Platforms: Xbox 360//PlayStation 3//PC//Wii U (TBC)
Developer: Gearbox Software Publisher: Sega
Genre: First Person Shooter Platform Played: PC
The Alien franchise is a great collection of films and various other media (most of it anyway). Aliens: Colonial Marines wants to be a game that mirrors the positives of the franchise. However, for everything it does right, it does many things wrong.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is set between Aliens and Alien 3. The basic plot of the game is it has been 17 weeks since the events of Aliens and the USS Sulaco should be floating over Fury-161. However, the Sulaco has somehow returned to its origin of LV-426 and a distress call from Corporal Dwayne Hicks has been intercepted by the USS Sephora. The USS Sephora is aware that the Sulaco should be over Fury-161 and goes in to investigate. You play as Winter (first name never mentioned), a Colonial Marine aboard the Sephora. Although the story tries to provide answers for some unsolved questions from Aliens, I think it creates more questions than it solves. A kind of open and abrupt ending does not help conclude the narrative either .
Knowledge and love of the Alien franchise is necessary to get the most fun out of this game. As the first cut-scene plays out with the Commander barking insults and orders, it is apparent Colonial Marines has the potential to be a great representation of the Aliens franchise in a video game.
As you assume control of Winter and board the Sulaco, you will be optimistic about your experience to come. As nostalgia creeps up on you when you see the bottom half of a certain synthetic lying on a hangar floor, you will still be optimistic about your experience to come. When you have your first, intense, alien encounter, you will still be optimistic about the experience you are having. Then you will meet the Weyland-Yutani Corporation soldiers/ scientists, and your opinion will change.
Aliens: Colonial Marines suffers from an identity crisis. Sometimes, it wants to be a game with the same atmosphere and tension as the Alien franchise. But at other times, it wants to be a modern day FPS. To summarise Colonial Marines in a nutshell, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a good game… when it is trying to be an Aliens game. The levels that try, and succeed, to capture the Aliens atmosphere are set in locations that have narrow passages, are dark and silent- too silent-, and all you can hear is the steady beep of your motion tracker and the creeks and groans of your surroundings. These environments cause all kinds of exciting, nostalgic and frightening feelings to race around your body all at once.
Unfortunately, Colonial Marines is only trying to be an Aliens game for the first half of the six hour single player campaign- at best. For the other parts of the game Colonial Marines is just a first person shooter; a mediocre first person shooter. The game ditches the suspenseful, atmospheric environments and throws you into open rooms with plenty of cover ( A majority of the time), and little darkness whatsoever. The problem is, these sections are just not fun. If Colonial Marines was just a shooter, it would not be worth playing. The only thing that kept me playing through these shooter levels was the thought that I could get to experience Colonial Marines trying to be an Alien game, like the first half of the campaign. It never happens though. Just when the game looks like it is returning to the atmosphere of the first few missions, it throws away the idea and propels you in to another dull shooter moment.
What makes the shooting sections of the game boring is the enemy AI. The enemy AI is not good. When you are in tight corridors and a group of aliens are running at you, you are given the deception of great AI. However, if you pay more attention, you notice the only thing the aliens are doing is running straight at you. They have the ability to climb on the walls and ceiling, but most of the time when they go on the walls they do not look like they know what they are doing. The aliens will stay on the same section of wall for a while, and then just go back to the floor. There is the occasional alien who manages to run towards you on the wall and it does cause panic. It is good that Gearbox at least tried to hide these problems by just sending more aliens at you at once.
As for the Wey-Yu soldiers, they are very inconsistent. At times the soldiers are rookies who do not know what a gun is, while other times they are all top class military personnel who do not miss a shot. The soldiers only provide a greater challenge on the higher difficulty levels (of which there are 4) because there are more of them. They are still very inconsistent, though. The wide open terrains of LV-426 make the poor AI most obvious. The aliens literally jump straight in front of where you are aiming and if you do not manage to shoot them, they will stay still for a while or just run in a straight line towards you. And Do not get me started on the team-mates you are given! Most of the time, they will run in front of you and shoot all the aliens for you. It is not much fun when by the time you get to a fight, half of the enemies are already dead.
It is easy to understand why some of the Wey-Yu soldiers are bad shots. The weapons in Colonial Marines are by no means accurate. At times, when it looked like I was aiming right at an enemy, my “short controlled bursts” did not even hit my target. The guns feel nice and smooth to control, but they are lacking the accuracy gamers have come to expect from a FPS. None of the guns feel like they pack much of a punch either. The pulse rifle is the main gun I used simply because of the nostalgia linked to it, and because it is probably one of the few good guns in the game. There are also iconic guns from the Aliens movie scattered throughout some of the levels, that you can use once you find them. For example, you can find Vasquez’s smart gun or Hudson’s personal pulse rifle.
Aliens: Colonial Marines has been made to sound exactly like the original movies. The screeches from the aliens, the original score taken straight from the movies, the sound of a pulse rifle firing off rounds, everything sounds like an Aliens film and it makes the sections when Colonial Marines is being an Aliens game even more nostalgic. The voice acting is also spot on. That is, the voice acting will not produce any emotions, but the cast have managed to capture the mannerisms of Colonial Marines based on the movies.
To accompany the audio, like in basically all games, Colonial Marines tries to capture the look of the Aliens franchise. While not the best thing since sliced bread (or the Crysis series), Colonial Marines’ visuals are decent- decent being a very loose description. Inside Hadley’s Hope and the Sulaco, the textures hold up, but you are never awe-stricken In fact, inside most of the structures, the graphics will suffice, but that is as good as they get. While the textures are okay, there is the occasional pop-in here and there, and on the rare occasion, a whole room gets rendered as you walk into it. Character models look fine- they are probably the best graphical property in the game actually. The aliens look exactly like their movie counterparts and the Colonial Marines look acceptable. Unfortunately, the game does look worse. The textures outside look horrible. There is nothing eye damagingly wrong with them, they are just are not on par with today’s standards- I would probably compare them to Halo 1’s ground, except with no other colours but blue. Okay, so maybe there is something wrong with them if I am comparing them to Halo 1, but they do not ‘break’ the game or the experience.
What is noticeable is the change in quality from the in-game graphics to the cut-scenes. I am not sure if it was intentional, but the few cut-scenes in the game look a bit like the original 1986 film, Aliens.
It seems no game mode can escape the highs and lows of Colonial Marines. Multiplayer is the only game mode available outside of the campaign. Surprisingly, Colonial Marines’ multiplayer is fun. Marines face off against aliens, but there is a twist, the aliens are controlled by humans! This, arguably makes it the best mode in the game. When humans control the three alien types (Warrior, Lurker, and Spitter), they are more unpredictable compared to the AI in single player. In a group with your other marines, or trying to run around without them- which is not the right way to survive- makes your heart beat increase instantaneously as you watch your motion tracker and search for the ‘bugs’. Both sides feel pretty well balanced too. There is no better side to use, it just comes down to skill. Although, some unlocks tend to be better than others and that can cause an unbalanced game sometimes.
Unfortunately, multiplayer is not without its problems either. The main problem associated with multiplayer is the player base, or in this case the lack of a player base. No dedicated servers on PC (I assume it is the same on consoles) means when the host leaves, everyone gets disconnected from the game. There is not a server browser, which is unusual for a PC game. This results in long queues for games and most of the time, no game being found. Of the five game types, I have only ever been able to find games of Team Deathmatch and two games of Escape (that’s the truth, I’m not being sarcastic). Team Deathmatch is by no means the best multiplayer gametype out of the five. I was able to play a couple games of Escape, which involves four marines trying to make it through a level while the other team, playing as aliens, tries to stop them. This is the best gametype by far because it takes everything that was good about the campaign, and makes the enemies unpredictable by allowing humans to control the aliens.
There are only 5 multiplayer maps in Colonial Marines, but they are all different from each other It should be noted some maps can be better for the marines, and some for the aliens. For example, one map has a wide open area that forces the aliens to run straight at the marines without any walls or roofs to avoid bullets.
There are plenty of collectables to find on the Sulaco and LV-426. In each level, you can find dog tags from fallen marines- including the marines from Aliens-, discover audio logs that help paint a better picture as to what the Weyland-Yutani Corp. is doing on LV-426, and you can find the special guns from the movie that were mentioned before.
Aliens: Colonial Marines may just be the most polarising game I have ever played. The first few hours of the campaign are so nostalgic and do a wonderful job of creating the suspenseful atmosphere of the Alien movies. However, after that, the game drops all of that and turns into an abysmal modern day shooter. The worst part about Colonial Marines is knowing that the game could have been good. If Gearbox could have kept with style of the first half of the campaign, Aliens: Colonial Marines would have been a must play game for Aliens fans. Multiplayer is definitely a bonus, but the lack of a server browser, no dedicated servers and a small player base makes it hard to find games. Unfortunately, I cannot see how I could recommend this game to anyone who is not a die hard Aliens fan. And even then, exercise caution when getting excited.
+ Tries to be an Aliens game
+ Different take on multiplayer
+ Riddled with nostalgia
– Tries to be a modern day FPS
– No dedicated servers or server browser for PC multiplayer
– Poor and inconsistent Enemy AI
– Horrible looking outdoor environments