The premise of Interstellar Marines is fairly simple: The best soldiers from around the world have been recruited for training to be a part of a crack team of commandos that will be ready to respond to an extraterrestrial threat under any conditions. Naturally, this training takes place in a massive underground facility that is able to simulate different weather and lighting environments. To me, the changing map conditions are the main draw of Interstellar Marines.
As I explored the Operations map for the first time, the lights began to flicker and then the fire alarms began blaring. Red lights flashed on and off throughout the halls for a couple minutes before everything went pitch black. I flicked on my flashlight and laser sight and proceeded through the level, listening to the ambient noises of the base. I knew there was no one in the level with me at the time, but the environment by itself created tension. In multiplayer, flashlights and laser sights lend an additional layer of strategy during the dark segments. Players need to balance their need for vision with the desire for stealth and catching opponents unaware. Outdoor levels where the weather comes into play are even more interesting when it comes to sight. Players could encounter everything from a light drizzle that speckles their HUD to a full on nighttime thunderstorm complete with flashes of lightning illuminating the map. Sometimes environments are only lit with a few carefully placed lamps or ceiling lights. Players can shoot out many of the lights present in maps to complicate matters for enemies on the opposing team (though I couldn’t seem to shoot out alarm lights). I might seem to be really focusing on in-game vision here, but that is because there is no mini-map or radar. Players can only find enemies by spotting them visually or by listening for their footsteps. It make for some really tense games of cat-and-mouse in the multiplayer.
Speaking of the multiplayer, there is currently only one game type. It is a unique blend of capture point style gameplay and team deathmatch. Basically, each match has a ten minute time limit and the side with the most points captured at the end wins. Alternatively, if one team captures all of the points or eliminates the entire enemy team, they win. It is particularly hard to win by eliminating all the enemy player because capturing a point or killing an enemy causes one of your downed players to respawn instantly instead of waiting to respawn naturally. It is fun for what it is, but I would be interested to see what other multiplayer modes are in store for the full release. Also worth noting is the pace of gameplay. Interstellar Marines is a very different beast from fast paced shooters that have dominated the market for the last few years. Sprinting generates a lot of noise and aiming afterward bobs and weaves as the soldier breathes heavily. Walking or crouching creates little noise, but is also very slow. This all indicates to me that Interstellar Marines is meant to be played carefully and not fast and loose.
As a side note, there is something about Interstellar Marines that just screams Alien to me. It might have something to do with the architecture of the environments, the spartan nature of the HUD, or the ever-changing lighting conditions that give everything a dramatic flair. Whatever the reason, my initial time with the early access build was plagued with the unnerving feeling that a Xenomorph was just around the corner, despite the fact that there aren’t any aliens in Interstellar Marines. The only creatures players can currently encounter in the Early Access version are other marines and possibly a few robots. I consider it only a matter of time until someone mods Interstellar Marines to be the Alien game everyone has dreamed of since the promise shown in that early Aliens: Colonial Marines footage. Get on it modders!
The above images were taken about a minute apart.
Interstellar Marines is an Early Access title, so there are guaranteed to be bugs and unfinished elements. Initially I ran into problems because Interstellar Marines defaults to using integrated graphics cards rather than whatever graphics card might be installed. I also ran into a few where my character wouldn’t fall through large openings on top of buildings. Players only have access to two weapons that include an assault rifle and a scoped rifle with no option for melee attacks if enemies enter close quarters.
My overall experience with Interstellar Marines was generally positive, but it left me wanting more. Zero Point Software is onto something great, and if they continue to make additions like the upcoming co-op mode along with more game types and situations, Interstellar Marines has the potential to be a very successful game. For now, I’d recommend keeping this game on your radar. People who would like to get their hands on the Early Access build can do so via Steam, just keep in mind the usual caveats that go along with purchasing a product that has not been finished.
Feature originally appeared on www.extra-life.org 09/02/14