Title: Aliens: Colonial Marines
System(s): PS3 (Also available on Xbox 360, Wii U and Windows PC)
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Sega (Timegate Studios, Demiurge Studios, Nerve Software, Gearbox Software)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood & Gore, Strong Language and Intense Violence
Alien and Aliens were my first horror movies. I saw them back-to-back when I was seven years old in 1989 and was both terrified and fascinated at the same time. I didn’t truely appreciate the character development and story until later, but I knew I loved the series. So while I’m not the biggest fan of first person shooters, I was excited about Aliens: Colonial Marines. Gearbox Software was supposed to be behind it. It was supposed to be an official, accepted part of the series lore. It was supposed to let me be a Xenomorph and attack my friends in the multiplayer mode. It was supposed to be a lot of things, but unfortunately it’s doesn’t live to any of my expectations.
Everything that happens in Aliens: Colonial Marines doesn’t really matter
Word of god says that Aliens: Colonial Marines is canon now, which makes this game even more pitiful. The problem is that this game’s terrible story adds nothing to the series mythology and some late game spoilers introduce plot holes that make don’t mesh with the lore Alien, Aliens and Alien 3 have presented. It is underwhelming, there is no excitement and the xenomorphs pale in comparison to more game space monsters like Dead Space‘s Slashers or Mass Effect‘s Husks.
Aliens: Colonial Marines‘ story is flimsy, short and nonexistant, accompanied by some of the worst voice acting I have ever seen in a game. As a frame of reference, I spent my youth playing PlayStation JRPGs like Lunar: Silver Star Story, Thousand Arms and Grandia, so I’ve heard terrible things. I spent about five and a half hours playing Aliens: Colonial Marines and came away with nothing. There is no character development, meaning I don’t care about Christopher Winter, a marine from the U.S.S. Sephora who is part of a crew sent to investigate the U.S.S. Sulaco after Corporal James Hicks sends out a distress signal. Marines don’t leave their own behind, so Winter is going in to make things right. Naturally, Xenomorphs are discovered, Weyland-Yutani has something to do with it, mercenaries show up to cause even more problems and the next thing you know, Winter and his team are down on Acheron (LV-426) for an ultimate confrontation.
There are no revelations about Weyland-Yutani. Winter and his fellow marines never grow as characters or offer any reaction to their situation beyond the initial shock and the following “kill anything that moves” rage. Of course, one can’t expect much when the single player campaign can be cleared in under six hours on a normal difficulty level.
How can a game that took five years feel so sloppy and rushed?
I’m not sure how to describe Aliens: Colonial Marines. A part of me wants to say a player can tell it had a five year development cycle, was repeatedly delayed and was in the hands of multiple developers because there’s no consistant level of quality. Another wants to say it feels like a rush job because the environments, textures, enemy and AI for allies and enemies alike feel like just enough effort was put in to make the game passable. Aliens: Colonial Marines looks and feels old and cheap, like it missed its chance to shine.
However, even if it hadn’t been delayed I doubt it would have succeeded. Not if the companion and Xenomorph AI would have been then what it is now. The terrible AI is what really killed Aliens: Colonial Marines‘s atmosphere for me. It’s hard to be scared when the aliens are running forward in a straight line towards whichever target is closer. If my computer companion was in front of them, they’d run straight for them and relentlessly attack. If another player was in front of me, it’d go for that person and not me. They had no intelligence. An alien sees a marine? It runs right for him. It won’t try to use any advanced tactics, it would always just rush me, even though it would only take two or three shots to put one down. If my aim was good, I could even put one down in one or two shots. The opponents are so mindless that I had to go from the easiest difficulty level to normal, a first for me as I’m normally abysmal at first person shooters. Companions are just as dim and rather than help the player in a single player campaign, will just fire randomly at nothing, run in circles and make a general nuisance of themselves.
Then there’s the sloppiness. Aliens: Colonial Marines has terrible character animation. Enemies and allies alike move jerkily, as though their joints don’t work properly. They seem robotic and lifeless. The aliens should be slick, lithe, fast and smooth, but move haltingly and slower than one would expect. Their jumping animations are laughable, as the game doesn’t seem to register the animation properly. Of course, even tracking the xenomorphs as they walk across walls or climb along objects is a feat itself, as they seem to fade into and stick to the scenery. At one point, it almost looked as if an alien that was climbing along a ship in a hanger was dissolving into the ship. Whether its a cut-scene or a battle segment, it feels like something is missing and the animation is unfinished, with pieces removed for some unknown reason.
Aliens: Colonial Marines has one saving grace and that is its multiplayer. The multiplayer has its issues as well, but still manages to have enough merit to make it worth some effort. For starters, the experience you’ve earned and equipment upgrades accrued due to it carry over across modes. The cooperative multiplayer campaign is worthless, as it just provides the opportunity to go through the same soulless single player campaign with a more competent partner. The true multiplayer mode, which allows players to be a marine or a Xenomorph and attempt to accomplish a goal or stop the marines from succeeding, isn’t all that bad. The Escape mode is best, as it tasks marine players from getting from point A to point B before the Xenomorph players exterminate them. It moves quickly, offers a set goal and allows players to take turns as which side they’ll be. The other modes, Deathmatch, Extermination and Survivor, are typical FPS multiplayer modes in which the team earns the most points or, in the case of Survivor, lasts the longest wins.
What bothers me about the multiplayer is that being a Xenomorph isn’t fun. After years spent watching Alien movies, I had built the creatures up in my head. They were intelligent, strong and even one of them was capable of taking out skilled soldiers. Aliens: Colonial Marines‘ multiplayer shatters that conception the moment someone actually attempts to be a Xenomorph. The way the game has been designed, they have little to no edge. The PS3 version’s environments offer no means of blending in, they’re slow moving, only one variety has a ranged attack and their defense is laughable. If a person playing as a marine spots you, you’re going down. Even if they don’t spot you, and they’re randomly shooting in the direction you could be lurking, you’re going down. Perhaps as I become more skilled, I’ll become more comfortable in my Xenomorph skin, but I doubt that will happen because there’s no point in playing as a character that isn’t fun.
Regretably, unfortunately, forgettably below average.
Aliens: Colonial Marines isn’t worth your time. The multiplayer experience has its moments, but it isn’t enough to salvage the game. If Sega’s hoping this game will save their company and make them viable again, it’s wrong. Aliens: Colonial Marines is absolutely average at its best and laughable at its worst. The five years of development and developer swapping is evident to anyone who spends the five hours playing the campaign. The game missed its moment and Gearbox Software was likely left to do its best to make it presentable. If someone really wants to subject themselves to this game, wait a few months for the inevitable price drops. Everyone else should pick up another, better FPS like Halo 4 or Borderlands 2. Most importantly, Aliens fans should just pretend Aliens: Colonial Marines doesn’t exist.
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