Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

A stand up fight, or just another bughunt?

The Xenomorphs of the Alien franchise have always been marketed as the ultimate killing machine. Terrifying, unstoppable, emotionless monsters. At least until Aliens: Colonial Marines got hold of them…

Well, it happened. The preview here at Gamestyle listed our hopes for this game, but it also said our fears for a series that it seems difficult to make the perfect game for. I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now, but…wait for it…this game is kind of bad…

Let’s be honest. When a game is stuck for release for more than 5 years, it is going to have issues. It isn’t going to be perfect. But it could still be good. Especially when the story can practically write itself, and all the developers have to do is just make it playable. As much as it pains to say it, Gearbox have let themselves down.

A:CM picks up after Aliens, and roughly alongside Alien 3. The ‘rescue team’ have found the Sulaco from Aliens, and have gone onboard to find our what happened to the characters from the film. They have no idea that there are deadly creatures waiting for them, and the only thing that seems to be drastically amiss is that the Sulaco is back to the setting from Aliens, instead of being at it’s last known point of Alien 3. Plenty of potential, but it goes downhill rapidly. This is due to two massive mistakes. Firstly, the player gets no time to get a feel for the marines that they will be fighting alongside. Hudson, Vasquez and Hicks are all characters that fans of the film loved, we watched as their macho personas started breaking under pressure, and their deaths caused a pang. In A:CM, you have no idea who anyone is, so feel very little emotion when they die.
The second mistake is a massive one though. In fact, it warrants its own paragraph:

Early on in the game, as expected, the character is ambushed by an alien. Just the one, but as we all know, one is all it takes. The player falls to the ground, and the alien is drooling in front of the screen, ready to deal the killing blow. This is it, an early end. Unless someone rescues the player with gunfire, but then there will be a face full of acid and unavoidable death? Never fear, the player has an ace up their sleeve… a punch. The player punches the most dangerous thing in the universe in the face. With their fist. Laughable! Until…the alien whimpers and runs away. Just take that in for a moment, as that sets the tone for the rest of this review and the game as a whole.

The aliens have been reduced to cannon fodder, and are on a par with a Halo grunt. They look spot on, but everything about their movement is almost comical. The much hyped AI reduces them to just randomly jumping from point to point or running up and down walls, whilst making no attempt to attack the player. When they actually do get close, they can be punched away or pushed off. Enemy humans in the game will cause the player more concern, as they can shoot from a distance, and have rocket launchers. Being more afraid of people in a game like this is just plain wrong.

Graphically, this game is baffling. Some areas of a level look fine, whereas others look last generation. Texture mapping is grim, and entire rooms will just be a blur, only becoming clear when all enemies are defeated, or the player is moving to the exit. The characters themselves bear a resemblance to the botox shock look of the original Mass Effect. It really seems at points that we are seeing the parts of the game that were made more than 5 years ago and the designers forgot to update them last year. The early footage ‘polish’ conspiracy does seem to have legs…unlike some of the aliens that can be encountered.

This game is the glitchiest that Gamestyle has seen for quite some time. Aliens spawning under the floor, and attacking as a swarm of heads. Enemies charging the player, only to run straight past them and sprint into a wall. AI partners who are scripted to open a door to carry on in the level randomly get stuck in pipes. This list could go on and on. During one particular difficult level, we got past the tough bit. Proceeding to the next part of the level (and before reaching a precious checkpoint) our playable character just died. He was not under attack, he did not fall from a great height. He just keeled over from what we can only assume was despair induced heart failure, and fell underneath the level into grey space. This was the point that Gamestyle admitted defeat with this game.

Multiplayer is on a par with this sadly. Actually getting into a game is a challenge, and upon finally entering a Marines vs. (human controlled) Aliens death match, we were greeted by an alien who wasn’t moving, and wouldn’t die, despite the 50+ bullets that we shot in its face. There are a variety of modes aside from deathmatch, including an ‘Escape’ which is good in theory, but multiplayer as a whole is still cursed by the bugs. There are the standard customisation options as would be expected, that are unlocked as the player progresses.

As a fan of the series, the game was horrible to play, and this review was heart-breaking to write. For purely sentimental reasons, this was one of the games that fans would have been desperate to see succeed. Somewhere along the line, we were all let down. What makes it worse are the occasional flashes of a good game that flash through. Running from a larger than average alien, welding corridor doors shut as you go. The voice acting of the likes of Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen. This could and should have been so much more. But sadly, it is just a broken game. Game over man, game over.