide in shadows, crawl up walls, and lunge for the jugular when you least expect it, and if you’re not careful it can be over in a minute. Luckily the multiplayer is heavily dependent on cooperation. Separation is not the name of the game and if you divide, you will surely fall. When a marine goes down it’s not long before one of your teammates comes to the rescue by blowing the alien to chunks and reviving your mauled body.
It’s amazing how balanced the game is between the two sides. Ranged Colonial Marines and close combat Xenomorphs are both aided and hampered by these two aspects of their characters. Some additional factors also make a fight between the two sides seem even. Survival is just as likely as being massacred granted you work in a team and you work fast.
Objectives follow from escaping the tunnel, opening the escape latch, defending the elevator, taking the elevator up to safety, finding out that it still isn’t safe and rushing towards another escape route, etc.
Additionally while the Colonial Marines are played in a first person perspective, the Xenomorphs are played in third person making this an asymmetrical multiplayer experience.
It’s the lighting that I want to give special mention to however. At one point while running back towards the elevator I felt the dread as the shadow of a xenomoph rapidly passed by me, and then the shadow of a second overcast me. As I look up in terror to see my end waiting to lunge at me, my teammate eliminates the threat and shoots it dead. However the shadow of my fallen hunter remained and left a disturbing overcast. it’s details like this that makes the game feel like a true sequel to the Alien franchise (and the fact that it’s canon helps).
Look forward to Colonial Marines Feburary 12, 2013