After traveling a long and twisting road, the upcoming “Aliens: Colonial Marines” video game from Gearbox Software made its public debut at E3 earlier this year. The title was first announced in 2001 as a publishing partnership between Electronic Arts and Fox Interactive that would have resulted in a PlayStation 2 release. That game was ultimately canceled, but the title and setting stuck around when SEGA acquired the rights to the franchise in 2006.
This is where Gearbox comes into the picture. SEGA revealed the studio was working on an “Aliens” game in late 2006, but it wasn’t until early 2008 that the title and first details spilled out in a “Game Informer” cover story. The squad-based, four-player first-person shooter would be built around the idea of tactical co-op play with an eye toward weathering siege attacks from the Xenomorphs, the magazine reported. The story, largely inspired by the marines of “Aliens” and set after the events of “Alien 3,” follows a group of marines as they investigate the Sulaco starship and the planet LV-426.
Updates on the game slowed to a trickle after that, and it wasn’t long before reports of delays started coming out of Gearbox. The studio insisted all along that “Colonial Marines” remained a priority, even revealing a set of new screens at last year’s Penny Arcade Expo. The big reveal came in early June 2011 though, first with a teaser trailer and finally with a 20-minute gameplay demo shown at E3 2011. “Aliens: Colonial Marines” is now said to be on track for a release sometime next year.
Any extension of the story first laid out by filmmaker Ridley Scott in the 1979 sci-fi film “Alien” is reason for celebration. The Scott-helmed prequel, “Prometheus,” is coming next year as well, but “Colonial Marines” fits into the timeline fans are already familiar with. Gearbox isn’t saying much beyond what was revealed at E3, but CBR News recently had the opportunity to probe Brian Cozzens, the studio’s Minister of Art, for some insight on what to expect from the shooter.
CBR News: How did “Aliens: Colonial Marines” end up landing at Gearbox?
Brian Cozzens:A while ago when Gearbox was still young we had made a list of ‘dream projects’ of games that we desired to work on; Aliens was at the top of that list. At the time Gearbox was becoming well known for properly handling other people’s franchises. With the success of our games such as “James Bond Nightfire,” the “Half-Life” expansions, “Halo” for the PC, and also our desire for realistic authenticity with our own “Brothers in Arms,” companies such as FOX recognized the fantastic potential for collaboration.
Through various meetings with companies and individuals involved in that franchise, SEGA specifically, it was a dream that became realized.
Your game is set after the events of “Alien 3.” Why pick up there? What appeals to you about that moment in the fictional mythology?
We feel it is at this point that enables us the most flexibility in terms of storytelling in the universe, while still getting involved in the events and locations many fans have been dying to see or play. “Alien Resurrection” happened far into the future so it doesn’t make sense to continue from there.
At least, not if we’re wanting to revisit existing locales as seen in “Aliens” while everything is still fresh!
Have you been in touch with Sigourney Weaver about the possibility of lending her likeness or voice to the game?
Well, Ripley has already killed herself by the end of “Alien 3,” but we have been working / talking to existing cast members, so you never know!
What are the key gameplay pillars that you see as necessary for making a great “Aliens” game? What are the key story beats?
Excitement, action, intensity, exploration and great one-liners!
The game, as well as the story, will be about becoming a marine with your team of badasses! It’s a fantasy fulfillment of being in the films, with the all the horror, fear, suspense and action you would expect — plus lots of other cool surprises!
Which of the previous “Alien” movies is the team looking to most for direction and inspiration? Why?
When you get down to it, we’re really pulling from all the films — each one has a great set of ideas and serves as good inspiration for various reasons. The first two films are our largest inspiration, but that’s not to say we’re leaving the third or fourth films out either. We enjoy them all!
What we desire most as “Alien” fans is too see how we can have the story from the second film continue. This is most true to the experience we wish to recreate as this lends itself the most to four player co-op! With the third film we diverged from that when we feel the fans still wanted to see more from [James] Cameron’s “Aliens.”
As far as the four playable soldiers, you’ll just have to wait and see [if they’re separated]! Obviously it would be exciting to get stranded from the group as much as it would be banding together!
The E3 gameplay demo showed a power loader being overrun by a group of aliens. Will there be one that players can actually control in the finished game?
We think there are several elements, particularly in Cameron’s “Aliens,” that sure would be fun to be in and control! Lots of exciting possibilities here!
The E3 demo also showed off a very large, new alien type. Are there others in the game? How much freedom have you been given in adding new elements like this to the mythology?
We’ve been working closely with FOX as they are as passionate about being true and within the franchise as possible. FOX has been great about giving us room to explore and expand on the “Alien” mythos. This has led us to lots of exciting possibilities and we can’t wait to talk more about it in the future!
“Aliens: Colonial Marines” is currently slated for release Q2 2012 on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.