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Countdown

Three big releases in the coming year

  • Andy Staples
  • Published: 14:30 November 12, 2012
  • Gulf News

ALIENS: COLONIAL MARINES

Aliens, James Cameron’s follow-up to Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie, is a military SF classic. And if ever there’s a movie crying out for the game treatment, this is it.

Ordinarily, I’m fairly dismissive of games of movies. They seem like a cheap attempt to cash in on a franchise, and they’re generally too linear or too rushed to be fun. I’m even more dismissive of movies or, worse, books based on video games. The evening I spent reading a Mass Effect novel is several hours of my life I won’t get back.

But I’ve been wrong before, and my bias doesn’t extend to game versions of old classics. Westwood Studios’ Blade Runner video game was a tour de force for its day, which I played over and over again to get all the different endings.

Games12 had a multiplayer demo of the Aliens: Colonial Marines first-person shooter up and running. General consensus among those who got to play it was that it’s very like Counterstrike, but the aliens may be rather overpowered for a balanced team deathmatch.

I’m not that worried. There’s time for tweaking, and Gearbox – responsible for Half-Life, Borderlands, Duke Nukem 3D and the Brothers in Arms series – generally seem to know what they’re doing. I think the multiplayer modes are set up more for victory by achieving particular objectives rather than last man (or alien) standing, anyway.

And even if the deathmatch is unbalanced, an alien being more powerful than a marine should work well in the single-player campaign.

There’s no word yet on who, if anyone, is doing the voice work. I’d love for someone like Lance Henriksen, who was involved in the original movie, to do some, but since the story’s supposedly set just after Alien 3, with a new squad of marines sent to search for Ripley, Hudson, Hicks and the rest, I doubt it.

Mind you, writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle were involved in the Battlestar Galactica re-imagining, of which I’m a big fan, and Syd Mead, the concept artist for the Aliens movie, is on board with the game, so we can expect a decent plot and a decent look.

Aliens: Colonial Marines is due out in February.

TOMB RAIDER

The reboot of the increasingly tired-looking Tomb Raider franchise is due out in March. Square Enix say this will be an entirely new continuity, with a new backstory for Lara Croft.

I was one of the lucky ones who got on the Tomb Raider demo at Games12, and while there are some similarities with the old games (such as touches of the old 3D platformer, and a bit of puzzle solving) there’s an entirely new look and feel to the game.

Gone is the over-endowed cartoon Lara of the early outings. Lara’s appearance has become increasingly realistic over the years, but she’s never looked more like a properly proportioned woman than she does in this.

What the demo didn’t show is the controversial attempted rape scene. Square Enix seems to be doing some damage limitation after the initial backlash, saying it’s intended to be an emotional moment where Lara is first forced to kill, rather than turning her into a sexual assault survivor. We’ll have to wait and see.

What’s been revealed of the plot so far indicates that the game’s less about raiding tombs than it is about survival and adventure. Lara’s one of a number of passengers shipwrecked on an isolated island, and must learn survival techniques as well as cope with mercenaries sent to kill her.

Main writer for the new game is fantasy author Terry Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna Pratchett, whose past credits include Mirror’s Edge, Prince of Persia, several of the Overlord series and Heavenly Edge.

Lara was one of the early PlayStation and PC icons, but the franchise has become increasingly irrelevant to modern gamers. Let’s hope the reboot does what it’s supposed to do and puts Lara firmly back in the limelight. It may be her last chance to take centre stage.

Tomb Raider is due out in March.

GEARS OF WAR: JUDGEMENT

Every gamer has a special game or series that’s closer to their heart than any other, and the Gears of War series is mine. I love it with a passion bordering on obsession.

I love it so much that I have deliberately not finished the solo campaign from Gears 3. I’ve almost finished it, but not quite. My eldest lad, who has, has been sworn to secrecy. I intend to finish Gears 3 the week before Judgement comes out, just so I always have a little bit of Gears unplayed.

Naturally, I grabbed a chance to sample the new deathmatches at Games12, where I’m pleased to say I managed to take the high ground and rain death from above for a team win (and with a Lancer, rather than my preferred sniper rifle).

And although the new storyline – a prequel to the original Gears trilogy, exploring the early days of the Locust War – is supposed to feature Damon Baird and Augustus “Cole Train” Cole as the protagonists, I definitely saw Dom, with his Gears 3 full beard, in the demo.

Can we hope for a return of Dom in the campaign, or is he just available in multiplayer competitions? I’m hoping for the former.

While there’s not too much detail out on what the campaign storyline is, we do know that it’s being told as a series of flashbacks at the trial of Baird and Cole Train for treason.

We also know that Epic have hired a couple of serious writers, Rob Auten and Tom Bissell, to script it. Bissell’s work has won him the 2010 Guggenheim Prize and the Rome Prize.

Literary types on Gears? The series renowned for its over-the-top violence and cartoonish characters? Are they kidding? Maybe not. An interview on eurogamer.net reveals they’re both fans of Gears, who get where the series is coming from – though Bissell’s dismissal of a character in a shooter agonising over his lost wife as ‘bad writing’ leads me to suspect he didn’t enjoy Gears 2 very much.

Gears of War: Judgement is due out in March

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