Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

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Developer(s): Gearbox Software
Publisher(s): Sega
Platform(s): PC, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, Cloud (OnLive)
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: February 12, 2014

It’s 2013 and the current generation is coming to an end. By now, there is a certain level of polish we expect from AAA titles, particularly from a developer responsible for one of last year’s best shooters. Unfortunately, Aliens Colonial Marines fares a similar fate to Activision’s recent 007 Legends, a great license that’s marred by poor production values and watered down gameplay. As a fan of the franchise, you might appreciate the numerous movie references, but the game completely misses the mark in terms of atmosphere and tension. The run and gun approach doesn’t work here and the inclusion of co-op makes the embarrassingly short 5-6 hour journey even less exciting.

In 2010, Sega brought us Aliens VS Predator (developed by Rebellion Oxford) and while it had its share of problems, the game at least felt like it took place in the same iconic universe. This is not the case with Aliens Colonial Marines. The anxiety inducing environments and sense of isolation that Cameron so beautifully orchestrated on the big screen are replaced by streamlined level designs that feel like glorified shooting galleries. Honestly, the original Dead Space captured the Aliens’ sense of horror more accurately than this debauchery.


The game ‘prides’ itself in continuing the Colonial Marines narrative of the second film, but the entire plot set-up is so poorly executed that you won’t care for any of the characters. “Marines this and Marines that...Oorah …Oorah”…is pretty much all you’ll hear as you mow down waves of Aliens that never stand a chance against your ridiculous arsenal. These aren’t the Colonial Marines we remember…these are caricatures of eighties badassery. The wit and charm of the original Marines is stripped down to paper-thin macho soldier stereotypes.

Nevertheless, devoted fans might be more forgiving and I’ll admit that revisiting some of the iconic imagery does evoke a sense of nostalgia. The core problem is that the game is bland and boring. If it wasn’t for the Alien memorabilia, this could have been any generic FPS. Aliens Colonial Marines has no personality and no proper rhythm to its fast paced shooting. You’re running down linear levels and shooting everything in your path from beginning to end. It’s monotonous. There’s one level that stands out in which your weapons are taken and you’re navigating through a dark, damp environment, avoiding detection. But even this moment of potential hope is entirely ruined by poor design and lack of creativity…it feels as if you’re navigating through a minefield for about 15 minutes…it’s outright embarrassing.


Then there’s the shooting. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was shooting popcorn at psychopathic roosters. The guns have little weight to them and the sound effects…lack any effect. Once your shotgun is adequately upgraded, you can take down most foes with one shot. You also have all of your weapons at your disposal at all times so it’s impossible to run out of ammunition. You feel…no, you are unstoppable…and that takes away the emergency of the situation.
           
And by roosters, I was referring to the Aliens. The Aliens were always portrayed as pinnacles of evolution, the perfect hunters. Here, they fill the environment like swarms of headless chickens that you effortlessly swoosh away with a broom. They pose no threat and they pose no challenge. On the defense, the AI is just as bad. Your teammates shit bullets into thin air completely unaware of their surroundings. What’s worse is that playing co-op doesn’t replace the partner AI, but “adds” team players to the crew so you’re left with overcrowded corridors, making the co-op experience even more disappointing.

I know that graphics don’t make a game, but a title of this caliber should offer something beyond flat textures and unbearable screen tearing. The game started development over a decade ago and I’m shocked that the engine hasn’t been polished since. There are some nice lighting effects here and there but the rest is just plain ugly, particularly the stiff characters. But the real crime here is in the form of poor concept design. Levels look repetitive and derivative. The lack of variety makes the already bland experience an even greater chore.


Multiplayer could have bee the title’s saving grace, but even there you won’t find too many redeeming qualities. You’re offered four modes: Team Deathmatch, Extermination, Escape, and Survivor. Escape mode lets you take control of the Xenos, but their awkward stiff movement makes you feel unfairly underpowered when facing the Marines. The rest is your standard fair and might give you a few extra hours of gameplay, but the multiplayer doesn’t stand a chance against the plethora of better offerings on the FPS market.

As a generic FPS, Aliens Colonial Marines just barely passes all the checkpoints of being a playable game. It’s heartbreakingly shallow, soulless and doesn’t deserve the merit of being associated with the fantastic franchise. If you are a hardcore fan, you might want to give this a rental or wait until it’s in the 5$ bargain bin, but as it stands, it’s the biggest disappointment of 2013 so far.

Final Score “A Massive Dissapointment” 4.5
Graphics
Aside from some really nice lighting, the game looks extremely dated. Bland textures, unbearable screen tearing, choppy animations, and so on. It's a mess by today's standards.
6.0
Gameplay
It's criminally bland, monotonous, and repetitive. The gaemeplay fails in nearly every department and the poor level designs only make things worse.
3.0
Value
You can beat the single player in one sitting and there isn't a single reason to go back. Co-op is even worse and the Multiplayer…..well let's just say you can't polish a turd.
2.0
Sound
Lance Henriksen is solid and so is the occasional orchestral soundtrack…but the rest of the crew sound terrible and the guns sound like popcorn.
6.5

Review by Tin Salamunic
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Tin Salamunic is the founder of The Game Scouts. He is a Video Game Journalist during the day and illustrator by night. He's been obsessed with video games since the early NES days, collecting every major system and game on the market. Video games are the reason he pursued the illustration career and he hopes to be creative director for a video game company one day. All Artciles by Tin.

1 comment:

  1. Really bummed by this. I was really hoping Gearbox would do it right. I suppose I'll have to dust off my Jaguar and throw in Alien VS Predator, now what a game that was!

    ReplyDelete