Platform | Release Date
360, PS3, PC, Wii U | February 12, 2013
Developed by Gearbox Software
Published by SEGA
Buckle up, soldier! Welcome to Aliens™: Colonial Marines. Created by Gearbox, the critically acclaimed and fan-favourite developers of Borderlands and Brothers In Arms, you and your friends will become the most badass military outfit in the galaxy – the US Colonial Marines. It’s up to you to not just survive, but wipe out the Xeno infestation.
I’m not the biggest Alien or Aliens fan around. Yeah, I like the movies fine, but to be perfectly honest I prefer something akin to Event Horizon or, with all its faults, Pitch Black. I tell you this because I write mostly removed from any kind of rampant fanboy analysis of how Aliens: Colonial Marines fits, or doesn’t fit, in with the movies. It claims to be a sequel to Aliens, but I won’t be able to tell you how.
Instead, I write as a guy who plays games and enjoys horror themes. The original Dead Space turned space horror into something we can all be proud of, and back in 1999, the original Aliens vs Predator was something worth playing. The marine campaign was tense, frightening, and hard as hell.
Visually speaking, it’s plagued by disgusting textures, stiff animation, and some of the worst cutscenes I’ve seen in recent history. Effects like smoke plumes appear to be scaling sprites, and blood splurts may have been lifted right out of Hexen. When xenomorphs explode, it’s comical instead of disgusting with a stupid green texture that just fades away.
Back in 1999, id Software introduced curved surfaces in Quake III Arena with idTech 3. It was awesome! I don’t think any curved surfaces were used here, just lots of distinct polygons. Even with the so-called organic matter lining the walls, it’s as jagged as can be, taking away any sort of believability.
The game is chock full of bugs, clipping issues, progress resets on its ‘Challenges’, and stuck enemies. Voice cues will trigger after you’ve already cleared a room. It’s so bad that I was instructed to “cover the left flank” when there was nothing but a wall to my left. In larger arena-style areas, it isn’t uncommon to wonder why nothing else is happening, only to find a bad guy inanimately stuck next to a box just waiting to be killed.
At least your sonar-style motion tracker will be useful in finding those stuck guys because it’s pointless otherwise. You’ll use it before opening a door, not see anything of concern, then enter and get attacked anyway. But it doesn’t really matter because the xenomorphs are fragile idiots. Their AI is on par with the standard Infected from Valve’s Left 4 Dead series, but now they get to climb on walls. Xenomorphs conveniently ignore any squadmates nearby and come right at you. Sometimes they’ll crawl on the ground, but most of the time I was shooting at awkward geriatric people in bad Geiger costumes.
Your team’s AI isn’t any different. They walk around and fire their guns, but are rarely effective. They’re also completely invincible and allow even sticky, explosive rounds shot from the S.M.A.R.T. gun to attach to them without ill effect. Think of them as your own personal explosive delivery service. Of course, that’s also a bad thing when the game decides to warp them right in front of you as you’re firing. You’d be surprised at how many times I was killed because of it. Actually no, you shouldn’t be surprised.
The campaign is garbage. You’ll fight the same brain-dead xenomorphs over and over. You’ll fight Weyland-Yutani dudes while needing to take cover when no cover system exists. Gearbox has traded tension and dread with a Call of Duty clone, complete with squadmates saying “Stay frosty,” and “Oscar mike.” This isn’t moody, it’s just dumb.
At the end you’re asked to fight a xenomorph queen on a spaceship that it has no right to be on. It’s a large, lumbering, oaf of a beast that only attacks if you stand still. To win, all you have to do is pull a series of levers that are close to each other. I killed the queen without being hit, then the game ended with a terrible cutscene. It’s as if Gearbox was saying, “Yeah, this whole thing was phoned in.”
Aliens: Colonial Marines contains a few standard multiplayer modes, including campaign co-op that does the Halo thing with story beats not recognizing any player other than the primary one. The multiplayer modes may be fun, but it was difficult to find matches through their matchmaking system. When I did, it was OK. Asymmetric play is often entertaining, but these modes just aren’t worth spending money on the game. You should just drop twenty-five bucks on Natural Selection 2 instead.
There’s a YouTube video of a guy running through a later game area without firing a shot. For science, I thought it would be fun to try and recreate this. Not only was I able to the very first time, but was also able to apply the same “just keep running” logic to other areas and keep advancing. Don’t buy Aliens: Colonial Marines. It’s bad and boring. Perhaps a victim of licensing or maybe problems between the four different developers that touched it, Aliens: Colonial Marines isn’t a game worth your money or time. It’s junk, through and through.