Just another glorious day in the corps.
Go grab your DVD of Aliens - the Director's Cut, if you have it. Fast forward to the part where the Marines have discovered that Burke has betrayed them, and the xenomorphs cut the power. Remember the nonstop firefight that ensues? The frantic running, screaming, and trying to make every shot count? That's pretty much exactly how the demo of Colonial Marines feels.
The hands-off demo that I saw begins a few months after the events of Aliens. Your band of space marines crash lands on LV-426, which has been decimated by the explosion of the atmospheric processor. Just about everything is in ruins, including the part of the colony where Ripley, Hicks, Newt, Hudson, and Vasquez, and Gorman made their last stand.
The demo was clearly designed to resonate most strongly with fans of the Aliens movie, as it moved through key locations from the movie, replicating specific incidents. The crashed marines began working their way through the remains of the buildings, and it wasn't long before the motion tracker began making its distinctive "You're about to die" warning noise. Raising the tracker into view, seeing those blobs advancing your position as the bleeping becomes more insistent creates palpable tension, which isn't relieved by the xenomorphs' penchant for popping out of vents and flooring without warning. The aliens are fast and vicious, but more importantly, they're unpredictable, which not only makes for a greater FPS challenge, but also cranks up the anxiety level to satisfying degrees.
The demo was pretty light on story, focusing more on the atmosphere and combat of Colonial Marines. We got to see the pulse rifle as well as the sentry turret featured in the Director's Cut of the movie. It wouldn't be Aliens without someone climbing into a freight loader and hitting the welding torch, which did a fairly decent job on the regular aliens, but then the Queen showed up and ... the demo ended.
Colonial Marines nails the look and feel of Aliens absolutely perfectly; a lot of energy was obviously spent on the kind of details that would honor the source material and please fans. Running and gunning is certainly nothing new, but the xenomorphs aren't your standard enemy. They swarm up walls, they leap, they dangle from the ceiling and grab your comrades without hesitation. All the chest-high walls in the world aren't going to help you survive an encounter with them, which is an exciting proposition in an FPS.
The one odd note in the demo took place as the marines were making their way across the surface of LV-426 on their way to Ops. Several regular aliens attacked them, but then one larger, rhino-like version showed up and charged toward them. It simply didn't feel true to the Alien mythology. The xenomorphs are lightning fast and vicious; this thing was big and bulky. It seemed like it was added not to supplement the canon, but rather to satisfy a game design choice. Something was needed to propel the marines forward while also cutting off their retreat, so, hey, why not a big ol' xenorhino?
Fans of Aliens will appreciate how well Colonial Marines captures the spirit of its source material, but it looks like the game will also appeal to anyone who just wants a good old fashioned bug hunt.
Aliens: Colonial Marines will be out in Spring of 2012 for PC, PS3, and 360. It's also on WiiU, but Gearbox isn't saying anything about that at this time.