Creative Officer Brian Martel Talks Aliens: Colonial Marines
By : Amanda Dyar on Monday, February 4, 2013 | 3:52 PM
It soon became evident that the game had managed to combine several popular game mechanics and a potent blend of classic Xenomorphs and environments from the films. The combination of well thought out creatures, weapons and areas lent a hand to creating possibly one of the best Aliens game ever. Upon the event's conclusion, one thing was left on the minds of the journalists present—if the full game is half as entertaining as the demo, Aliens: Colonial Marines should give fans an authentic Aliens experience that will be in contention for game of the year honors when all is said and done.
During the event, we were able to secure an in-depth interview with Gearbox Software Chief Creative Officer Brian Martel in which we discuss, among other topics, what approaches the team used to create a game that stays true to the films' legacy, what to expect in the full versions and any possible sequels that could spawn from this title...
AMANDA DYAR: The Aliens film series is arguably the most beloved horror/science fiction series of all-time. Did your team feel any added pressure to deliver a product that reflects the high quality of these classic films to please fans of the series?
BRIAN MARTEL: We are fans of the films as well, so we want to do the right thing as a fan service and that includes having the right weapons, right armor, etc. We even built a working pulse rifle replica with an underneath shotgun attachment that allows the gun to shoot above and below. It is one of the only working models in the world. That's just an example of the types of strange things we investigated and how dedicated we were to creating the game the right way. It was all about digging into the archives and finding out everything there was to discover about the series. We even went through and read all of the different books and scripts and rewatched all of the films and "making of" documentaries. Essentially, it was like attaining a Master’s degree in the Aliens universe. Obviously, we didn't do this all for the hardcore fans; we want them to be pleased with the final product as well, but we want newcomers to the series to be able to enjoy the game just as much. There is a whole generation of gamers who have never experienced the classic films or seen them on television or in theaters, so we want to ensure they are able to have an entertaining experience with the game as well.
DYAR: The team that worked on the original films was brought in to work on Aliens: Colonial Marines. In what ways did this make creating the game simpler or more challenging?
MARTEL: It definitely helped when creating the game's environments--the Sulaco for example. (James) Cameron only built so many sets for Aliens, and he gets the angles he needs to create the films from those sets. So, we already had those parts laid out for us, but we didn't know where the characters slept, ate, played or even things like how maintenance hallways were designed. This is where it helped to bring in a guy like Sid Mead and have him detail those things for us. So, it was fantastic for us. We know the game will look and feel just like the movie did, because we received help from the team that made the films what they are today.
DYAR: Aliens: Colonial Marines features an all new story that will act as a sequel to the classic Aliens film. Can you tell us exactly what the game is about?
MARTEL: In the beginning of the game, your rescue squad has arrived to answer a distress signal sent out by the old crew. We come to the same planet they were on, and suddenly, there is the Sulaco which should not be in orbit there. Wondering what it is doing here and what happened with the original company is one of the big mysteries you ponder while boarding it. And of course, there are plenty of other great moments that you would expect from an Aliens movie as you progress through the game.
DYAR: So, you're playing as a special squad of U.S. Colonial Marines in the new game. What else can you tell us about these new characters?
MARTEL: They are interesting and diverse characters, as you've seen in the demo, and they are reminiscent of an expected caricature you've come to expect in these types of stories. You are expected to have the big and tough lovable character. It is also important to have very strong female characters, because that was such an important aspect in the films. Then of course, you need the heroic protagonist whose compelling backstory makes you immediately want to jump into his shoes and control. Many of the characters will definitely remind you of characters from the films.
DYAR: Can we expect to see any familiar faces from the films in Aliens: Colonial Marines?
MARTEL: The big one that you will see is Bishop--played by Lance Henriksen. All of these types of squads are assigned one of the androids. He makes a great appearance and is really important in the story.
DYAR: It has already been revealed that players will be able to explore classic locations such as Hadley's Hope, the Sulaco and LV-426, but can we expect any other locations taken straight from the films?
MARTEL: There are going to be plenty of new places, but there will also be tons of familiar places that you have seen in the movies. One important location is being onboard the Sulaco and seeing the main hangar and these types of environments. So, you will be getting some of the original ones, but a lot of them have been transformed; because of the explosion, many scenes will be mangled and messed up. I think we are doing a good job of incorporating these classic locations from the movies while still encompassing a lot of new content. Of course in a game of this magnitude, you will need a lot of locations.
DYAR: Can you tell me more about the new creatures and where the ideas for some of these monstrosities come from?
MARTEL: The Hive isn't just what we see in the movies, and there will be the Queen and other Xenos that will help her out such as the Alien and the Dog Alien from Alien3. For gameplay, you want to have more than just one type of creature; you need to have a little bit of diversity. So, we first determined what we needed from a creature, and then, we either filled in an already developed creature or created a new Alien from there. We essentially have a nice balance of Xenos that give the game the type of gameplay it should have.
DYAR: Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the ending of Aliens: Colonial Marines? Will there be a proper ending, or will it more or less set up a new game or the movies that take place after the game?
MARTEL: Obviously, we want to leave this game open for future games. We would love to see FOX turn it into a television show. (laughter) We love playing in this universe and want to see more from it!
DYAR: What can you tell us about Aliens: Colonial Marines for Wii U?
MARTEL: I think we are going to have something really exceptional by utilizing the technology of the controller. Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind when working with the Wii U is the motion tracker. I think that, out of all the consoles, these guys have some really cool technology that will allow us to create a very entertaining and gorgeous looking game.
DYAR: What are your hopes for the lasting impact Aliens: Colonial Marines will have on both the legacy of the Aliens franchise and in the gaming industry?
MARTEL: I think it was really nice that FOX has treated this just like it is one of the movies. For us, I hope it has an impact on the entire franchise, and people will take it as these events actually transpired, these characters actually existed and things turned out the way they happened because of what happens in the game. I hope the lasting impact is that people treat this as one of the franchise, as if it was another great movie.
DYAR: Do you think people, after playing the game, will want to go watch the Aliens movies if they had never seen them?
MARTEL: I hope they all pre-order the game and then go watch all of the films. I think they will get more out of the game by having watched the films. I think the game will play great for those who have never watched the movies, but I think there will be some important references in the game that gamers will want to know beforehand. Plus, Alien and Aliens are fantastic films, so it would be silly for anyone to hold out on watching these great films any longer.
Available on: PS3, PC, X360, NDS, Wii-u
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Gearbox Software
Online Play: 4 Co-op
Release Date: February 12, 2013
RP-T+ for Rating Pending, Targeting a Rating of Teen or Above