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PAX East 2012 — Aliens: Colonial Marines Preview

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Now that the room is clear, it’s time to return to your commanding officer via the airlock connecting the two ships. Before you make it through the airlock, though, the man you rescued keels over in pain. Those who guessed that a chest-burster would expel itself from the poor guy would have guessed right. The little monster breaks the airlock tunnel — which is made of glass, for some reason — and soon you find yourself struggling to keep yourself from being sucked into space. After a few breathless moments you drag yourself to safety, and the single-player demo draws to a close.

Damn!

The buzzing, wide-eyed audience was then corralled into the next room, where it was time for everyone to get some hands-on time with Colonial Marines’ multiplayer against some of the game’s developers. It’s a tall order, but everyone happily accepts the challenge. Team Gearbox pitted their stalking xenomorphs against our marines, and the premise was simple: first to fifty kills wins.

Playing as a marine is instantly familiar to anyone who’s played a military FPS in the last few years, complete with contextual XP bonuses and a standard assortment of assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols. The motion tracker shown in the earlier demo also makes its way over to the multiplayer, but it’s not entirely foolproof; as the name implies, it only detects motion, so nothing shows up on the scanner if it isn’t moving. As a result, going lone wolf is highly discouraged, lest anyone gets picked off by a xeno lurking in the shadows.

While only the developers played as xenomorphs, everyone was able to peek at what it was like to play as them while waiting for their turn. Playing as a xeno shifts the camera from first- to third-person; with all of the crazy jumping and climbing between walls and ceilings, this is probably for the best.

The xenos we fought consisted of two different classes, the soldier and the lurker. In the rounds that we played and watched, though, we saw few soldiers in action. In either case, a xeno could reach a special power-up in the middle of the map that turned one of them into a swift, headstrong tank that took tons of firepower to eventually kill. They served as excellent distractions for the rest of their team as they picked off preoccupied marines. Combined with their species-wide ability to see us through walls, the xenos are a formidable foe.

Aliens: Colonial Marines manages to carry the same level of tension across both its single-player and multiplayer modes, with the years of care and development evident throughout. Look for it to hit store shelves sometime this fall.

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