Gearbox On Creating A Canon With Aliens: Colonial Marines

44 9

I checked out Aliens: Colonial Marines when I popped over to the SEGA gamescom booth to say hi to a friend and, within minutes, it became one my highlights of the show. I’m not as familiar with the Aliens films as many – I remember seeing one of them on TV as a child and not sleeping well for a few days – but judging it purely as a shooter, it is looking very impressive.

The level shown was a beautifully lit labyrinth of corridors on-board a craft sent to investigate LV-426, 11 months after Ripley escaped in Aliens. The most memorable aspect for me was the animation of the Xenomorphs and my skin is crawling as I type just thinking about them. This added to the level design, which always leaves you feeling exposed as creatures pour from every angle and air vent, produces an unnerving shooter that piles on the tension.

After the demo, I spoke with Gearbox Chief Creative Officer Brian Martel about working with such an iconic IP and why his team is best suited to bringing the essence of the Aliens films to the interactive space.

Earlier in the week, Rocksteady Studios told us that they had been given the creative freedom to build their own ‘Batman canon’ with the Arkham games. Is that what you’re trying to do with Aliens: Colonial Marines?

That’s exactly what we’re looking to do. Fox has been great to work with and SEGA has been a good partner in building the bridges between developer and IP holder. Fox is a little more flexible with the canon than other companies out there, but they do have to be careful not to annoy directors – if you put together a proposition that assumes a particular film never happened, the director isn’t going to like that very much and Fox may have plans to work with them again in the future.

We’re able to introduce our own elements that we feel are right for the interactive space, whether that’s weapons or new types of aliens, and we’re aware that in doing so we’re adding to the existing canon.

What is the essence of the Aliens films?

The aliens aren’t just looking to kill you, they’re trying to propagate the species and take you elsewhere so they can get you face-hugged. That’s the threat and it forms the scary aspect of the world, and then you also need to have the high action aspect. If you watch the film Aliens, there aren’t too many scare moments; it’s scary because you know what’s going to happen if you get caught but it’s action-packed, and to make a great game like this you have to have lots of aliens, lots of stuff to shoot at. You need the diversity between extremely quiet all the way up to high-octane.


What are the differences between creating fear cinematically, in a film, and doing so in the interactive space?

A lot of it is the same, so you’re going to have audio cues that catch the player unaware and you always want to use some misdirection, drawing the eye to one spot and then making something happen elsewhere. But at the end of the day, with a co-op shooter it’s pretty hard to truly scare the player so that’s why Colonial Marines is more action driven. It’s not like Dead Space, which has a fright around every corner, or something like Condemned, which was pure tension throughout.

We could talk about the Aliens IP all day; what gameplay innovations are you bringing to the table?

You’re going to see a lot of growth in terms of what you expect from a Gearbox game that is co-op focused. Obviously, things like the look and atmosphere belong to the Aliens universe, but underneath you’re going to get a sense of something that is totally Gearbox.


Why is Gearbox the right developer to take on the Aliens IP?

If you take a look at our track record on working with IPs, whether it’s Half Life or James Bond, we’ve been true and honest with what it needs to be. We’re one of the best at that, looking at what gamers want and expect from the license and giving it to them.

What’s more important to Aliens fans: familiarity or surprise?

It’s important to have these little signposts or fan service moments, such as finding out what happened to Burke or seeing what happened to Hudson when he got pulled down. But then you also have people coming in who might never have seen the movies so we’re bringing something for everybody.

Join the Conversation

Add a Comment

But don't be a jerk!

Please be kind, considerate, and constructive. Report inappropriate comments to


9 Author Replies

  • What’s the proposed releae dats?

  • Jeez, are saddos still voting down every story on this blog because of the PSN going down in April/May? Pathetic.

    Awesome looking game BTW.

    • I’ll take halfway… could be worse! The game is looking great – it was one of my favourite sessions of gamescom.

  • I’m a little worried about this. Alien is one of the scariest movies ever made! But this, well it just sounds like your normal shooter. Hes saying its less scary then dead space, well that’s a problem because dead space was as scary as sesame street! It was like condemned and bioshock, lots of tension, lots of eary music but no boo jump moments.

    I miss the good old days of survival horror games! The days of resident evil, silent hill, the games that had you walking around with few weapons, even fewer ammo, and even fewer health, shaking praying there was not a enemy on the other side of the corner. That’s what aliens should be like, you should be wondering around the ship in darkness shaking, then spinning around shrieking what the hell was that?! Not casual waltzing through the ship nicely lit up saying oh i hope there’s heaps of aliens on the other side of this wall, i got a itchy trigger finger!

    This should be like doom 3. That’s the last game I played that i could call slightly scary. Not really scary, the last game that made me paper my pants was probably the suffering.( if anyone remembers what that was…….)

    • There’s a distinction between scares that makes us jump from the seat and the kind that give you a feeling of unease throughout. I think Brian was trying to emphasise that Colonial Marines is an action game in the same way that Aliens is an action movie. I haven’t played the game, but I have watched a demo, and with Xenomorphs crawling all around, from all directions, it didn’t strike me as a casual waltz!

  • Sorry had to split it up due to the character limit.

    Doom 3 was near perfect though; it really had so much tension and scare moments. I could not play it with the lights on, every time I played it i had to have the lights on, and if i was playing it at night i had to turn the sound off it scared me too much. Yea I’m a [Deleted]!

    Please gearbox, cant we go back to the good old survival horror days?

  • 3 comments 3 replies nice(: so this i like alien vs predator but just alien right? im kinda confused

  • looks good any chance of a demo on the store later on? or will we have to wait n see?

    • The game is quite a way off and we usually find out details like that close to release. Basically, a long way of saying I have no idea!

  • Looks fantastic, Alien Trilogy was a great game on ps1. I don’t think Alien games need to be scary, just very, very tense. This could fit the bill nicely, co-op too.

  • scariest game for me has to be fallout 3..those ghouls jump out of nowhere its the only game that has actually made me jump

    • When I was younger, I had to ask my cousin to kill any spiders on Resident Evil while I left the room because I was so scared of them /embarassingstory

  • I want this game. Period.

  • omg dont mention spiders i woke up this morning n there was 1 crawling down my wall

  • this is totally irrelevant but does any at scee know what ps3 games allow you to listen to your own music?
    i know
    dead nation
    call of duty classic
    ferrari the race experience
    killzone 2
    little big planet and burnout paradise

  • I really hope this game delivers, I’m a huge Aliens geek.

    I am concerned with them butchering the storyline tho. How did the Sulaco get infested with Aliens. Only 1 drop ship went up b4 the planet blew, are we ment to believe a million aliens snuck on board with the queen? It’s hard enough to believe she managed to lay eggs (alien3) on board.

    How can LV-426 still exist when we saw the planet detonate?

    I really hope they answer these questions instead of going down the lorelol route.

    • I unfortunately do not know a huge amount about the Aliens universe, which is why I will try and arrange a community Q&A with the devs closer to release with questions like this.

  • spider crawling down a wall is nothing, but a spider crawling on the bed towands you in the dark.

  • Of course there is, that’s why its called tension not a scare. That’s why i referenced it to bioshock, every time i heard a big sisters shriek in bioshock 2 I had a chill run up my spine. Or the level where the lights black out and all you can see was those guys running across the ceiling. That’s tension, not a scare. A scares something that makes you jump. Like the dog leaping through the window in the first resident evil. Same with dead space, it was really never scary but it had plenty of atmosphere which created the tension which made you uncomfortable.
    Movies normally do both though, they normally have the music to create the attention, then something jumps out at you and you jump out of your seat. Without the jump the tension is kinda pointless.

    Every horror game released this generation has been a tension style horror game, nothing really jumps out and actually scares you. We need something to come back and bring back the old style of jumping horror not just tense full music. Anyone who wants a good scare should go buy amnesia the dark decent its only on steam, but its the scariest game I have ever played!

  • Did you just casually state that you don’t know that much about Aliens and that you may have seen one of the films as a kid? SSSSSShhhhhhhhh, James, keep it down, that’s not something you should admit to a gaming community! Oh dear, a mob might form… Run, run for your life James!!!

    • I thought I’d better just come out and say it… For the record, I have seen the films but I’m not one of those that could tell you the name of every character off memory and quote it in amusing context.

  • Thank you james for finding information on this delayed title, Do you remember I was one of those people when you asked what games we would like you to find more information on and I said Aliens? Well thanks again keep us all noted on this magnificent creature (lol THE GAME).

  • This has been hiding away for a few years now.Was it late 09 when it was announced.

    personally waiting on the Wii U version,I suspect gearbox won’t as imaginative as i’d like,but having the sensor,turret cams,door hacking whist still fighting aliens could be intense.Thinking about the controller speaker going pip pip pip pip pip pip pip pip beep…beep..beep.beeep would be intense :)

    From the trailer,I dont get any of that :( think it’ll take aspects of Doom 3 and ramp up the action.Doom 3 was ace because the gave you time to think about stuff.That when the horror set in.

    From the interview
    ” with a co-op shooter it’s pretty hard to truly scare the player so that’s why Colonial Marines is more action driven.”

    Reading that,sadly turns me off it.

  • Personally, I think the biggest problem with Aliens games in general is that there is no tension or fear anymore, its basically cannon fodder corridor shooting with a bleep every 2 to 3 seconds.

    I want a good long moment in an Aliens game where its similar to the Hunter or The Ubermorph from Dead Space series. He hunts you in the shadows, no multiple Xeno’s just “one” who follows you throughout the game that causes you fear because he lets you see him. He in the right corridor, you go left to avoid or you go right to chase him, leading you to a trap.

    One of those games would really get my heart racing.

    • While the Xenos are there all of the time, I did forget to mention the part at the end of the demo when the Queen bursts on to the scene and that was a shock. I can’t really speak outside of what I saw though – I don’t work for Gearbox or SEGA, just relaying what I saw.

  • awesome trailer been looking forward to this since it was first announced years back.Great article!

  • This would be hilarious in online co op! I’ve got quite a reputation for screaming my *** off while playing horror games, so my mates would have a blast listening to me on the mic.

  • How they don’t freeze him

  • Dumb keyboard …………. How come they dont freeze him?

  • I remember how i always kept shooting in the water @RE4 at the lake, when that monster killed me i was like, DUDE WHAT THE **** OMG and i was sooo scared, never played it again. But now ima play the hell out of it.

  • It’s really interesting game for me as an Aliens series fan – I hope they can create truly Aliens universe “atmosfeeeeear”… =)

  • sorry, accidentally reported a comment but game sounds good, only problem is I don’t find any games scary, is this the scariest game you’ve ever tried James?

    • I didn’t go hands-on with it and no, it’s not the scariest I’ve played or seen. It’s certainly tense but it’s an action shooter, not a horror. Siren Blood Curse was one of the scariest for me. Condemned was pretty unnerving too.

  • james saints row 3 is due for release soon can you get us a community q&a with volition?????

  • It looks great. I had the ps2 one on pre-order so I hope you guys want to get some money out of me before I die of old age. I loved the Aliens film but I hope the devs got a bit fast and loose with the weapons. The whole game looks so much better than I’d dared hope for

  • Yeah it looks nice !

  • this game looks amazing, dont care if it is scary or not, the alien films never scared me to be honest, only spiders scare me, aliens was a sci fi action film, this game should be a sci fi action game. i will buy it definately, if and when this game ever does come out. i heard about this game years ago shortly after i bought my first PS3. looking forward to the eventual release. cheers James for the info, appreciate it.

  • Glad to FINALLY see something new on this game and also glad this is Aliens only, the goddamn AvP movies have ruined both amazing franchises, anyway I just hope Gearbox DON’T go with Gamespy for the online features again after what happened with Borderlands, can’t wait to play this with mates, again hope they don’t use Gamespy (fingers crossed).

  • Beast the weapons sound just like the 1s in the films cant wait 4 this game

  • I’m waiting all my life 4 this game also 4 id software Rage! peace

  • game looks great!! I watched it twice while listening to Spencer and Hill – Less Go(Porter Robinson remix) on the earphones. Pure coincidence but they synced up awesomely haha:D Love when that happens:)

  • also..birthday today Woot!!!!!!!

  • I’m looking forward to the potential of how the actual game will turn out. As not all movie-based games turn out great or even good so maybe SEGA will change my view on these types of games. I love the look of the game up to now so hopefully it will stay like that :)

  • How can the marines be sent to investigate LV-426, it was nuked from outerspace! There would be nothing left! Also Burke & Hudson were both captured by the aliens so it’s be safe to say that they would also be dead even before the eventual nuclear strike from space… Have the gearbox team watched Aliens?

  • the game looks good i just hope it’s as tense as i want to be, cos i like it when you don’t know whats going to be around the next corner or when something jumps out on you.



  • the original Alien wasn’t really an action film it was just pure tension and fear- when the xenomorph comes out of John Hurt – Ridley Scott made sure the cast had no idea what was about to happen as he wanted that pure real fear – the blonde actress was scarred for years after

    anyway what would be brilliant is if in co-op your teammates had the choice to revive/ save you if you went down and if they didn’t – imagine those few moments of horror once you were face hugged and then dragged off and put on a wall and suddenly something ripped through your gut – that would be just class

    we do need more horror games as that is one genre that is sorely lacking in the market

  • James,

    Why does it often say, “You have already rated this” when I try to rate a thread and I know I definitely haven’t? It tried to give this 5/5 and got that message – which means the average will not represent true opinion.

    It’s been doing it for ages, is it a known problem with pending fix?


  • I love The Alien films and I’m currently playing AVP. Will there be new guns? Will there be some awesome moments (slow-mo kills in the game and little things like that) which make the game more exciting?
    Dead Space and AVP FTW!

  • I hope we are not looking at a over rated Duke Nukem, still a good game but did not give US THE GAME WE WAITED AND PAYED FOR, The WOW factor and AvP’s campaign was, For true AvP FANS, lacking, meaning too dame short, NIGHTMARE mode is awesome, I hope it’s in the new Aliens, BUT BETTER. Because they usually come at night, Usually(From Aliens lol)

  • Hope this is a great game.

Leave a Reply

Please enter your date of birth.