Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

NOTE: Despite this game’s admittedly poor quality, I have held off nearly a month on my review in order to see if any patches would come out that would remedy some of its most heinous elements. Seeing as that has not really happened, I now bring you this sad tale about Aliens. In that near-month’s time, I have unlocked every achievement for the game except the “I Love the Corps!” one, which requires you to cap out and reach level 60 as a marine. I’ve trudged through the multiplayer enough in these past few weeks, but am not quite at that level yet, and have no real wish to be. Without further ado, allow me to tell you a tale of horror, anticipation, and disillusion…

So, after the interesting albeit fun catastrophe that Aliens Versus Predator was, I bet you were all hoping (along with myself) that this new Alien-themed game would be a lot better. I’ll even bet you were just as disappointed (or more so) when it proved to be even worse than Rebellion’s flawed 2010 tri-species war game. Aliens vs. Predator seems to have every edge up on it’s younger brother here, even though both games are of poor quality and not nearly as great as they seemed to be at first glance in demos. AVP’s campaigns were numerous and somewhat stomachable, the graphics were excellent albeit plain, the sounds were realistically akin to the movies, and only the gameplay itself could keep this otherwise okay shooter off of its feet. Aliens: Colonial Marines on the other hand, is an entirely different story, and its failure comes from many of the same problems that Sega had the first time around- and are only amplified in this title.

Whereas I would’ve given AVP a semi-respectable 6.0 on the Game Informer review scale, you will notice that I am giving Colonial Marines a generous 5.0, which means that it is quite a downgrade indeed from its predecessor. Ever since Colonial Marines was announced nigh on six years ago (2007), I had had high hopes for finally receiving the Aliens experience in game form, and breaking the mold on the poor gameplay and crappy gimmicks of all previous base models. I suppose I should’ve really been expecting this performance though, when I realized that it seemed like every other month something new about the game was changing, and they would find time to release other excellent games while Colonial Marines took the back burner. It’s that very lack of care and concern for the game that ultimately seems to attribute to its downfall, as if they had ever put any real time into it at all, it would’ve surely turned out much better. But no, instead Gearbox gave us excellent titles such as Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway and the Borderlands series, for which I am thankful, but still have to wonder what Colonial Marines could have been.

Aliens: Colonial Marines’ story was supposed to be its most interesting part, while gearbox also promised an in-depth amount of multiplayer content as well, as usually comes with their excellent shooters. However, after playing through the poor quality of the campaign, and then the even poorer quality multiplayer, I felt as if I had wasted hours of my life that now I can never get back. I know that is about the worst thing that can be said for a developer’s project, and the baby they worked so hard to raise in a certain amount of time (usually much less than the five plus years you guys had!), but this game was certainly stillborn at best. The whole basis of the single player campaign is literally to create a story where there wasn’t one, and never should have been one at all. Meant to be the “bridge” between the second and third Alien(s) movies, Colonial Marines features a bunch of nameless meatbags (as HK-47 would say) getting their faces torn off and guts ripped out by everyone’s favorite aliens. The semblance of a story is minimal, and even the firefights are poorly thought out it seems, because this “survival” and shooter game can’t even roll from room to room without issues and glitches, much less churn out a realistic and quality story from the universe it originated in. It tries to ride the high that Alien started in ’79, but falls flat on its face instead, and all the nostalgia in the world can’t save it from its lackluster thrills and kills.

The other main stars of the films and this game are of course the aliens themselves. Although it is nearly impossible to care for them at all, other than to take the time and trouble to load a bullet and blast them into oblivion (you tried to make us care Alien: Resurrection, but we don’t, sorry), these xenomorphs in particular are most certainly not the same breed as their silver screen cousins, or even as their AVP, hardy counterparts were. Whatever flimsy, cardboard-like, stiff, and hammed up race this is, it certainly isn’t able to properly wear the mantle of ‘Alien’. None of their terrifying speed, agility, or combat prowess makes it into the game- unless you count their surprising amount of damage dealt for even the smallest hits and nicks. It’s the first ten or so times to blast through the xenos with relative ease for once (unless you’re playing on the higher difficulties), but after that, it not only gets old and very repetitive quickly, but you start to see things come apart at the seams a well. While it is terrifying to hear them crawling around in vents where you can’t see them a la Dead Space’s necromorphs, any other encounters with the aliens are often short-lived and look like a puppeteer is controlling the things as they “rush” at you. This is truly the biggest atmospheric and environmental kicker of the game, seeing as you are forced to confront hordes of the same enemies, with few truly diversified characteristics.

Despite the poor quality of their movement and animation issues, the xenos aren’t the only enemies you’ll be facing in numbers, as various forms of their life cycle appear in the game as well- from the “face huggers” to the “chest bursters” themselves. These other enemies add the smallest amount of strategy possible to the game, but hey, it’s still something I guess. Along with these oldies, there are some new, never before seen enemies as well, which only serve as a very brief respite from the overall mediocrity and sameness of the game, for what its worth. You ahve the “charger-like” headbutting xenomorph that, true to its name, charges towards you with its giant battering ram-like head, and only has weak spots on the soft pudding/padding back and tail. It’s just a reskinned xeno though in all technicality. There are also some other new alien types, such as the necromorph-like “zombie xenos” that are only acutely aware of any sound you make, and easily avoided by not moving or shooting. Then of course, there are the human enemies as well, which I’d like to think are better created and crafted than their alien counterparts, but are hardly so.

Just like your AI allies, the enemy AI are bumbling idiots who would most certainly never make it through any of the films, which is alright, considering the fact that even the majority of the smart, film marines never do anyway. Enemies and squadmates sweep rooms sparingly, but when they do, its well worth observing and reporting what they find- namely walls, aliens, and anything that they can be clipped into and stuck halfway through. Totally realistic. They’re not much better in firefights, which is excellent for your idiotic enemies, whom you can take down with ease before worrying about the ever-present horde of aliens coming your way, and which is terrible for your squaddies who leave you to become a one man tank and fight the entire species war on your own essentially. Basically forcing you to become Ripley from Alien: Resurrection, and a superhuman killing machine badass. Hilariously, enemies will sometimes even ignore your friends and only focus in on you, which isn’t as hilarious as their obliviousness to dangers around them.

To offset your character, who would otherwise be a badass killing machine as mentioned before and above, the weapons you are given have the damage capability of the plastic toy weapons mod from Skyrim. Sure, rifles, shotguns, machineguns, and flamethrowers are all available, as in the movies themselves- but they’re so ridiculously ineffective and inefficient that you might as well try meleeing your enemies to death, and expect better effects. Close range encounters could be a lot better certainly, but its the medium to longer range ones that are really the bane of the combat in this game. Seeing as you have no long range weaponry at your disposal, and the weapons that you do have suck anywhere, you’re kind of toast if you can’t get in close enough to your enemies… Even the upgrades system can’t save your weapons from mediocrity, and even once you earn every single one of these upgrades (as I did through my time with the game), the weapons are still ridiculously laughable in their effectiveness.

After the great calamity and trainwreck of the single player campaign, one would think multiplayer would be better- which it kind of is, I guess, in terms of sucking a little less than its solo counterpart. It certainly is a distraction from the terrible gameplay anyway, at least until you realize its errors in judgement as well. All of the modes that are offered essentially still boil down to xenomorphs versus human marines, but there are several different varieties of gameplay to choose from- ranging from deathmatch to survival. Animation is even worse in its abundance in multiplayer, so be prepared for the same technical difficulties and glitches to appear here as well, in greater context. Also, playing as the aliens is just as terrible and hard to control as it was in AVP, albeit maybe a little bit easier to do.

The saddest part of all is that there is no real way to salvage this game’s good points- because it literally has none, and its hard to save something that doesn’t even care or pretend to care about its success or not. With it’s three campaigns, AVP was by far a better game than this, and even it was a terrible game in comparison to most. That is what truly saddens me about Gearbox’s attempt here, or lack there of in terms of effort. The Aliens franchise is always spawning interesting and successful ideas in other games (Dead Space), but it can never seem to batten down the hatches enough to save itself from anything past mediocrity. I doubt anyone will enjoy this game too much, but if you do- more power to you. I played through it, or more accurately, suffered through it, for virtually a month, and I have nothing more to say about it. While my review score might not entirely reflect it, I would almost dare say that this particular mess was just as bad as Black Ops Declassified. Take a license, strip away what makes it good, and give it the generic shooter vibe, and you’ll have both of those games under your thumb for all they’re worth. I hate to only seemingly hate on or rant about a game, but there’s just too much bad for the good to be noticeable here, sorry.

Concept: Needlessly insert a story where there never should have been one, and for good reason it seems, as the final product is worse than some alpha builds I’ve played through of games.

Graphics: The animations aren’t even worth your pity, and need to be put out of their misery soon. The visuals are terrible by today’s standards, decent by last gen’s, and normal for the N64 era’s.

Sound: The one thing the game actually managed to do right was to capture the classic sounds of the heartbeat and heat sensors, as well as the alien roars and round after round of machinegun ammo.

Playability: Could you play through this mess?

Entertainment: As troubled as the gaming version of the Alien franchise’s past is, this game still disappointed me, especially after ample time and opportunity to actually make it something. Rebellion had less than half the time, and at least their AVP game was interesting to say the least.

Replay Value: Extremely Poor.

Overall Score: 5.0

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