In my mind, until now, the only truly great Aliens game was the full conversion mod for Doom made before many current gamers were out of diapers. Part of the issue is the fact that the current recognizable games were based off the wrong movies/premise. Instead of focusing on the atmospheric sense of the Alien movies, developers decided to go the Aliens vs Predators route which resulted in twitch shooters instead of deep experiences. Having experienced Aliens: Colonial Marines I am hopeful this trend will come to an end and we will have the Aliens experience we always wanted.
Invited to a presentation at PAX East of both the single player (guided hands off demonstration) and the multiplayer (hands on) I have to say that so far it looks like Aliens: Colonial Marines has a lot going for it. The single player snippet we saw had a marine heading onto the Sulaco (the ship from Aliens) that was found drifting in space. The perception is that there has been a pitched battle and you are heading in to retrieve some data.
The scenario is fairly typical to a Doom 3/Quake 4 style FPS experience, ie. space marine heading into a crazy situation, but the Aliens make all the difference. As you make your way through the demo, you routinely bring up the iconic motion sensor to track xenomorphs. Before long you are on the ship and it is evident by the dead and wounded bodies that the battle has been going on for a while. Passing by the remains of Bishop from Aliens (his lower half was left on the deck remember,) you head deeper into the Sulaco where nests have been built.
What follows is a tensely scripted but very well done series of skirmishes with Xenomorphs that has you outnumbered and trying to escape. Nice touches like a facehugger popping out of a marine's chest and Xenos dropping from vents keep the action tight and very compelling. I have been waiting for an atmospheric experience like this with an actual story and as this is being endorsed by FOX as Alien canon I am very excited.
The other portion of the demo, in some ways, is even more intriguing. The multiplayer we saw and sampled was a blast to play and brought a truly co-operative experience that evokes a larger scale Left 4 Dead experience. The mode had Xenomorphs (played by the developers) versus a squad of marines. When we first entered, we got to watch the developers play and then moved on to battle them ourselves. These guys know the game and the Xenomorphs and as it was a single map on display they typically owned the marines in combat.