The Aliens vs Predator games were some of the scariest, most thrilling FPS's on PC, but since then - bar an excellent Alien Resurrection title from Argonaut on PS1 - things have been surprisingly quiet for Giger's multiple-mouthed horror. Shame, really, because with (at least, depending on how much you love Alien 3) two exceptional films to draw on, background-filling-in spin-off books and comics and one of the darkest, most iconic worlds going, the acid-blood ET is perfect fodder for videogames.
Which is probably why Sega, on securing the licence from Fox, doubled their money and decided to put two Aliens games into production. Aliens: The RPG remains something of a mystery, hidden away in Obsidian's Orange County bunker, but Colonial Marines, a first-person shooter in the spirit of Aliens vs Predator, has been a little more forthcoming.
Like this month's exceptional Left 4 Dead, Colonial Marines is a four-player co-op game centred around survival: you're constantly under attack and the environments you move through are frequently hiding your enemy. However, whereas Left 4 Dead pitches you into the middle of a nameless American city awash in zombies, Colonial Marines goes for fan-pleasing recreations of the movie quadrilogy's best locations: LV-426, the planet where the Nostromo first discovers the derelict alien ship in the original film; the Sulaco, where Ripley joins up with the marines in Aliens; and Fiorina 'Fury' 161, the prison facility from Alien 3.
Although the game will be best played as a co-op experience, the single-player option offers a very close approximation of what Gearbox have already done in Brothers in Arms. On your tod, you can control one of the team of four, and issue orders to the others. You can also switch between them at will. Each of the marines will have specialised skills, and carry guns unique to them, and while further details haven't been revealed yet, it's safe to assume that the quartet of soldiers will be closely modelled on the marines in Aliens.
We're taking a wild stab in the dark here and predicting a Drake/Vasquez-style M56 smart gun-carrier; a loose-mouthed technician based on the swear-tastically lily-livered Hudson; an expert in mid-range weaponry like the bought-the-farm-early-doors-in-Aliens Frost; and, of course, a bad ass Hicks-style squad leader. On top of weaponry specific to each character, all four marines will have access to the beefy bangsticks of the second film, which means pistols, RPGs, grenades, flamethrowers, plus the tasty pulse rifles and sentry guns.
The story is being keenly kept under wraps, but it has pedigree. Scripters Bradley Thompson and David Weddle are at the typewriter which, for anyone who has seen the reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, will know can only be good news, while the setting is post-Alien 3 which means the game can head back into the world of the second and third films without too many timeline problems.
Intriguingly, the plot also sees the four-man team heading into the actual alien spaceship itself on LV-246, which will make for a dizzying visual prospect if Gearbox can come close to matching Giger's startling vision in full-on next-gen-o-vision. As if anticipating the importance of getting the 'look' right, the team have even hired the film's Oscar-winning concept artist Syd Mead, to ensure that the visual style of the game matches that of the films.
Given all that, and Gearbox's very decent CV, the only way you could fail to get excited about the prospect of a shiny 360 Aliens FPS is if you were in hypersleep. Expect more on this as space year 2009 unfolds... and maybe even a glimpse of the RPG too.