Aliens: Colonial Marines Review — Not A Substantial Dollar Value

 

The game’s story is the worst kind of fan service, landfilling the space between Aliens and Alien 3 with shocking laziness. Events are driven mostly by the actions of the Weyland-Yutani Company, the canon’s most consistently misused element. Added to the Alien script during re-writes by producers Walter Hill and David Giler, the Company was a wonderful sci-fi invention for two movies, depicting the evil of futuristic capitalism by emphasizing its bureaucratic banality. One need not look beyond Paul Reiser’s performance in Aliens to see this idea at work.

Since Cameron’s film, custodians of the franchise have attempted to smelt the story of the company and the xenomorph aliens into some sort of epic saga — witness Alien Vs. Predator, or Ridley Scott’s wretched Prometheus. Turning Weyland-Yutani into a James Bond villain makes it cliched, familiar, and trivial. In Aliens: Colonial Marines, characters refer to the company as “Wey-Yu” like they did a keg stand there last weekend. The Wey-Yu army of faceless, mercenary goons that shows up in the game’s first act is so hackneyed that Gearbox et. al might actually have ruined the Company forever.

Aliens: Colonial Marines is a failure as an adaptation of the source material and a failure as a piece of narrative entertainment. For a video game, that actually places it in pretty good company. What’s most shocking is that it’s also a complete failure when it comes to basic game design. The gunplay is unconvincing, weightless, and repetitive. AI allies are literally bulletproof; AI enemies engage in a litany of truly bizarre behavior. Thanks to a long development cycle, the game arrives feeling and looking dated, offering ugly animations, textures, and cutscenes, cover-shooting with no cover, and lifeless, obsolete character models.

Multiplayer offers some redemption, even if its two most diverting modes, Escape and Survival, are heavily derivative of Left 4 Dead. Like zombies and survivors, Aliens vs. Marines, because of their different abilities and controls, are perfect for asymmetrical combat.

The three Alien classes are fragile, and must therefore choose their moments of attack carefully. The Soldier is of little utility, easily bested by the Lurker, which offers a long-range pounce. The Spitter is no more than a game design crutch, defined by a long-range acid attack that isn’t much fun to use or defend against.

Still, it’s a tense affair. Marines can hear aliens coming using their motion trackers, and aliens can see Marines through walls — a satisfying game of cat-and-mouse that offers a neat, canon-driven take on radar. Small-team deathmatch games between groups of friends can offer nail-biting excitement.

Competitive maps continue the game’s competent art direction, but are marred by technical problems, particularly when playing as the aliens. Lurker pounces are forever getting stuck on invisible pieces of level geometry, which often results in a humiliating death. A well-conceived wall-crawling system fails in execution — maps are full of surfaces that should be climbable and aren’t. It’s a system better addressed by Rebellion’s Alien Vs. Predator in 1999, a game that remains the gold standard for licensed Alien content in general and multiplayer content in specific.

Decent multiplayer might be the only thing saving Aliens: Colonial Marines from total ignominy, but did its inclusion also affect the overall quality of the game? Many titles try to combine engrossing singleplayer campaigns with endlessly repeatable class-based multiplayer, and end up with underwhelming versions of both. It’s an all-things-to-all-people strategy driven by financial and not creative realities; when a studio is unsure about exactly what kind of game it is trying to make, it can and does lead to disaster, and Colonial Marines is certainly that. In the end, we can only speculate about what went wrong. Given the time and the mandate, it is at least plausible that Gearbox and its collaborators could have produced a worthy singleplayer Alien game. Or, given their obvious borrowings, a dedicated asymmetrical multiplayer shooter in the style of Left 4 Dead, a wonderful example of a game that knew exactly what it was trying to be.

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10 Comments on Aliens: Colonial Marines Review — Not A Substantial Dollar Value

monotoy

On February 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm

wow, wasn’t aware of the videogamer vid … what a shocker, lol

beema

On February 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Wonderfully-written and thoughtful review! Thanks!

Besk

On February 14, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Considering this game was supposed to release back in 2001, Gearbox did a smashing job picking the project up and working with what they had. Personally I loved it, buy you have your opinion and I have mine. I dont agree with your review but I respect you for your views and reviewing it how you see it.

The Defenestrator

On February 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I’ve never played a full $60 retail game this glitchy, buggy and broken. No hyperbole at all.

When I try to talk about it, I feel myself slipping into a version of Rutger Hauer’s Blade Runner monologue: “I’ve seen aliens… walking upright like they have something long shoved in their hindquarters… just floating in air… never touching the ground. I’ve seen bits of bloody aliens spinning and dancing in circles in mid-air. I’ve seen aliens, hanging from a wall by their tail, dead but never disappearing. I’ve seen friends, partners, stuck halfway into the ground… unable to move until we mercilessly executed them so they could respawn. I’ve seen a woman put her hand clean through her lover’s chest to reassure him… collision detection being that janky. I’ve seen a man brought back from death because… I dunno… clones or something. It was never explained. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Kill me now.

Ben Richardson

On February 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Glittering C-Beams are said to be available in the forthcoming Tannenhauser Gate DLC.

Goner

On February 15, 2013 at 4:27 am

As many i was expecting munch from that game…sadly it’s gonna be for the,next time.
@ The Def , thanks you make my laugh today.

Wesker1984

On February 15, 2013 at 8:38 pm

This game is pure BEEP. And for an Aliens fan like me this piece of BEEP is almost an insult.

Willy Wiper

On February 16, 2013 at 7:53 am

My only surprise is that ‘lol’ hasn’t rushed to the game’s defence and called people ‘entitled’ and ‘whiny’ for expecting a finished game for the money they pay for it. That’s what happens when you have all your things bought for you by your mother. No respect for consumer ethics.

The games sucks balls. Even the usually sycophantic, luvvy-duvvy mainstream outlets are treating this for what it is.

Tiagonal

On February 16, 2013 at 9:18 pm

So… you guys have checked the Aliens Colonial Marines Total Conversion for Doom 2? It nails so many things… here: youtube.com/watch?v=_qbH_J7Od4M&list=LLBcGpDy0XY98udi3XgZ_ZLA

m1go

On February 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm

You hit the nail right on the head with this review, although I personally think you were being too generous with the final score. I can’t believe I paid $60 for this garbage. In fact, I’m shocked and appalled that Gearbox/Sega/whoever else had a hand in all of this would put out such an ugly, buggy, joyless excuse for a game at that price. They’re no worse than “Wey Yu” in my books.