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    Aliens: Fireteam Elite appears like a bit of a generic co-op shooter, but it isn’t without its merits. Cold Iron Studios is behind the game, which is a big license for a team’s first title. Granted, the developer is made of veteran talent that has worked on such franchises like Star Trek, Dungeon and Dragons, and Marvel, but that last one never got off the ground.Senior Gaming Editor Michael Leri spoke to Cold Iron Studios CEO Craig Zinkievich about the game, how he approached adapting multiple franchises, the choice to go for an Aliens game instead of an Alien game, and his theory regarding the four main films in the series.I know this game saw some radical changes when it was pitched to Fox as it wasn’t originally an Aliens game. Can you speak a little about what that original game was? And how closely does it resemble what you ended up with?Craig Zinkievich: There wasn’t a pitch to Fox as much as… I guess it was. The Aliens game is brand new, from scratch. I think Fox had evaluated Cold Iron Studios and our team and pedigree and the systems and our ability to do awesome shooter, action gameplay based on what we were working on before. But we didn’t all of a sudden just go, “Let’s just skin this thing with Aliens.” I think anybody would be just overjoyed to work on an Aliens game. We just cleared the table and started from scratch and were like, “What does this experience need to be? What do we want it to be in the Aliens universe?” And that was Aliens: Fireteam Elite.You build off of tech that your company builds and the expertise that you have. But in terms of design and artwork and everything, we just lit everything on fire and started from scratch.Fireteam Elite seems like a more co-op-focused affair over a story-driven one. Why did you want to go that route?We’re huge fans of action and PvE games. We’re also gigantic fans of the co-op survival shooter genre. It’s just a great genre. When we started with 21st Century Fox, [we thought] of what sort of game do we want to make in the Alien universe? Alien: Isolation did an amazing job of getting that Alien, Ridley Scott horror movie vibe where you’re being chased down by this one monster over and over again.We really wanted to make a bombastic, [James] Cameron-esque action movie Aliens fantasy that we really wanted to play and experience in the universe. Immediately, you start thinking about the moments where it’s like, “Oh my god, they’re in the room.” And then they just burst in. That is the co-op survival shooter. That’s not necessarily story. That’s just over-the-top action.Yeah, it sounds more like emergent storytelling of what happens between you and your friends over a written, authored narrative.Obviously, the game has its storyline and the four campaigns that all link together to tell this story of LV-895. But it’s awesome to, and you put it exactly right, have that emergent narrative where it’s like, “Remember when this happened?” And making sure that can get switched up time and time again is core to making it a really cool game. It’s one of the reasons the Challenge Cards are the “What if?” scenarios. Like what if everything was a burster? What if we only had handguns? You get to play out all of those narratives as you want.Each time you play through, the spawns are varied. There’s randomness in there and in some of the objectives. There are heuristics and software and logic working behind the scenes to watch what the players are doing to make sure there is constant pressure and moving people forward. Is that like when xenomorphs are always stalking in some form?Somtimes they come from behind but sometimes they jump right on top of you or ambush you or just make your life a little harder moving forward. Why go down the Aliens route instead of the Alien route?We really wanted to develop the fantasy of being a colonial marine with hordes of aliens coming at you and you having a job to do. And you get that feeling of being a total badass and you think you have everything taken care of, but then all of a sudden everything goes wrong. We identified that quickly that we, as game players, wanted to experience in the Aliens universe and thought it was core and we were like, “Yeah, let’s do that and make that a reality.”You all have worked on other licensed properties like Star Trek and even the ill-fated Marvel Marvel Universe Online. What are your approaches to adapting licenses into video games?I am incredibly lucky to have been able to work on Star Trek Online, Neverwinter Nights in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, and a little bit of Marvel and now Aliens. All of these are franchises and universes that are really near and dear to my heart and ones that I am superfan of. That is the thing I’ve been super lucky in, but also I think a core thing to translate a franchise well is to make sure that you’re making a game that you want to play in that universe. That’s what has driven all of those projects. That’s what drives the team here with Aliens: Fireteam Elite: trying to make the game that we, as hardcore gamers and superfans of the Aliens universe, want to play. You start there when you’re approaching a franchise. That wouldn’t work if it wasn’t a franchise I was super excited about, but I’ve been so lucky to be able to work on ones that I really do love.Maybe if you make a Care Bears shooter, then a lack of passion might show.Hey, hey, I might have a closet filled with Care Bears…I think it’s also on the licensor that has a big huge license. They have to make sure and find devs who are passionate and super excited about their universes.What do you think about the way in which xenomorphs are usually adapted for video games? In the films, they’re usually quite unstoppable or at least extremely oppressive but often cannon fodder in video games.I think there was a good number of xenomorphs that got gunned down by M41s in the Aliens movie. If you go in unprepared, then a single runner from Alien 3 would be able to take out a full group of people. But you do play as a colonial marine. They’ve been running into xenomorphs for a couple of decades by 2202 when Aliens: Fireteam Elite takes place. They have weaponry that is ready for xenomorphs. But they’re still not pushovers. They’re still going to throw numbers at you if they can’t get you with just singletons. It’s about who you’re playing and as colonial marines, you do get your M41 and Smartgun and a little bit of hope that gets you a little bit farther. And there are a bunch of different xenomorphs in the game, too. The runners, the small ones, as hordes are easier to dispatch on the lower difficulty levels, given the hardware the colonial marines have. But then the bigger ones — the drones, warriors, and praetorians — those are not going to be pushovers no matter what so you have to be careful.Why do you think it is so hard to make a good Aliens game? In your opinion, how would you say Fireteam Elite sort of breaks the curse, if you will, of Aliens games?All franchises, when licensed, have ups and downs. Really, it goes back to what I said about how to make a franchise game good. We’re fans of the franchise. We’re fans of this genre of video game. We’re lucky enough to be making a game that we really want to play.For us, that’s all we can do is. Cold Iron Studios is filled with the market with this game, filled with people chomping at the bit to play an Aliens co-op survival shooter with RPG elements on top of it. So if we can make something that we are happy with, that’s the best we can do there.I know they are both classics for different reasons, but, personally, where do you fall on the Alien or Aliens side of things?For years and years and years, I have had my theory. People ask me what my favorite Alien film is and I go into this tirade. I don’t actually have a favorite film because they’re all — in my view, this is me as a fan — different genres of films.Alien is an amazing horror film. It’s beautiful and fantastic and Ridley Scott did an amazing job there.And then Cameron comes into the same universe and makes this really tense, really visceral action movie where it’s an escape action movie that’s over the top.And then Alien 3 comes along and I look at that as a little bit more of a drama than a horror or action movie, even though it has those elements. It still has xenomorphs and they’re still scary. And then Resurrection is like the art film of the four. You can see it when you start looking at it. That’s where the director [Jean-Pierre Jeunet] comes from.Nobody can ever pin me down. They’re different genres of films. I love them all and they all work great in their own genres. It’s cool because the Aliens franchise is so much more complicated than that. It’s not all the same movie over and over again or the same genre. The question of what your favorite is a really good one, especially for this franchise. Alien 3 may have been disappointing to some on the first watch but it does get better once you look at it through a different lens.I think that when Alien 3 came out, a lot of people expected Aliens plus one. More xenomorphs, more over-the-top firepower. And that’s kind of the fantasy that we’re trying to provide with Aliens: Fireteam Elite: the next colonial marines movie. Alien 3 stands on its own if you think about it as something totally different. 

    As kids, my brother and I had a penchant for wrapping our plastic weapons together with duct tape and tip toeing through our home in search of extra-terrestrial life. “Check those corners,” I would say while clasping my Nerf gun turned pulse rifle, which was attached to a yellow and green Super Soaker turned grenade launcher. At some point, one of us would yell, “Contact!” before leaping about the floor and blasting imaginary Xenomorphs to smithereens. Inevitably, one of us would always get sprayed by acid and (oddly enough) morph into the Alien King.Yeah, it didn’t make much sense then, either, but when your 11-year old life revolves around James Cameron’s 1986 masterpiece Aliens, you do what you can with what you got. (To be fair, there weren’t a lot of Aliens-themed toys on the market aside from those 1992 Kenner figures.)I first saw Aliens on network TV sometime in 1990 or 1991 on a school night, a detail I remember because my parents turned the film off immediately after Ripley and Co. blasted off to space, which meant I was robbed of the big Ripley vs. Queen fight that occurs in the final final part of the flick. It didn’t matter. Everything I saw up until that point was magic — Ripley’s badassery, James Horner’s fierce score, the mind-blowing set pieces, the intense action, the quotable lines (“Game over man!”), Sigourney Weaver’s Academy Award-nominated performance, the strong supporting cast led by Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser, Lance Henricksen, Carrie Henn and Jenette Goldstein … Aliens was pure gold.The film often played on FOX Night at the Movies or during Sunday afternoons on random channels like WGN where the editing and dubbing was particularly egregious. We had several recorded copies over the years with varying degrees of quality and I actually memorized when each commercial break occurred so that I could zip through them on our high-tech VCR — for some reason, the networks decided it was a good idea to cut to commercial right before Dietrich happened upon the cocooned woman; and later, right after Newt slid down the chute following Vasquez and Gorman’s death. Talk about ruining the tension.Still, I didn’t fully appreciate Cameron’s epic until I purchased the 1997 Widescreen Series VHS — my first-ever widescreen purchase, in case you were wondering — and really got a good look at those astonishing VFX. From that point on, Aliens has steadily risen on my All-Time Favorite Movies List.Make no mistake, this is one of those films you have to include when playing The Desert Island game — and not as one of Meredith’s guilty pleasures, ala Legends of the Fall, Legally Blond, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Bridges of Madison County — because it really is that good.So, what makes Aliens work so well? And why does it actually look better than most movies produced today? The film cost $18.5M in 1986 (on par with Top Gun, The Karate Kid Part II and other films released the same year) but actually looks like a $100M+ blockbuster, which is really hard to do.The answer to the above questions regarding why Aliens works so well is easy: James Cameron. The man. The myth. The legend. Cameron has directed just eight films, but each one (aside from Piranha II: The Spawning) is a classic — The Terminator, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, Titanic, and Avatar. Wow.Aliens came right after Terminator and helped cement Cameron amongst the power players of the 1980s. I won’t delve too much into the intense production — read J.W. Rinzler’s fantastic The Making of Aliens for all the juicy info — suffice to say, Cameron did a lot for very little utilizing a ridiculous amount of unique techniques he learned while working under Roger Corman in the early 80s. Cameron’s attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile (and, by default, pushing others to their absolute limits) is what makes Aliens such a special cinematic creation.[embedded content]Of course, no film is complete without characters or story, and it’s here that Aliens truly excels. Interestingly, Cameron follows the basic template laid out by Ridley Scott’s equally stupendous Alien in 1979 — i.e., a distress signal lulls a group of unwitting travelers to LV-426 where they encounter nasty extraterrestrials, Ripley assumes command when the leadership fails/dies and eventually goes it alone in the third act before battling the big bad one-on-one in the climatic finale — but ups the ante by expanding the character of Ripley and her mysterious foes.RELATED: Aliens: Fireteam Elite Release Date Revealed for Late SummerIn Alien, for example, Ripley was part of a seven-member crew heading back to Earth. We learn very little about her person, except that she can handle herself and take charge when needed. In Aliens, Ripley grapples with the events of the first film and hesitantly agrees to return to LV-426 with a group of Space Marines if only to purge her personal anguish.“Just tell me one thing, Burke,” Ripley says. “You’re going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back. But to wipe them out.”“That’s the plan,” responds Carter Burke. “You have my word on that.”“All right, I’m in.”Much like Rambo, in Aliens Ripley is a reluctant hero who agrees to do a job because she has no other choice and doesn’t trust others to complete the task. She simply cannot stand idly by knowing the Xenomorph exists somewhere in the vacuums of space.Plus, at this point, what does she have to lose? We learn Ripley was adrift in space for 57 years in between films; and a deleted scene further reveals she left a daughter behind, a character beat that aids in her emotional connection with young Newt later on in the film. (Why was this scene cut?!)Newt is the film’s biggest gamble. Look, most films featuring kids usually suck. In this case, Newt works because she fleshes out Ripley’s character and gives the character something meaningful to fight for. Plus, it adds more layers to the overarching Mother vs. Mother conflict.Also, as an aside, Carrie Henn is terrific as Newt.[embedded content]Cameron also ensures the action in Aliens serves the story. Here, every character choice (no matter how positive or negative) carries repercussions that sets up the next scene or Act.For example, when Drake and Vasquez defy orders and fire their M56 Smartguns during the firefight in the Alien Hive, the cooling towers are ruptured thus setting up a need to flee LV-426 as quickly as possible. Carter Burke then accelerates his plan to harvest Ripley, Newt, and the remaining Marines by haphazardly dumping two face huggers in the Med Lab … which leads to the Futile Escape sequence … which leads to Vasquez and Gorman’s death … which leads to Newt’s capture … which leads to Ripley’s Rescue … which leads to the Alien Queen smackdown.It’s awesome.Cameron never includes action scenes just for the hell of it. Like a well-oiled machine, everything happening in his films works together to serve a larger purpose to the central narrative.RELATED: CS Reviews The Making of Aliens by J.W. Rinzler[embedded content]Likewise, the climatic Ripley vs. Alien Queen showdown packs a punch because both characters have pre-established motives  based around their figurative children — Ripley must defend Newt, while the Queen must avenge the loss of her eggs. In a weird way, we understand the Queen because her rage matches the anger Ripley displayed earlier when she lost Newt.Indeed, it’s interesting how both mothers react similarly when their children are taken from them.[embedded content]Cameron also ensures all of Ripley’s actions throughout Aliens are almost always directly related to the events of Alien where Ripley, despite her better judgment, relented to her superiors, namely Dallas, Kane, Ash, and Mother; and failed to impose her will until it was too late.By contrast, in Aliens, Ripley blatantly ignores Lieutenant Gorman’s orders during the Alien Hive battle and takes control of the situation immediately following the initial alien encounter.Ripley successfully changes her life for the better. When we first see her, she lies in cryosleep alone, save for a cat, and endures horrible nightmares. By film’s end, against all odds, she has eliminated her greatest fear, saved Bishop and Hicks and gained a daughter in Newt.In other words, she takes back everything that was taken from her in Alien, which is why it’s so upsetting when Alien 3 randomly erases all of these accomplishments during the opening credits.I mean, imagine if John Conner was killed following the events of T2! That would be really stupid and basically negate all of his actions.[embedded content]Even side characters like Lt. Gorman and Vasquez enjoy powerful arcs. I love how, facing death, the duo clasp hands similarly to how Vasquez and Drake did earlier in the film. There’s also the bit where Burke labels Hicks “a grunt” before adding, “no offense,” which Hicks echoes later when they have Burke cornered. These minor character details are as important to Aliens’ success as the aforementioned technical aspects, and a reason the film holds up all these years later.Look, I’ll be frank: Aliens is a perfect film. No, really, it’s a perfect film. Everything about this movie works, and I haven’t even delved into James Horner’s pulse-pounding, anvil-clanging score that plays over my favorite sequence:[embedded content]Aliens is one of those movies I wish I could go back in time and watch with an audience on opening night. Can you imagine this moment with an exuberant crowd?Thirty-five years later, Aliens remains damn near unmatched because James Cameron took the time to deliver a pulse-pounding, action-packed, character-driven sequel that rivals the genius of its classic predecessor.Aliens isn’t just a great sequel, it’s one of the greatest films ever made.

    RANKED: The 12 Best Designs by the Late Ron Cobb

    RANKED: The 12 Best Designs by the Late Ron Cobb is taking a look at the best designs by the late Ron Cobb. Check out our picks below! Legendary underground cartoonist turned production designer and concept artist, Ron Cobb, passed away on his birthday Monday at the age of 83. Star Wars, one of the many franchises he contributed to, paid tribute to Cobb on Instagram, “We were saddened to learn of the passing of Star Wars: A New Hope conceptual designer Ron Cobb, who designed one of the most – if not the most — memorable characters in the Mos Eisley cantina… Cobb’s illustrious career contributed to several iconic films, including E.T The Extraterrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien, Back to the Future, and many more.” He will be missed.” The aesthetic of numerous sci-fi and action films were achieved through Cobb’s inimitable talent. Pivotal objects like Back to the Future‘s DeLorean, Conan the Barbaian‘s sword, and numerous space ships stick with us because of the imagination and subsequent work of Cobb. In addition to design, Cobb also served as a director and writer. Honoring the prolific career (which began in 1956) of one of the best illustrators of all-time, we’ve ranked some of Cobb’s most memorable designs (and films). Check them out below. RELATED: CS Video: Back to the Future’s Bob Gale Remembers Designer Ron Cobb All concept images via 12) Dark Star’s Spaceship Click here to purchase Dark Star! Cobb’s first production design job was John Carpenter’s debut film, 1974’s Dark Star. Cobb designed the exterior for the film’s main space ship—which went on to heavily influence the ships/special effects of Star Wars and other space operas. It was on this film that Cobb would meet writer Dan O’Bannon, which would lead to jobs working on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune and Ridley Scott’s Alien.  11) The Abyss’ Deep Core Rig Click here to purchase The Abyss! Cobb designed the massive underwater drilling rig in James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989) as well as the helmets, suits, and breathing tanks used by the crew. He also helped to create the two operable submersibles used in the movie.  10) Robot Jox’ Mech Suit Click here to purchase Robot Jox! Cobb served as a concept artist on Stewart Gordon’s Robot Joxs (1989), designing every inch of the 180 ft. tall, multi-mode robots, their support systems, and their worlds. Most of the costumes, automobiles, and other devices were also done by Cobb. 9) The Last Starfighter’s Spaceship Click here to pre-order the upcoming The Last Starfighter Blu-ray from Arrow Video! In addition to the Gunstar, Cobb designed the enemy space crafts, the planet Rylos, Starcar, aliens, and costumes for 1984’s The Last Starfighter. 8) Total Recall’s Memory Implant Chair Click here to purchase Total Recall! Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 classic, Total Recall’s entire plot revolves around one machine’s ability to plant false memories into people’s brains. Not only did Cobb design the “Rekall” machine, but he created the look for the Mars colony (mine complex, mining machines, taxi cabs, etc.), the Marsliner spaceship, and all of the vehicles on the futuristic Earth.  7) Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Nazi Airship Click here to purchase Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures! After meeting Steven Spielberg at Universal while working as a production designer on Conan The Barbarian, Cobb landed a job as a production artist on Raiders of the Lost Ark. Cobb ended up designing the Nazi Flying Wing from that film, on which, Indiana Jones fights that large Nazi in what is one of the greatest fights in cinematic history. Cobb and Spielberg maintained a close relationship for the remainder of his career.  6) Star Wars’ Momaw Nadon (“Hammerhead”) Click here to purchase Star Wars: A New Hope! Initially unaccredited, Cobb served as a conceptual designer on Star Wars: A New Hope. He designed most of the elaborate aliens in the famed Mos Eisley cantina sequence. Momaw Nadon AKA “Hammerhead” is considered by many to be the most memorable.  5) The Rocketeer’s Jet Pack Click here to purchase The Rocketeer! Cobb contributed an early design for the rocket-powered jet pack in Joe Johnson’s Rocketeer (1991). 4) Conan the Barbarian’s Sword Click here to purchase Conan the Barbarian! Not only did Cobb serve as a production designer on 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, but he was an uncredited director of second unit photography. That said, in addition to Conan’s iconic sword, Cobb was responsible for all of Conan’s weapons, armor, architecture, and scenery.  3) Aliens’ Drop Ship Click here to purchase Aliens! As a concept artist on James Cameron’s Aliens (1986), Cobb designed the “Drop Ship,” the armored personnel carrier, some of the weapons, the interior/exterior sets, and vehicles of the earth colony complex.  2) Alien’s Nostromo Click here to purchase Alien! As a concept artist on Ridley Scott’s Alien (1978), Cobb conceived the interior and exterior of the infamous Nostromo ship—the film’s setting. That said, the ship’s aesthetic has influenced countless other sci-fi projects and the Alien franchise as a whole. Cobb was also the one to suggest the titular Alien’s blood be corrosive so that the crew couldn’t just shoot it dead.  1) Back to the Future’s DeLorean Click here to pre-order Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy (4K)! Cobb created the initial design for the Back to the Future’s (1985) time-traveling De Lorean. Spielberg, a producer on the film, asked Cobb, “how he would make a DeLorean into a time machine?” He told Spielberg to make it look homemade like Doc Brown made it with stuff he picked up at Radio Shack. 

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