The biggest disappointment of 2013.
Aliens Colonial Marines Got Right
- + Cool soundtrack
- + Plenty of Aliens references
Aliens Colonial Marines Got Wrong
- - Nothing is fun
- - Looks awful
- - Combat is generic and boring
- - AI imbeciles
Aliens: Colonial Marines is the adult version of dropping your ice-cream cone. The wait was enduring, the hype was incredible, and then in one harrowing second, it all goes horribly wrong. If you haven’t heard, Aliens: Colonial Marines is not a good game. Perhaps treated a smidgen unfairly by enraged journalists who felt -- quite fairly -- that they had been taken for a ride, but it has one resounding flaw that takes a backseat to all other criticism: it isn’t fun.
That, more than anything, is why you shouldn’t play Aliens: Colonial Marines unless you’re the most diehard of Aliens fans, happy to consume anything the property attaches itself to.
Developer Gearbox “we didn’t actually make this” Software joined forces with 20th Century Fox to make Colonial Marines the true sequel to the 1986 cult classic film. From that angle, it does a semi-respectable job. Picking up seventeen weeks after the movie, whoever made this game has included plenty of fan service to appease the niche audience that will actually enjoy Colonial Marines -- the super hardcore faithful player who won’t take no for an answer.
The biggest problem with Aliens: Colonial Marines is simply that it isn’t fun. Not at all.
Not average fans. The fans too infatuated by Aliens to notice a great many blaring faults that will otherwise drain your will to live.
Had Aliens: Colonial Marines been released five years ago, it would have been an unflattering average shooter. But average games don’t age well, and by today’s standards, it’s a hideous monstrosity that should have been locked away in a basement somewhere and promptly forgotten.
As the Internet has no doubt already yelled at you about, the ugly-duckling visuals are nothing like those in the demo, trailers or even press previews. It’s almost an entirely different game; that’s something Randy will need to answer. As as Xbox 360 launch title, it would have looked okay, without being anything special. But this isn’t 2005 -- the next generation is probably being revealed tomorrow.
That’s unacceptable. I’m not one to fixate on how a game looks, as aesthetics take a backseat to gameplay, firefights and mental challenges when it comes to judging at game on its core assets. But that’s impossible with Aliens, which is topped off by some nasty screen-tearing. The Xbox 360 version is just so...ghastly.
Of particular disdain is the unreadable blue text. It’s trying to portray a science fiction vibe, but instead comes across as a jumbled blur. I thought I was chasing some bloke named “Oatmeal” for 20 minutes, until I edged closer to the screen and made out what I think says “O’Neal” -- but I still can’t be sure.
That makes simple objectives needlessly complicated.
In one of the first levels, I had to press a button somewhere on a control panel. That sounds easy enough and Oatmeal and what’s-her-name seemed pretty relaxed motionlessly staring at the fire ripping through the very spaceship they're standing on. But it took me ten minutes to find the ruddy button since the copy-and-pasted control panels all look the same and the Microsoft Paint-esque text blended into their monochrome designs.
That moves us on to Alien’s consistent lack of artificial intelligence. Shutting down turrets almost immediately becomes an overused mechanic, and your A.I. teammates sure do like standing directly in front of it being blasted into oblivion. At least enemy soldiers are just as stupid, slowly popping in and out of cover in a repetitive fashion I haven’t seen since GoldenEye 64 -- which is where the disappearing bullet holes must have been stolen from.
At least my old mate Oatmeal enjoys a bit of Gangnam Style. On several occasions I caught him running on the spot, so I can only assume he was practising riding an invisible horse.
On that note, why are there so many human enemies? I understand their importance to the story, but I’m shooting far too many cloned men in the face for a game called Aliens Colonial Marines.
When you do come into contact with the xenomorphs they aren’t exactly a menacing foe. They move rather predictably and the horror element is almost non-existent. The melee attack stops them in their tracks and half the time their murky brown design blends into the background.
Reports that they don’t climb the walls are untrue, but it certainly isn’t as fluid as the trailers would have you believe. Wall movement is passable, but they look terribly awkward when they fall to the ground, like a spider that’s embarrassingly lost its grip on the ceiling. More often than not, the wall drop is paired with a room full of filthy grey steam or smoke to add a cheap element of unknown fear by literally blinding your field of vision -- hello, Nintendo 64 tactics.
The gunplay is no better. It would have been average at the beginning of the generation, but now feels horrendously dated. Movement is stiff, the mechanics are lazy and repetitive doesn’t even begin to describe the level design. Even at its best, when it’s inundating you with Aliens references and you can ignore your rubbish A.I. colleagues, it’s indistinguishable from every generic shooter you played 10 years ago.
The multiplayer is fairly standard, but at least throws out all the stops. The menu system suggests you should be playing the campaign in four-player co-op, but aside from removing useless A.I. imbeciles, it doesn’t really improve the experience. Otherwise there are fairly standard team deathmatch and survival based competitive modes. Unfortunately, multiplayer suffers from the same dated, awkward gameplay as the single-player. You won’t stay online for long, and neither did I.
The only redeeming feature is the soundtrack, which is quiet but awesome. The entire campaigned is backed by an electrifying soundtrack worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. If nothing else, it certainly sounds like an Aliens game. The sound effects aren’t as good, but are at least an improvement on the grotesque visuals.
The Final Verdict
The biggest problem with Aliens: Colonial Marines is simply that it isn’t fun. Not at all. You could play the game from beginning to finish, laugh at its many faults, and finish it without too much trouble, but at no point would you really enjoy yourself, unless you’re the blindest of hardcore Aliens fans. For that reason alone, there’s absolutely no reason to play it. Aliens: Colonial Marines is one of the biggest disappointments this generation.
Note: We played the Xbox 360 version and do not consider this review to be indicative of the PC version of the game.
By Ben Salter