Previews

Aliens: Colonial Marines: Can it topple Halo, Gears and Call of Duty?

Is this a stand-up fight...or another big hunt?

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Tonally, it's spot-on. Gearbox's much-trumpeted new lighting systems bathe the area in authentic shades of blue and black (and flashing red light, later in the demo) and everything looks as if it belongs in the Aliens universe. The devs are keen to point out the involvement of Syd Mead, the futurist designer who inspired Cameron's film. "Having Syd on board has enabled us to recreate as authentic a visual experience in Aliens Colonial Marines as possible," says Cozzens.

"But we're not bound by the same constraints so we're quite pumped about being able to show you the areas for various locales that the fans never got to see." In addition to new areas, Colonial Marines will revisit famous locales from the Aliens film. According to Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford you'll see the vent where Vasquez and Gorman sacrifice themselves, and you'll travel through the cargo bay which still bares the cloudy-white spatter of Bishop's dismembering. And yes, the power-loader is there - but you won't get to pilot it. Not here, anyway.

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VENTING FRUSTRATIONS
Back in our demo, it all kicks off when a Xeno announces itself in characteristic fashion by rudely snatching a squad-mate through a vent. Shotgun cocked, it's time to kick ass. We're assaulted by a wave of enemies, but they fall apart after a couple of blasts, and it feels just a little underwhelming. There's none of the tension or desperation of movies here, although the scene ends with a tactical retreat when a new alien type - the Queen-sized Crusher - busts into view and scatters the surviving marines.

We understand the need to mix things up, and the Crusher does just that, but having spent so long revelling in the authenticity of Colonial Marines, introducing a new breed to create an obligatory 'boss fight' feels a little jarring. "In the Aliens universe, there are variants that we see throughout the various films and we thought it would be quite interesting to explore these differences," says Cozzens, as we ask about the inclusion of the Crusher.

"We're also dealing with some factors that have occurred after the atmospheric processors explosion that we feel could make the traditional Xenomorph formula much more unique and exciting. But that's a surprise!" Mutant aliens seems like a decent bet. But if that still seems at odds with a faithful follow-up to the film - like the finer details of Colonial Marines' plot - Gearbox's writers are taking pains to make absolutely certain that it slots seamlessly into the canon.

We can at least confirm that the next part of our demo definitely feels canon. Winters regroups inside a maintenance tunnel, grabs a Pulse rifle, and deploys sentry turrets. Waves of enemies attack, but the humans have the upper hand now, their superior firepower ripping the alien menace apart. This is more like it.

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The Xenomorphs respond by scuttling into vents and attacking the electrical systems. Gradually, we're plunged into near-pitch darkness, a strobing red beacon our only source of light. Then they attack again. Now there's panic, and terror - the sense of hopelessness - that threads through the film.

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