You'll be able to play and customize lady marines in Aliens: Colonial Marines, developer Gearbox assured fans during a panel at PAX Prime today. You can hop in the clunky metal shoes of Jennifer Redding during co-op play and even customize an array of female avatars for competitive multiplayer.
Gearbox didn't want to announce anything today, but they felt they had to, CEO Randy Pitchford told me in a recent meeting. The decision to reveal the remaining three cooperative characters (including Redding, who you can see in the above concept art) came as a reaction to a growing online petition that accused the first-person shooter of excluding both playable female characters and female character customization in competitive play.
The petition, which currently holds over 3,800 signatures, appears to be supported by several of the 1986 Aliens film's actors and actresses that performed the roles of marines.
The online controversy was first stirred by a post-E3 interview where senior producer Brian Burleson had claimed there were no playable female characters. What he meant, Pitchford told me, was that there were no playable characters in the E3 demo, which only featured team deathmatch.
It was always the plan to include playable female characters, Pitchford told me. Working with female avatar builds, he explained, is beneficial for both visual diversity—animations and silhouettes that differ from male characters—as well as gameplay diversity. Females have a different skeleton and therefore move differently than the male marines.
Competitive multiplayer will feature a whole range of both male and female characters, all of which can be customized. You'll be able to write on your gear, customize your armor, and even attach a flamethrower to your pulse rifle if you felt so inclined.
Because the announcement is earlier than the team expected, some details are still being ironed out. Subtleties ranging from mohawk hairstyles to the stance of the lead co-op hero are subject to change. But Gearbox felt the need to clarify that there will indeed be both a playable female marine in co-op, as well as customizable female avatars in the game's competitive multiplayer mode.