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ALIENS ONLINE

[Aliens Online] is the first time that a major movie brand, real-time 3D action, and massively multiplayer technology have been brought together in the online world. With fast action and frighteningly realistic environments, Aliens Online rewards its players with palpably intense levels of suspense and a constantly expanding game universe. Thousands of gamers have already become addicted to Aliens Online's gripping gameplay and heated head-to-head combat during its open beta testing period.

Produced by Kesmai Studios in conjunction with Fox Interactive and Mythic Entertainment, Aliens Online pits Colonial Marines against a group of murderous aliens that have infested a space station and are threatening the lives of humans traveling through the universe. Along with suspenseful real-time action, claustrophobic corridors, ominous lighting, and menacing sound effects taken directly from the movie, Aliens Online offers players the choice of competing as either a Marine or an alien.

Aliens possess great speed, but can only kill Marines by direct contact. Marines, on the other hand, have all the formidable weapons seen in the movie -- flamethrowers, grenades, pulse rifles, smart guns, k-bars, shotguns and pistols -- but move much more slowly and can only detect an alien by sight or by using their motion detector, a device that obscures their view while in use.

Just as the Marines and aliens have varying capabilities, they also have different goals. While the Marines attempt to destroy the hive and its queen, the aliens must work together to defend the hive. The players build status and points in this persistent universe by killing opponents and completing special missions. Successful Marines rise through the ranks from private to captain, commanding ever-larger numbers of players, while alien players can work to acquire Queen status, controlling a hive and the players within it. Since Aliens Online is designed to foster cooperation, single players will not survive for long without the help of other team members.

Each Aliens Online sector supports up to 100 players, and new sectors are created so that up to 10,000 gamers can play simultaneously, all linked into a single persistent universe. Aliens Online requires a Pentium90 or better, running Windows 95, with 16 MB ram, and a sound card.
~ advertising blurb

I completely missed the boat on a lot of online-only games. I'm not exactly drawn to competitive play, but there is an element of FOMO when I hear stories from World of WarCraft or Call of Duty players. At least they're still going, which is more than can be said for Aliens Online, a 1998 anomaly played on the now defunct GameStorm subscription service.

Most of the games they hosted are lost to time, even if some left over data still exist. None of them have any offline components unless you want to do some series hacking. In the case of Aliens Online, which ran from 1998 to 2000, all it takes is a few tweaks in a config file to play through the levels without connecting to the servers. It's not the same experience as playing with or against 100 other souls, but it does give you a taste of what once was.

Beyond these obvious faults, there are a few caveats too. Not all updates have this single player training mode, with the most recent version - 2.21 - having the least to do. Version 2.12 will only have the Marine levels playable while ther earlier 1.11 gives you access to the Alien stages too. As a Marine, you can play as if it were a regular FPS. You have access to all of your guns and can shoot some badly programed alien drones. The later build plays better, with earlier ones having a weird inertia to the movement meaning they're quite sluggish to get started. 

As for the alien, well, there's not really a game here. You cannot attack, nor can you get hit - something that no doubt would've been a think in the full release. Even so, the stages are still quite interesting to explore. You can play as either a drone or a face hugger and, in the original release, you can build up your score to play as the alien queen. I couldn't figure out a way to unlock her, but apparently her role was to just survive. The Alien side seemed to play much differently to the guns-blazing human side and I can imagine some epic battles took place.
 
As you can probably expect, it's not exactly the most stable in its current form. An attempt at AI has been given to the sprite-based enemies, but they seem to easily get stuck on level geometry in their rush to get to your position. The functionality of the controls vary in different builds and I couldn't hit the tiny facehuggers at all. Attempting to swap sides and start a new game will boot you out of the entire program, and the audio is scratchy and distorted. Still, considering that other online-only games from the era have been lost to time, what playability we have is an absolute miracle.
 
You cannot play Aliens Online nowadays as if it were the full original release. You can only experience old data as if it were a proof of concept, an uncovered alpha build or a museum piece. Considering many other online-only games from this era such as Godzilla Online are completely unfunctional, this is perhaps the best we can hope for. From what I experienced, it looks like I missed out on quite the late-90s game sessions.


To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer runs natively on Windows. Version 0.70, 1.02, 1.11, 2.12 & 2.21 included at varying functionality. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 103 Mb.  Install Size: 222 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Aliens Online is © Fox Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


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8 comments:

  1. Thanks for digging this out :) Which version would you recommend I use if I want to play the Marine like a "normal" FPS?

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    1. You're welcome. There's detailed information in the ChamberNotes and the custom menu. 2.12 would be the best for the Marine stages, but don't expect it to be on the same level of quality as a full single player campaign. It's no Alien Trilogy or AvP.

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  2. Hey there thanks for this little peak into gaming history :) When I play the game I have terrible sound crackling. Is there a ways to get rid of it? I tried lowering sound quality in win10, tried reducing fps with the riva tool but all that did not help. :(

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    1. This is something I wasn't able to fix. I kinda treated this one like a preservation project and not a complete fix - there's no way to get it to play as it once was. Because of this I let a lot of things slide that I otherwise wouldn't have (like the sound, multiple builds etc). I thought the cause could be due to a fast modern PC making the sound to stumble over itself, but programs I would normally use to combat this either didn't work at all or completely crashed the game. It's not the most stable of games anyway, but I was morbidly curious nonetheless.

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    2. Thanks for the heads up. Yes I also was thinking my pc might be to fast but couldn't compensate with reducing fps ect. Well gotta be lucky when starting that the crackling is nearly gone. I noticed that it differs each startup. :)

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  3. BurningStickMan3 July 2021 at 22:00

    Thanks for posting this! I was somewhat active in the community back when the game was live, and I suppose I've been carrying the torch for it around the internet since. Some notes, if you're interested:

    - A guy named Ravenloft on the old AO boards originally found the protocol=single tweak. Commenting out one line and activating another is admittedly not much of a "hack," but he still gets the credit for finding it and making SCARE playable today :P

    - Using your installer on Windows 10 64-bit, Aliens have an extreme lag to their movement that basically makes them unplayable. When you press a key, it looks like they're not moving at all. Marines build movement up slowly in versions earlier than 2.12. This is not the way it's supposed to run. On both physical and virtual Windows 95/98, you get correct movement speed for both players. Just confirmed loading 1.11 into a Win95 Pentium 1 on 86box.

    - With the above, Aliens can absolutely be shot and killed by the marine AI. You can tweak marines to be slightly more effective, and put the offline experience a little closer to the player Marine's: https://web.archive.org/web/20040223205029fw_/http://www.teamkindred.com/aliensonline/scare/tweak.htm

    - You could certainly raise hell as a Queen (and later, an Empress - no visual difference). I think you were supposed to act more as a General for the Alien team, but she still could take a beating and then retreat to slowly heal over time. Lots of details here: https://www.justgamesretro.com/win/aliens-online

    Thanks again for keeping awareness of AO alive! Maybe we'll get that rogue server one day.
    - Briggs[K]

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    1. Great stuff! I didn't do much if anything to the game other than play around with the config files and didn't expect much in the way of playability or compatibility. I treated it like a museum piece of lost media where even an small amount of playable content was something. Much more than many other games of its kind. I'm curious to try it again with the tweaks you've suggested.

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  4. Just played this, I wasn't even aware of this game back in the day so it's definitely cool to see as part of the franchise's gaming history.

    With the locked Y-axis, 2.5D maps (false Z-axis), weapon UI and the overall feel of gameplay it kind of reminds me of Aliens vs Predator for the Jaguar, although overall a few years more advanced in terms of level geometry and graphics.

    For some reason in the default S.C.A.R.E. level (mining colony) I can't seem to leave the starting area or find any aliens, but all the other levels work fine.

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