Aliens: Colonial Marines
Gearbox Software are veteran FPS developers, having worked on the likes of Counter Strike and Half-Life and created the massively acclaimed Borderlands and Brothers in Arms series’. So with the news that these guys were taking the helm of an authentic Aliens FPS game, fans worldwide were jumping for joy. Unfortunately, what we had been promised was a far cry from what we were delivered.
Aliens: Colonial Marines delivers a continuation of the official Aliens canon, setting itself after the events of the second film, with a group of Marines sent aboard the USS Sulaco (from the film) in search of the missing crew (from the film). In truth, its story would have worked much better as a film, as here it comes off as little more than a belated and widely uninteresting ‘others guys’ expanded look at the Aliens established universe. We don’t know these characters, nor do we get to through some poorly developed writing, filled with forced and clichéd relationships, with the rare instance of genuine heart, but never when it would have been most effective. It’s not a bad story if you’re interested in the Aliens lore, but it certainly adds little to the gaming experience.
Gearbox were recently in the spotlight for saving the Duke Nukem series from the grave and reviving it in Duke Nukem Forever. For those of you that played it, it felt almost just like the original 90’s shooters, and only managed to scrape by playing off nostalgia that came with that feeling. Aliens: Colonial Marines plays in similar vein, except completely void of that classical charm of an oldschool shooter. It feels and plays like a game from the last generation, not just in bland game and shooting mechanics, but the poorly developed AI, enemy design and overall mediocrity.
That’s not to say it’s without its merits however, as it certainly does a few things right. There are some very interesting concepts and environmental designs that suit the Aliens world so well, and for the most part it really does look and feel like a true Aliens title. Unfortunately most of that was evidently in the planning stages as the forced action on an under-polished and poorly utilised game engine means that doesn’t go far at all.
A good idea requires good execution, or it’s nothing more than a fantasy. In terms of gameplay, Colonial Marines fails on every front. In particular I was appalled at how little the Xenomorphs had in common with those in the movies. They look the part sure, but act nothing at all like they should, instead swarming at the player in an awfully repetitive, predictable and entirely tiresome manner, draining any tension the game is trying to build with its environments and giving you a sub-par generic shooting experience.
The multiplayer modes share this downfall, with some great ideas that are sadly never realised. Much like the last Aliens Vs Predator game, there is some serious potential for great multiplayer here, but we simply aren’t given anything with enough class or quality to see it brought to life.
Fans of the movies will notice a lot of references, with everything from Achievement/Trophy names to the ‘Legendary Weapons’ ripped directly from the movies lore. As a massive fan of the film series, and most previous games in the franchise, I genuinely wanted to like this. But apart from the fan service thrown in throughout the campaign, which I must say is a nice touch at times, there is seriously nothing noteworthy here.
A shooting game can generally get away with under-par visuals if it keeps you interested with whats happening on screen, not what it looks like. Sadly, as Colonial Marines struggles with making the gameplay the least bit enjoyable, it’s pretty evident just how ugly it is.
I do think the textures and some of the lighting are actually very acceptable, and in some cases above average. But that doesn’t go far when texture pop-in is slower than the average FPS fan more often than not, and everything else makes this a steam pile of graphical mess. Character models are incredibly bland, aside from the pre-designed Xenomorphs, with the marine characters seemingly ripped from a stockpile deep within the Unreal Engine catacombs, and are animated awfully both in cutscenes (who screws them up these days?!) and especially gameplay. Your AI partners can even get stuck in doorways or on obstacles, which coupled with their poor performance in game anyway, make them a consistent pain the ass.
I can’t remember the last time I played a shooting game with sound effects as bad as this. The guns all deliver unsatisfying pops that all sounds like slight variations of the exact same sounds and the enemies (mercenaries and Xenos) repeat the same sound bytes each and every battle. Despite some good actors taking up the voice work and some even reprising their roles from the movies (Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen), there is a complete lack of any believable performances, the characters all sounding as bad as they look. The musical score is clichéd and forgettable, adding nothing to the experience either.
- Some decent fan service
- Bland and uninteresting gameplay
- Visually unappealing
- Poor writing and undeveloped storyline
- Terrible audio
Even if you can look past the many shortcomings and gruff exterior, you’re still left with a terrible shooter that feels more like a HD-reprisal of a game crafted 10 years ago than anything daring to call itself a new experience or worth its asking price in the slightest. The only polish on the turd that is Aliens: Colonial Marines is some forced fan service. This isn’t the shooting game, or the Aliens game we were promised, and does little to appeal to the fanbases of either.