Aliens: Colonial Marines
Developer: Gearbox Software
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Released: February 12, 2013
Price: $59.99 – Available Here
Aliens as a franchise has been around since 1986 and over the last two and a half decades the Aliens name has created a number of sequels, multiple spin-off movies featuring Predators, multiple action figures and of course plenty of video games. However outside of Aliens Infestation, a title focusing solely on the Aliens brand has not made its way to modern consoles until now with Aliens: Colonial Marines. Now over the last couple of years we’ve seen plenty of footage and presentations for Aliens: Colonial Marines, but how has the final product turned out? Let’s find out.
Aliens: Colonial marines is set roughly four months after the events that occurred during the first Aliens movie and players take the role of Corporal Winter, one of the many Colonial Marines that has been set to investigate a distress call sent from the USS Sulaco. However soon after the Colonial Marines reach the Sulaco they find that very strange things have been happening on-board the ship and the crew find themselves under attack by Xenomorphs.
However with only a little bit of exploration, Winters and a few surviving marines find that not only have these alien Xenomorphs taken over the Sulaco, but the Weyland-Yutani corporation has also sent a private military company to perform various experiments. As such, Winters and the few surviving marines must try and survive both an army of soldiers and hordes of Xenomorphs if they ever want to make it out alive.
If you were hoping for some sort of storyline expansion in Aliens: Colonial Marines then it would probably be best to squash those hopes quickly. Outside of a few references to the events of the movies and a noticeable inclusion later in the game which reeks of series retconning, the story of Aliens: Colonial Marines is almost as cookie cutter as they come. While players do explore the infested Sulaco and even end up on LV-426, the entire story plays out like a generic action movie where a group of survivors simply try to survive against something that may kill off a character occasionally.
It would work well if the characters were even relatable, but unfortunately that is not the case. Despite having a few moments where a dramatic sequence should be emotional, each of these dramatic moments falls flat due to the fact that these characters are barely above generic marine stereotypes. Despite having Xenomorphs ready to slaughter them, mutilated corpses everywhere and losing people they knew, the basic dialogue most of the marines have never expands beyond typical soldier bravado.
To elevate this issue further, the story for Aliens: Colonial Marines wraps up in a little over five hours and that is with playing on a higher difficulty than average. Because of this there is little actual story telling here and even if you track down every single audio log to try and squeeze every last drop of narrative out of Aliens: Colonial Marines, all you will find is enough acid blood to burn away at best six hours of your time only to walk away feeling unsatisfied.
In case you’ve become enamored with how Aliens: Colonial Marines looks from the various preview footage, trailers and commercials that have been shown over the last few years, it is best simply to forget all about those. The truth with Aliens: Colonial Marines is that the game is not only rather terrible looking, it is also full of so many graphical problems it is impossible not to notice one every couple of minutes.
Before I get into that, it is worth noting that the title suffers from terrible levels of screen tearing unlike anything I have seen before in a game from even last generation. But moving on, the overall feel to the visuals of the game is unpolished, many areas in the game are plain and flat looking without any detail and any environments that are actually detailed are barely passable as far as current standards are concerned. Also, while the game certainly is “dark” there is little in the way of atmosphere here as any hope of realistic lighting is shattered when environments only come in, slightly dark and fully-lit variations with the brightness turned down.
To make things worse, the title suffers from rather bland character models and absolutely terrible looking human enemy models. As for the Xenomorphs, it can be said that there was some decent attention paid to making sure they at least look the part and the different Xenomorph variations do spice up the game a bit, though prepare for plenty of glitching through the environment as the Xenomorphs often end up either stuck on various objects or simply ragdoll randomly against a wall until the player puts them out of their misery. The human AI is just as bad however, with both ally and enemy humans simply running past one another at times, or glitching so bad that they interact with objects that are across the room.
As far as sound effects go, Aliens: Colonial Marines is rather hit and miss. The Xenomorphs tend to sound vicious and mimic the sound of the Xenomorphs we’ve grown to love from the movies, however the overall environmental sound effects fall flat. It is also worth noting that the guns in the title sound like they have absolutely zero impact. In fact, one weapon’s audio skips when using continuous fire, trying to mimic a burst gun while being used at full-auto.
The voice work can be alright but again it is hit and miss. The constantly repeated dialogue of the marines in your group can be grating but whenever normal sequences play out, there is some decent voice work to be had here. Unfortunately over the course of the game’s limited play-time it will be hard not to have grown tired of hearing the same canned phrases over and over.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a very standard first person shooter in many regards. Players have partially regenerating health bars and can find various health kits and armor along the way to extend their life. Players are also given a number of weapons to sue to take down the Xenomorphs that they come across, with most of these weapons being your standard shotgun or assault rifle variety there are a few signature weapons from the movie that can appear as usable collectables. These weapons can be customized slightly via attachments that will be discussed more later on.
Now being an Aliens title, players will primarily battle against various Xenomorphs. However unlike the deadly and intelligent Xenomorphs that we’ve grown to know, the Xenomorphs in Aliens: Colonial Marines seem to really enjoy being shot in the face. While the Xenomorphs do tend to crawl on walls every once in a while and you may spot one on the ceiling, they often will simply run in a straight line right at the player where they can be subsequently dropped with a short, controlled burst of gunfire.
If a basic Xenomorph does manage to reach you, they simply swing at the air trying to scratch you, though there are a couple variations that do cling to you and force you to melee them away or perish. However overall players can usually just melee most close enemies away to give themselves some space and even then you will occasionally trigger an execution style kill that covers Winter’s hands in acid blood, but don’t worry it doesn’t do anything to you because that would match Alien lore.
There are a few different Xenomorph types that appear throughout the game, with chemically altered Xenomorphs that explode on contact and only respond to sound adding a little stealth element and various “boss” type Xenomorphs you would think there would be a little variety to gameplay. However the blind aliens are rather idiotic and any stealth section can be completed by simply walking slowly or turning on a machine to make noise and the boss sections are entirely scripted fights that require specific steps to complete.
It is worth noting that the motion tracker is available for use at any given time, though players would be easier forgetting that it exists. While using the motion tracker, players are unable to use any of their weapons before putting it away which is a hindrance. Also it is almost useless thanks to the fact that players rarely have to worry about the location of the straight-charging Xenomorphs and the fact that even when it isn’t equipped the tracker still beeps whenever an enemy is nearby.
Outside of the Xenomorphs, players must also fight against the Weyland Yutani soldiers in terrible cover based shooting segments. The gunfights slow the pace of the game to a crawl and the enemy AI is so underwhelming it is almost laughable as they hide in clear view of the player and often simply stand there for no reason. Occaisonally you will find a fight that pits the PMC soldiers and the Xenomorphs against one another with your unit in the middle. These sections are quite enjoyable as you see the overwhelming nature of the Xenomorphs actually show what they can do when fighting a mindless drone.
Earlier I mentioned slight weapon customization and this is centered on the fact that players can level up their “Marine Rank” through various acts in the single-player, co-op and competitive multiplayer modes. These levels are a nice tracking system of your progress but only really matter in multiplayer mode where the player should focus more on leveling their Xenomorph skills more than anything else.
Now the game does feature co-op during the campaign, but it is laughable at best as up to four players can play with each other at any given time in what always seems to be a lag-fest that ruins whatever immersion or challenge the title may have once held. In fact, unless you’re starved for interaction with other human players, the only use for co-op is a revival option just in case the action does manage to kill one of the players.
Finally the title features competitive multiplayer which is actually decently handled. The multiplayer pits a team of humans against a team of Xenomorphs through various match types that would be expected of competitive multiplayer but with an Aliens twist. The human players can use their customized loudouts of souped-up weaponry to fight against the Xenomorphs while Xenomorphs must make use of the various vents and their ability to climb on any surface to get closer to the humans to try not and die so quickly.
Playing as the Xenomorphs initially feels like a handicap thanks to the fact that even with a leveled up class, they are rather slow moving and thanks to poor multiplayer map design there are only so many places a player can hide at any time. Also, since players can level their Human skills by playing the single-player mode and Xenomorph skills can only be leveled in multiplayer, it often creates quite a power discrepancy.
To try and even the playing field a little, there are a few Xenomorph types to choose from such as the standard one, a ranged Spitter class and a sneaky Lurker. Also a Xenomorph player may be able to turn into a boss-like Crusher that can deal critical damage by charging at humans and destroying them as they try to slay the beast. These moments usually provide the most fun whereas the rest of the matches are rather standard affairs that can quickly grow tiresome once players learn the layout of a map.
Aliens: Colonial Marines could have been something great, and from what we’ve been shown, should have been something great. However what consumers have been given is something that seems rushed and unpolished and something that should barely be considered an alpha build rather than a final retail release. With a campaign that can be completed in one-sitting, terrible enemy AI, visuals and performance so underwhelming it is almost laughable and only a multiplayer option as a saving grace, Aliens: Colonial Marines may try to play on nostalgia or fans of the Aliens franchise, but ultimately fails in almost every possible way.
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