Aliens Colonial Marines – Review
When a video game describes itself as a sequel to the 1986 sci-fi action tour de force Aliens you kind of take notice if you’re a fan. So for six years since its announcement we been fed the occasional piece of news, the odd screen shot there and just when we thought the game had be cast in the giant binary bin marked ‘CANCELLED’ we get firm news that it’s still game on and not ‘game over, man’.
I have had what could be described as a lengthy exposure to this title after queuing like cattle with Jared & Tim (Tripmcnealy & Lord Of Letterbox respectively) for the best part of three hours back at Pax East 2012 in Boston. I liked what I saw of the campaign and enjoyed what I played of the multiplayer back then which was 6 on 6 team death match, Marines Vs Aliens. The Gearbox staff on hand were talkative and did a good job pitching their vision. Randy Pitchford himself even sat in on the demo walk through of the game’s opening level. Okay, they were funnelling a PS3 build through a PC sure, but benefit of the doubt and all that. Jared of course disagreed, but myself and Tim were pumped.
God, I wished I had listened to Jared…
Above: Aliens Colonial Marines booth at Pax East 2012. In Boston no-one can anticipate you scream.
Next up was Rezzed in July, a new event set in Brighton my home town and Sega, Aliens Colonial Marines’ publisher had the multiplayer quite openly on show. Like Pax, we could only play as the marines but yet again we came away impressed despite only playing it on a PC network. This same build and set up again had an outing at Eurogamer the following September and left even more members of the community impressed with the multiplayer. Sega were also cranking the hype machine with cos-play for the game in high abundance. Day one purchase was banded about by many.
You can probably tell now by both my narrative and tone that I have issues with this game. Let me get this out now. Never have I felt this let down by a game. I can see the scope and vision the team had, it’s clearly there as the story leads right off the back of Aliens. It features a couple of familiar faces voiced by the original cast as well as new, dare I say it, well designed xenomorph types. The story is clearly pitting itself as fan service albeit to those fans who thought Alien3 was shit.
All of this though is destroyed by what is best described as a glitchy, buggy and unfinished mess. It’s a dog’s dinner start to finish.
The game for a start looks like a port from original Xbox or indeed the PS2. Character models flap their rubber mouths up and down like Bill & Ben the Flower Pot Men whilst others develop the power to walk through walls or levitate like the demoniacally possessed.
Whilst some environments are impressive (a certain ship interior looked amazing) texture pop-in is in abundance and the rain effect on your character’s first person view looks like multiple money-shots from an enthusiastic adult movie. It looks extremely unfinished, a promise of what might have been. The bit where I chuckled the most was when you shoot Alien eggs. You would expect a half decent acid explosion from what I admit looks like a semi-impressive static polygon model. Instead you get a 2D blocky, unanimated splatter sprite. Yes, a ‘sprite’ – old school!
Gun play I admit is fair but the AI of xenomorphs, human enemies and (worst of all) your team mates can be awful. Aliens by and large charge at you instead of flanking your sides like you would expect them and the human opponents frequently step out of cover like willing participants in a tin can alley. Some of them are also pronouncedly deaf allowing you to easily pop them in the head with your un-silenced weapon of choice.
Then there are your battlefield comrades who cannot shoot for shit. I basically counted them claiming about 10 kills all game. Cheers you useless twats! Essentially these guys are on rails, running from A to B stopping maybe to take cover or to spray bullets at enemies they have no intention of killing anyway. Worst of all is that if you overtake them, they hilariously teleport in front of you as the game engine catches up with you trying to break it.
There’s also an element of unfairness in some deaths I experienced as some grenades gave you literally half a second to get out of the way.
The much touted multiplayer is much as it was when I saw it last year except the resolution has dropped dramatically. Also you finally get to play as the Aliens and I can see immediately why we weren’t allowed to touch them – they handle like crap, sticking & glitching on surfaces and flailing around their melee attacks like a drunk in a goth discotheque. There’s also a problem with single player ranking up marines for use in the multiplayer which means that teams are naturally unbalanced unless everyone puts the time in. Many of the games I played saw members of my xenomorph team drop out during play which unbalances everything even more.
Lastly you also only get two maps. Two maps. Shocking.
To be honest I didn’t partake in the online campaign co-op although I did sit in on a party chat where it was taking place. Sounded like fun albeit fun being made of the game itself.
In summary I feel duped. Having been exposed to carefully selected elements over the past ten months there is no excuse for this mess. You can only speculate the mismanagement that went into this game. Yes you made the brilliant Borderlands 2 Gearbox but you also polished the turd that was Duke Nukem Forever. I will forever now be guessing what Gearbox I will be getting.
My advice? Play Aliens Vs Predator as it’s the more competent Aliens experience on current home consoles. Or perhaps wait for this abomination to take a price drop as I everyone needs to experience playing a bad game once in a while.