Published on February 15th, 2013 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Aliens: Colonial Marines Review
Developer: Gearbox Software
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2013
Platform: Xbox 360 [Reviewed], PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC
Review Notes: A copy of the game was received for review purposes.
It’s typically presumed that a game in direct correlation to a Hollywood movie will be nothing but a worthless sack of pixels. History has revealed this to be mostly true, and fans usually can spot a gruesome creation a mile away. However, with the case of Aliens: Colonial Marines, the game hit at the top of many gamer’s “must have” lists.
The story of Aliens: Colonial Marines deals primarily with a spaceship, the U.S.S. Sulaco. The Marines were sent due to a distress call and must now attempt to save the ship and its passengers. Without giving much away, the storyline continues on from what was seen in the James Cameron-produced “Aliens” film. There is a slight gap from the film’s release in 1986 until now; however, it is a staple to sci-fi buffs and horror fans alike.
The movie “Aliens” is a sequel in itself. It showcased a group of hardknock-macho US Marines sent into the depths of space to essentially blow shit up. With the return of that same type of “bro” mentality, the game encompasses many of the same settings and weaponry seen in Hollywood production. This is something fans of movie series will identify right away and be glad that this was captured in a hands-on kind of way.
In the game you play as Corporal Christopher Winter, a hardened marine who’s ready to splatter alien scum. The dialogue of the game was written in the same tune as the film its based on, and often features soldiers spouting off in a familiar military-esque dialect. This gave Winter an authentic feel as a marine, and gives a nod to the film. There wasn’t as much blatant over-the-top camaraderie, and the humor made it laughable in many situations. The voice acting was overall pretty good, but the trailing character animations gave a last-gen aftertaste that couldn’t be easily rinsed.
In the film, the motion tracker was a tool to detect impending doom. The device was an illuminated screen that tracked moving bodies. While this was a fear tactic in the movie which left viewers anticipating the “spring” of action to occur as blips became louder, the game wasn’t quite the same as most of the time you could hear enemies without having the sensor out. The tool became an afterthought, used mostly to see which enemies were still left to take out.
As a true production, there were constant shows of flashy explosions and action during gameplay. It often felt as though Winter’s was on a ride at Universal Studios and that the world was a based in a theme park somewhere. There were darkened areas of the map which led to anxious movements around every corner. The game did provide experiences of suspense and a few cheap thrills to keep the action moving. This was probably one of the most fun parts about Aliens: Colonial Marines. Areas like our first encounter with the Boilers — creatures that lack sight and are filled with acidic polyps–brought back those eerie O.S. moments felt in the movies.
The general look of the game does feel a bit dated. There’s no doubt the long development period and prolonged release has played a part in the unpolished outcome. However, weighing a game on looks versus fun, we would have thrown the Call of Duty series out the window years ago. In the case of Colonial Marines, the visuals slowly become a factor with blurred textures and oddly placed cut-scenes.
During areas of the story like that of “For Bella,” there is a path that must be traveled to progress the game. The winding uphill trek houses rock formations and other coves and awnings. After noticing a seemingly endless void below our feet, the giant hole is miraculously filled with earthquake dirt and we are able to move on. This seems lazy as another path could have easily become accessible. Other eerie sights can be seen in character models and the plastic emotionless faces some had. After pulling a fallen soldier off the ground, his dead stare and painted on eyes had me asking myself, “What just happened?”
While most of the game can easily pass for an action-arcade first-person shooter, the rest can become frustrating as it is littered with minor annoyances. The first on that list is the weaponry.
The game offers an upgrade system that can be completed each level you play. This is done by an objective system that challenges players to complete goals for experience points. Commendations and discoveries throughout the main storyline deliver additional points. The objective-based challenges can come in the form of things like “Melee 5 Enemies” or “Two for One,” in which players must kill two enemies with an under-slung weapon. These felt more satisfying than generic in-game challenges as they reward experience points for doing the deed. These might not seem that significant, but did offer the ability to step outside their comfort zone of the Pulse Rifle and try and all the weapons in the arsenal.
The weaponry of a first-person shooter is typically the meat and potatoes to the game. Whether it is magic or bullets that your character is wielding, you better make sure you are using the right tool for the job. As mentioned before, there are a slew of weapon upgrades and challenges to gain experience points. They may indicate that they improve the overall accuracy of the gun; the outcome couldn’t be any more disastrous.
Weapon accuracy couldn’t be more of a problem. During the first level there is an instance where an enemy across the ship’s platform is hailing bullets on your squad. It is almost impossible to tap the trigger to get a precise shot. Even with the Reflex Sight equipped, there isn’t much improvement. Sure, the sticky trigger of the Pulse Rifle is effective for close range combat, but when you aren’t blasting away aliens in tight corridors there’s really no use for it.
Later in the game the alien-killing action switches to fighting human opponents. The opposing force is much faster and their percent of hits is almost uncanny. This becomes frustrating as there is limited cover, some of which, even though ducked behind, won’t prevent you from being shot. If you thought, “Oh, I’ll just launch a grenade at them and noob-tube my way out of this one!”, think again. You better be a stellar shot. There is no aiming trajectory when reading your shot, which is beyond my grasp.
Aliens: Colonial Marines does do one thing great and fulfills early expectations: killing aliens is fun. There’s nothing like taking a Tactical Shotgun to the grill of a Xenomorph or turning fresh eggs to gooey shreds. These guns’a’blazin’ moments were short lived, though. It seems as though the human enemies were included so that alien slaying wouldn’t become repetitive. The inclusion left for a frustrating experience due to spotty A.I. and other elements. For example, splitting an alien body with an array of bullets may leave acidic splash damage. Smoke will become noticeable on your body and health won’t regenerate 100 percent. The Xenomorph acidic blood doesn’t even tarnish the clothing of its nearest victims, only Winter.
A few hits from enemy shrapnel led to instant kills The human contact was not so much challenging as it was unbalanced. Have tactical takedowns with executions moves would have paired nicely with the silencer weaponry. Other than looks and some accuracy upgrades, the weapon silencing does nothing. My thought is that, if you can mow down an alien life form with acidic blood and bug-like reflexes without so much as an effort, why are these human enemies such a chore to dismantle? Oh, look. There’s a grenade by your feet.
The minor details seemed to be ignored and also plague the online mode. However, the online mode does provide for a fun and somewhat familiar experience.
The modes featured online are the multiplayer campaign co-op and versus options. There is the traditional Team Deathmatch, where players can take the reins of a Xenomorph and rack up kills. Over the course of the game you might have become accustomed to the Marine weapons, but when there is another person behind the controls of a Xeno, things tend to turn out a bit differently. This mode resembles something like what you can find in Dead Space 2 (Humans vs. Necromorphs) or Left4Dead 2 (Zombies vs. Humans) where you can play as the enemy in online matches.
Other modes include Extermination (Capture the Flag/Area type), Escape (humans must escape while aliens attack them as they hit checkpoints on the way out of a given area), and lastly, Survivor (think Zombies from Call of Duty meets the prior mentioned Escape mode). Survivor delivers survival opportunities to be enacted by the humans, further enabling their ability to nab the ‘W’ with great ease.
While the majority of the time spent was during the campaign, both online and all by my lonesome, a good amount was spent in online matches. These were actually really fun to play with only a few minor hindrances.
The game was reviewed on the Xbox 360. With that, the online modes were played on Xbox LIVE. The service opens up a wide world of players from around the world, most of which are dingbat assholes. There were so many times playing as a “squad” meant nothing more than being in the same lobby together. In multiple modes, humans in your squad are downed and must be revived to continue on. While there are many scholarly players out there, none of which could be found in any of my games. None. Not a one. This doesn’t even include the ability to mute players in game and dull fact that the back button must be held down to view the scorecard. What if you wanted to view someone’s gamer card? Nope. Report them? Zip.
There are a few tweaks that can be made via patch to the online arena. The shotgun and flamethrower become easily too powerful, even with tactical efforts from a group of well skilled Xenos. The tight corridors in Survivor leave your team to be locked in a turkey shoot. The Boiler and Charger (Tank creature) are two specialty alien types that somewhat balance the gameplay.
One thing I hadn’t noticed until piecing the review together might have been the deciding factor for fans of the game early on. After playing through the campaign locally, then a few levels here and there online–it hit me. After looking through batches of screens to include in the review, the abundance of aliens was noticeable. There is some peeking through floor vents, some through ceilings and so on. What’s noticeable is the sheer vastness of them. There are so many. This is exactly the opposite in the game. Sure there are instances where you’ve got to survive and blast your way out of a few tight spaces, but never was it overwhelming or there were too many. Even portions where an onslaught has been identified on your tracker, the horde is manageable. This is important as almost every screen showcases three or more in a scene, something that is generally hard to come by in the actual product.
Aliens: Colonial Marines held promises of slaying space scum infused with ’80s sci-fi horror. Instead, fans received something that tiptoed around a B-Movie. They are a blast to watch and gory, but most of the time is done laughing at the production, not with it.
There were instances of fun and useful mechanics, such as the weapon upgrade system and online multiplayer squad features, others seemed to impede the overall fun factor. The graphics were subpar — even for 2008 standards — and character animations left the voice acting on stage with no supporting cast. The online modes were fun and using commendations and challenges here were satisfying.
There is a lot to be said about Aliens. SEGA and Gearbox followed through on promises to bring the game to fruition after all these years. Hopes were high and the end result did not quite meet eye-to-eye. The game is not a catastrophe, but hopefully, a stepping stone towards a newly developed title that can pull glory from the wreckage.
Those looking for a shooter for the weekend can easily breeze through the campaign in four to six hours. Scouring levels for hidden items, locating legendary weaponry from the movie, and completing weapon challenges can add to this time. The multiplayer is actually a worthwhile venture as you can plays as multiple alien types. This arcade style shooter should be considered if the price drops, or if available for rent. The game certainly doesn’t warrant the $59.99 price tag and may disappoint those looking for a hardcore shooter to contest their current library of military FPS games.
+ Authentic to the movie
+ Legendary Weapons/Collectibles
+/- Online Modes
– Laggy Character Animations
– Gun Mechanics
– Unbalanced Weapons
– Unbalance Human Enemies