Now, I would love to say that I was able to try this promising multiplayer mode as both an Alien and a Marine (the teams are split as such) but, bemusingly, SEGA had a set of professional testers running the Aliens whilst the challengers, er, punters were left to pick up Marine rifles. Although I was assured that it was because the difficulty of the Alien characters was quite steep, and that they wanted to show how the Aliens could work together, this seemed beside the point of a play-test. It came across as more of an ego trip for the testers on a day out, who got to tear through newbies again and again. Not only is it somewhat patronising to gamers who would find out about the learning curve anyway, but it also meant that as half the consoles were already occupied a queue that could have lasted a mere twenty minutes instead lasted over an hour and a half. Not cool Sega, not cool.
What is cool, however, is the game itself. The set-up is genius, whilst the game is impressively balanced (Aliens net one hit kills, more or less, and can scale buildings and use vents, whilst it takes only a few bullets for the Marines' powerful guns to rip through the Aliens). Super powerful opponents + weak defences = mountains of fun apparently. Like the films, individuals on both sides will be cut down immediately; this is a team game, and it is suicidal to not stick together.
The effect of the Aliens on the Marines, strangely, is a game of multiple perspectives. What I mean by this is you look everywhere, with enough ups and downs and desperate flicks to the side to give a gamer vertigo. The reason for such observances is the atmospheric nature of Colonial Marine; you feel incredibly vulnerable and isolated, as if you could be picked off at any minute and thus play with a sense of constant anxiety. A solid engine with some well observed lighting effects crank up these heightened senses; light spills into the darkness from torches and old generators, playing up shadows of both imaginary and real threats. You can tell a lot of consideration has gone into pitching the atmosphere just right and the effect is splendid.
Thankfully, the Marines play well. Although the shooting mechanics are relatively basic, they are an excellent fit for the game. Likewise, the load-out is basic, but, you know, they are abandoned in space. As such, the gameplay itself is fun and extremely fast-paced, with players picked off in a matter of moments whilst the tactical nature of the teamwork means that gamers will work much harder to cover each other's backs than in most other games. The real star of the show is the atmosphere, though. Without it, the Marine section of Alien: Colonial Marines would be merely a decent if intriguing multiplayer shooter; with it, it is an exceptionally thrilling joy-ride. Now, about those Aliens...