While the most iconic characters from FOX’s Alien franchise are, of course, the xenomorphs, series’ hero Ripley — one of cinema’s most badass heroines — comes a close second. It’s with that thinking in mind that fans of the Ridley Scott and James Cameron films questioned Gearbox Software about the lack of female characters in their forthcoming game, Aliens: Colonial Marines.

At the initial inquisition, Gearbox’s response was that there would be no playable female characters — a revelation that raised a lot of red flags — but have since explained that was only in regards to the game’s playable E3 demo, not the finished product. This response, however, stimulated a sizeable fan backlash, which forced Gearbox to reveal one of their unannounced features a little early.

As expected, Gearbox has confirmed female characters will be playable in Aliens: Colonial Marines‘ co-op mode, and they will be somewhat customizable. The details have yet to be ironed out completely, but as of right now players will be able to select from different hairstyles, personalize their weapons, and mix-and-match attachments.

In addition to a customizable female avatar for co-op and multiplayer, players will also be able to hop into the shoes of Jennifer Redding, a main character in the campaign. Gearbox hasn’t revealed any more details about Redding — who she is, how she fits into the story — but at least they didn’t allow themselves to be pigeonholed as a sexist game for much longer.

Speaking with Randy Pitchford, Kotaku discovered some of the inherent advantages to playable female characters, and how they help make Colonial Marines different for each player:

“Working with female avatar builds 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.”

Along with the revelation of new female characters, Gearbox also unveiled two new screenshots for Colonial Marines that show (what else) xenomorphs battling humans. These new screens give a better sense of the scope of xenomorph encounters in the game, and also show how outmatched many players will be.

Obviously players that so choose can play through Colonial Marines solo, but like Gearbox’s other title Borderlands 2 this game will be best experienced with a friend. We’ll see for ourselves when the game releases early next year.

Are you happy to see Gearbox Software was planning to include female characters in Aliens: Colonial Marines? Should they have announced these details sooner?

Aliens: Colonial Marines releases February 12, 2013 for the PS3, PC, and Xbox 360.

Source: Kotaku, CVG