Nerve-crawling as it was following Hudson, Ripley and the rest of the Aliens cast into the belly of an Alien hive, the wait for Gearbox's hyper-nerdy adaptation Aliens: Colonial Marines has been worse. The game has been in development since December 2006 - it'll finally see release on 12th February - and has weathered almost as much dubiety as its eventual stablemate, Duke Nukem Forever.
What we've seen of preview builds suggests that the game will be a film buff's paradise, stacked with memorabilia, but not, alas, a shooter worthy of Call of Duty's throne. Having tried out the single and multiplayer, I approached cinematic director Brian Thomas for his thoughts on where Aliens goes next, understanding the needs of fans, and how the industry will change once next generation consoles arrive.
Having got shot of Colonial Marines, do you think there's much give left in the Aliens universe - much potential for additional games or experiences?
I think it's actually bigger than a lot of people give credit for. If you look at the canon of the movies, if you look at where Alien was versus Aliens versus Alien 3 versus Alien: Resurrection, they all share a common genealogy but go off in different directions. If you look at the expanded universe, including the comic books and those sorts of things, they go off in even farther directions - water planets, sky planets and xenomorphs of all shapes and sizes.
So I think it's actually a broader universe than a lot of people pin it down to - and usually people want to pin it down to 'there's a xenomorph running at me, I should hide or kill it'. Hopefully there's going to be lots more stories. I think we've picked an interesting bit for ours, and I hope other people are going to continue to make more stories with this universe in the future.
Were there any alternative premises you considered before pushing ahead with Colonial Marines?
It's hard to sort of define that because we've been spinning ideas in our heads for a while! We began by looking at the end of Aliens - we've got them getting off the planet, we've got that atmospheric processor going off... where can we pick up that thread? What are the repercussions of that?
That's sort of where we come in, because as storytellers it's always fun to figure out where someone else left some dangling threads in their story. That's another cool thing about this universe: all the stories do that, they always leave a few dangling threads for somebody else to pick up. So we've run with a few of those, and created our own fiction from that, and left a few dangling threads of our own for other people to hopefully pick up one day, and expand the universe even further.
How important was it to establish new characters within the fiction? You've brought back a few of the old cast as multiplayer DLC.
Lance Henrikson actually reprises his role as Bishop - Bishop exists as an android in this universe, and he's not the only Bishop. So he reprises his role and was gracious enough to come back and provide his voice and his knowledge of the universe for this game. Definitely, for fans of the series everybody's going to find pieces of the universe we've brought back and really tried to embed in the game.
There's going to be lots of hidden surprises that people weren't going to be necessarily expecting, but for those diehards that do understand all that stuff, they're going to get a real kick out of not just what we're bringing to it but what we're able to bring back. Not all stories are as cut and dry as people think they are.