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REVIEW | SEGA/Gearbox’s “Colonial Marines” The Final Nail In “Aliens” Coffin

By
Posted on March 4, 2013 AT 01:45pm

Maybe it’s because I entered it with the lowest expectations possible, or perhaps I’ve been so desensitized by the plethora of horrid movie-based video games seen by my own eyes, but my time with Aliens: Colonial Marines was mediocre at best. Is it a terrible game? Most definitely. The worst? Not quite. But can a game that promised the world but gave us only a tiny deserted island still have its fun moments?

Taking place after the events of the 1986 Aliens film we find a new set of Colonial Marines heading into space to find some survivors. What they wind up discovering are not just those nasty Xenomorphs, but also soldiers contracted by Weyland-Yutani, who are using marine survivors as hosts to new Xenomorphs. (Why on earth they wish to grow more of them, I have no idea.) Walker, O’Neal, and the rest of the team decide to put a stop to Weyland-Yutani’s deeds, while at the same time search for a way off of the planet.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was supposed to correct the mistakes to David Fincher’s Alien 3, even erasing the events that took place in the film to appease the fans and makers of Aliens. Sadly the plotline in this video game makes you wish that weren’t the case, and that the better choice would’ve been to leave the original quadrilogy alone. With so many plotholes to be found, not to mention a dead character revived for possibly the sake to have at least one of the original Aliens characters in the game, you’ll be left asking more questions than you’ll get answers for.

For that matter, why are there human enemies in this game? It says Aliens right on the box, yet for half the time you play the Campaign there will be not a single Xenomorph to be found. I’m sorry, but if I want to spend my time killing enemy soldiers I’ll turn on my Wii U and play me some Black Ops II. I signed up to spill some acidy blood, not take out regular joes.

Colonial Marines‘ gameplay can be janky, at best. Maneuvering through the levels are okay, but when it comes to shooting and protecting yourself it just goes everywhere. Many times I used my scope and carefully aimed for the enemy soldiers, but my shot would go too far left or right and barely graze them. Then there is the issue of taking cover, which 3/4 of the time never seems to work because they somehow know how to shoot through metallic boxes.

Using grenades and secondary explosives are fairly easy to do, but you spend so much time shooting it up that odds are you’ll forget you have those at your disposal. Finally there’s the issue with using Powerloaders, which seem to glitch out every time you attempt to throw a haymaker in one of them. (Also, where the hell is its flamethrower attachment we were promised in the trailer?!)

The game also feels very copy-and-paste. You go into an area, shoot up aliens or soldiers, move on to the next area, do more killing, and so on and so on. While the point of Aliens games is to kill the Xenomorphs there could’ve been a lot more variety in it. A little puzzle here, a timed mission there, and maybe a few more boss battles other than the one found in the last level, which was the game’s hugest disappointment.

I’ll admit: there were a couple areas of the Campaign where I did have a jolly good time. Having to escape a Xenomorph-filled area with only the clothes on your back filled me with a tingle in my spine, as I slowly stepped around the area hoping to not alarm them. Killing the aliens also had its moments, especially when you take one out with your shotgun as its about to rip your face off. A rush was felt at that point, but sadly that thrill would fade away after dealing with the computer bugs in this game.

One of the very few highlights in Aliens: Colonial Marines has to go to its score, composed by Kevin Riepl. It knows how to set the mood, from the action-packed bangs of the timpani during action sequences to the foreboding string section that plays as soon as one of those Xenomorphs is about to pop their head out to frighten you. Its voice-acting is okay, but I found it to be out of synch in many parts of the FMVs.

The worlds in Aliens: Colonial Marines can be gorgeous at times, especially when you’ve crash-landed on the planet. You could just stare at the landscapes, wishing that you can walk over there and check the view of your surroundings. The aliens can be freaky at first, especially when they attack from behind (which will happen a few times). The marines themselves, however, look as lifeless at they surely will be as soon as they come across those space freaks. Its AI is also laughably bad. The marines shuffle about like they are yellow-bellied cowards, and when the Xenomorphs walk around on their hind legs like they maneuver as if they suffered from Cerebral Palsy.

The eleven-leveled Campaign lasts roughly 5-6 hours, just a little under 60 minutes per year it took to make this game. While there are challenges and hidden gems that you can go back and find, odds are you’ll have no desire to go back and play it. While it has its fun moments, those times are a mere dusting compared to the tornado of badness you’ll come by in single-player mode.

Multiplayer, on the other hand, outshines everything that the Campaign had to offer. You are given four different modes to go head-on with: Team Deathmatch, Extermination (arming explosives to wipe out Xenomorph eggs), Escape (evading alien enemies to get out of the territory), and Survivor Mode. While there is some fun to be had with the latter three it’s the Team Deathmatch mode that has the most enjoyable experience of them all, thanks to its wider gameplay areas. You are given two rounds to battle it out, with each side taking turns playing the Colonial Marines and the Xenomorphs.

To be able to play as those beloved aliens is nothing short of a welcoming approach. Yes, you did get to play as the Xenomorphs in Alien Vs. Predator, but here it feels more adjacent to the franchise realm you’re in. Taking control of Lurkers as they walk on ceilings and walls, and then launching yourselves on top of a distracted Marines as you rip his throat out will leave you cackling with purely maniacal glee. That being said, it doesn’t take away the majority of the anguish you’ll go through in Campaign mode.

So who’s at fault here for Aliens: Colonial Marines? To be honest the point of blame goes in four directions. Blame Gearbox Software for trying to work on too many games at the same time, forcing them to outsource. Shame on TimeGate for trashing the work Gearbox already had done and starting from scratch. A wag of the finger should be given to Sega, who pushed all the developers to get the game out the door when they knew it wasn’t ready.

Lastly, and the harshest one of all, the blame is upon the shoulders of us gamers. We should’ve known by now that most non-Star Wars movie-based video games will wind up terrible (2009′s Ghostbusters, of course, being the only exception), but we were so blinded by the trailers and the promises made by the developers that we just forgot about the past and embraced a better future. (The fact that people were unable to go hands-on with a Campaign demo throughout all the video game conventions and expos during its promotion should’ve sounded any gamer’s internal warning signal.) It’s not our fault the game turned out this way, mind you, but it’s because of the way we hyped it up as the next big thing — whether it’s a journalist reporting about it online or a group of friends going back-and-forth about the game to the eyes & ears of onlookers — that makes it a tiny bit of our fault. If there are people that should be pitied for this mess, it’s Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Sigourney Weaver, and everyone else involved in the original Aliens franchise.

PROS:

  • Soundtrack knows how to set the mood
  • Aliens can be scary in some places
  • Multiplayer mode is more fun than one would’ve thought
  • Cool little Easter eggs referencing past films

CONS:

  • AI movement very sluggish
  • Too many human enemies, not enough Aliens
  • Bad aim, controls sluggish
  • It’s officially Aliens canon, much to our dismay

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Aliens: Colonial Marines will go down as the biggest disappointment of 2013, and even with its good multiplayer there’s no masking its bad AI, the copy-and-paste Campaign, and terrible aiming system. Its only hope now falls on the Demiurge-produced Wii U version, the “definite version” Gearbox promises it is. Unfortunately I’m not holding my breath on that one, as much as I would like to.

FINAL GRADE: 4.2 (out of ten)

The PS3 version of “Aliens: Colonial Marines” was played for this review

Evan Bourgault is an accomplished music, anime, and video game critic. His passion for discovering new bands, developers and Japanese pop culture began in his college radio days and continues on today. Evan joined the ElectricSistaHood team in 2008 where he is a contributing editor and co-host of one of the network's weekly podcasts. Follow Evan on Twitter at twitter.com/King_Baby_Duck


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