When Craig Zinkievich and Matt Highison described the essence of what they're attempting to capture in their studio's new game, Aliens: Fireteam, they cited a specific moment in James Cameron's 1986 movie Aliens. Cold Iron Studios' upcoming Aliens title is a cooperative survival shooter, and it's not the "ultimate badass" scene in which Hudson and the other Marines confidently discuss how they'll easily rescue beleaguered colonists with their motto of "peace through superior firepower."
It's a moment of heart-pounding desperation.
It's the scene where Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and the rest of the survivors of the doomed rescue mission to LV-426 are holed up, trying to hold out long enough to escape the planet. They've barricaded themselves inside the colony's command complex, but despite sealing corridors and setting up defenses, their motion trackers are going wild. The aliens are inside the perimeter. Suddenly, Ripley realizes they've overlooked something and Hicks discovers a mess of aliens crawling inside the ceiling toward them. In seconds, everything is chaos as the Marines open fire and aliens stream into the room.
"For me, it was that single scene that we would keep going back to, and it's like, 'Are we hitting this? Is this what it feels like? This is what it needs to be,'" said Zinkievich, Cold Iron's CEO and co-founder.
Aliens: Fireteam is a three-player cooperative survival shooter, and it sounds like the emphasis is on "survival." It's all about Marines fighting to stay alive against a horde of xenomorph enemies, using different weapons, equipment, and character abilities to escape the alien threat as it presses in from all sides.
"Everything goes wrong," Zinkievich said. "That's the thing, where it's like, everything that you try is just the wrong thing to try. It's about that challenge and hopefully overcoming that challenge."
"Many of the encounters start off with that moment of, 'Oh, we're badass Marines. We can throw turrets down, we'll use all our consumables, and we'll get through this just fine,'" Highison, co-founder and chief creative officer at Cold Iron, added. "But by the end, we want you to have that panic, and that moment where you realize, 'Hey, if we had split up, it would have been really, really bad, but we narrowly avoided defeat here.'"
The game is set 23 years after the conclusion of the original Alien trilogy, with players taking on the roles of fresh Colonial Marines recruits aboard the ship Endeavor. The Marines receive a mysterious distress call that sends them to the colony LV-895, which sports an orbital refinery called Katanga that was supposed to have been lost decades earlier.
At an online preview event for journalists, Cold Iron gave a quick hands-off look at what gameplay in Aliens: Fireteam will be like. The team of three Marines was forced to hold a position as they waited on an elevator, setting up defenses like turrets against a horde of incoming aliens. There are 11 different varieties of xenomorphs, Zinkievich and Highison said, some of which are original to the game and each with its own artificial intelligence and tactics to mimic the feel of the way aliens swarm, surround, and ambush Marines in the movies. Fireteam also includes combatants like androids from the villainous Weyland-Yutani corporation for a total of some 20 different enemy types.
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