New Colonial Marines Trailer Nukes Site From Orbit

The team over at Gearbox have released a new trailer for their upcoming (February 12th) action title Aliens: Colonial Marines. Dubbed the “Kick-ass” trailer, it gives us a look at the honored traditions of the titular army corps and their unique approach to military tactics: namely kill everything in sight to thumping electronic beats.

If this trailer proves one thing, it’s that in space…nobody can hear you wub.

Does this trailer capture the essence of the beloved Aliens franchise or is it as welcome as a parasitic organism humping your face?  Read on for my deeply thematic analysis!

This just doesn’t feel like the trailer for the kind of Aliens game we need to have. The original Alien is widely regarded as a horror film first, sci-fi film second. It dips into a bunch of different genres, notably icky gooey body horror (films that are about your body betraying you and changing into something terrible!), but it’s very firmly entrenched in the “well there goes my enjoyment of spaghetti” category. It’s all about the creeping dread of being hunted by something far more suited for the task than you are, the doubt that people might not be who they are (both in the incubation and artificial humanity motif), and the cold brutality of frontier life. It’s god damn horrifying, especially if your friend’s dad thinks it’s totally a good idea to show it to you when you’re five.

What made Aliens a classic was how it turned all of this on its head while still capturing many of the same emotions. While it starts out as a total adolescent power fantasy, it quickly devolves into a very similar experience to the first film. Outclassed, outfoxed, and completely alone, it’s a story not about the marines kicking ass, but instead a complete violation of all the machismo bullshit that drives both the military and corporate structures that James Cameron has such a hard-on against.

At its core though, it’s still a film about being weak. Stripped of all their awesome gear, the marines practically fall apart. It’s about the human struggle against the inky blackness of night and all the disturbing creatures that lurk just outside the dancing flames of the fire. Consider the most recognizable sound in the entire franchise – silence punctuated only by the sudden hiss of a predator about to pounce on its prey.

This underlying feeling of panic is why there haven’t been many great games based on the franchise. All three of the Aliens vs. Predator games were often derided for having colonial marine sections that were either too plodding or too frantic. The closest we’ve gotten has been the Dead Space series, which unabashedly leans heavily on Alien in its usage of creepy crawlies and massive desolate space freighters…and it’s a horror game! It’s hardly surprising that horror works better with this kind of game, it’s rarely fun to be little more than lunch, which is what it means to be a human in the Aliens universe. You are just a fleshy snack, be it for a xenomorphic whirling dervish of bony death or one ugly motherfucker packing a veritable arsenal and the severed vertebrae of your best friend. It sucks, but watching humanity overcome our natural weakness through pluck and resourcefulness is what keeps us coming back to the franchise.

If you pay attention to the new trailer, you can spot some of the various elements that make Aliens great: the deep shadows broken only by flickering red lights, the nerve-wracking crawls through haunted corridors, even the series staple alien-egg-opening-up- while-you-walk-away. It’s what’s between those moments of thematic greatness that worry me: the turrets, the massive outdoor battles, and vehicle sequences that are reminiscent of Gears of War.

Then there’s the dialogue. It’s almost as if twelve year old me was trying to parody the razor sharp satire of Aliens, removing any of the wit from the proceedings and replacing it with the word kill…over and over again. The fact that the game’s writer is denying any involvement in it speaks volumes. (UPDATE: The writer in question has deleted the tweet, but the good people at Rock, Paper, Shotgun took a screenshot for posterity. Link has been changed to send you to their post highlighting this.) 

That said, this trailer smacks of marketing mumbo-jumbo, being one skull mask short of ticking all the ‘bro’ boxes that one would need to grab for that elusive Call of Duty demographic. Hopefully the writer’s willingness to point at it and call shenanigans is indicative of the design team as a whole, because otherwise it might be game over (man) for the video game side of the Aliens franchise.

  • // Timothy Hsu

    eh. I have to disagree, since this is basically playing off all the stupid tropes that James Cameron brought into the franchise when he took the helm of Aliens.

    It’s just having some fun with it. It looks like it’ll probably capture the same horror atmosphere as Rebellion’s AvP, which is great, but it adds a bit more heft to the feel of the marine gear. I’m not a huge fan of excessive camera shake, but it doesn’t look overdone.

    As for the common Alien themes, after Prometheus I feel like all bets are off. At this point it’s better to just make something that’s fun and has xenomorphs, brutal executions, and big guns. And that’s what Gearbox is doing. I’m cool with that.

  • Guest

    Yeah, I’ve never been a huge fan of Aliens 2. It got a little over the top for my liking. This just takes it to another level, though…

    I think my dream Alien game would be developed by Frictional Games (Amnesia), and it would only have one alien, one ship, and a whole lot of running and screaming.

    • // Jason Rice

      You should give Aliens: Infestation for the DS a shot. It’s a WayForward / Gearbox game that gets the whole desperation angle across using limited resources. It’s a solid title.