A repetitive corridor shooter that fails to encompass what we love about the Aliens Franchise. Game over man, Game over!
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this review, I want to briefly discuss what Aliens: Colonial Marines went through for it to finally release. I didn't follow this games crazy 6+ year development cycle like many others did. I'm a big fan of Aliens, but not a true die-hard like many people I know. I remember, though, seeing a cover story of an Aliens-based game titled "Aliens:Colonial Marines". We were all happy with the two Aliens vs Predator games before, but it always felt like the true focus was obviously on the xenomorph and predator campaigns. A:CM was an entirely different approach, and wanted the focus to be on the marines. Was it going to take place on LV-426? Is it an unoffical sequel? Was it an entirely new story? would it be canon? A lot of questions but little answers. Trust me I was intrigued from the get-go. Sadly about a year later, many sources claimed that A:CM was in development "limbo" and no one knew if it would ever see the light of day. Of course, that wasn't the case here. As more and more screens and demos of the game started to surface, everyone was excited, especially At E3 2011, where Gearbox showed off what looked to be an amazing game. This demo video is circling the internet now more than ever. Why? Because absolutely nothing from that near two-year old demo is in the final product. It was a slap to the face of consumers and fans by Gearbox, we want that game Randy Pitchford(President of Gearbox), what happened?
What are we treated with them? A poorly done game that was outsourced to multiple developers to meet a release date. How can someone develop a game based off the Aliens franchise and make it so boring? You play as Corporal Christopher Winter and along with other marines, who have literally no character, you answer the call from a distress call placed by none other than Corporal Hicks. You jump aboard the U.S.S Sulaco and from their ensues your bland adventure against Xenomorphs and..Weyland-Yutani mercenaries?
You read right, mercenaries. Guys with guns. Why am I fighting mercs in an Aliens game? Did they not have enough faith in their own product, that they had to throw in some grunts with guns to appease shooter fans? No, they didn't. There was a huge following for this game from the get-go. Everyone, myself included could not wait for it's early 2013 release. I'm sure not one person said, "If there are no soldiers to shoot in this game, it's a no sale for me." I'm quite sure there wasn't, and if there was, they should be arrested. Basically these mercenaries are thrown at you right out of the gate, and in that moment you know this will be another "Weyland-Yutani-is-an-evil-corporation" schtick of a story again. There goes any preconceived notion of a good, original story prior to playing. It's bad enough they're a threat to you so early on, but it's even worse that they encompass near 50 percent of the game. 50 percent. In a game about ALIENS! There's something very wrong here. You fight Xenos in about 1/3 of the game, the other 1/3 is mercenaries, and the last part has you fighting both. I just can't fathom what they were thinking when they made this design choice, it pains me. If I want my game littered with mindless soldiers I'll play Call of Duty or Battlefield.
As stated, from the get-go you know Weyland-Yutani is involved in this, no surprise but the story is further enforced with an unlikable cast of characters. You just don't care for these people and their issues. You, as Corporal Winters, are your typical "Straight-as-an-arrow" boring protagonist taking orders and being accompanied by 2-3 other bland characters. Most of the time you and your partner O'neil are solo, and boy is O'neil just an unlikable character. From his dumb dialog to his A.I. you wish you were by yourself the entire time. The game has a twist in its story though, not a good one by any means. You find out there is a prisoner held hostage by We-Yu, Not to ruin anything, but when it happens and you see who it is, and their literal "one-liner" on how they were captured, you want to punch the screen. And then there is the Boss "encounter" at the end. I use quotations because it's a two-minute bout of flipping some switches and watching a cut-scene and then the credits. By the end of the short campaign the game literally just ends. I cringed at the terrible and sudden ending. It pains me to say that this is now Canon to the franchise and I wish it wasn't. I can't imagine what's going to happen if a sequel is made, if it follows this same story-arc.
The game plays out like your typical FPS, go from point a to point b, activate some switch, hold a standoff of either mercanaries or xenos, rinse and repeat. The game play itself just suffers immensely, it neither feels like a survivor-horror or Aliens game, and this is my biggest gripe with the game. The xenos have some of the dumbest artificial intelligence. The don't flank or surprise, they literally walk up to you and try to slap you. That's it. I wish I was lying but it's true. You have your motion tracker, and it'll will show an alien above or below, or you will physically see one crawling on a wall or the ceiling, but they jump down and clearly walk up to you to hit you. One section had a bit of broken fence and the aliens came flooding out, single-file, waiting to get blasted by my pulse rifle. I kid you not, I stood there for 5 minutes, and killed every single one from their point of origin. If that's bad enough I even saw instances where xenos would attack the air or remain completely still. Did they not watch the movie this is based on, while developing this game? Not only that, but ammo, armor and health are peppered throughout the campaign, which takes away the survivor aspect right there. And to even further take away any semblance of peril, whenever a xeno gets to close just melee them. Easy as that. Melee them enough times and they may just die or you'll automatically pull out your pistol and shoot them in the face not suffering from acid burns. But of course it doesn't end there. It has been confirmed that during the alien segments you can just sprint to the next check point and Ta-da you're safe. You can seal doors sometimes or close them behind you but you don't ever have to. The only time and alien will attack from behind is if they're in your face and you turn your back on them. In my play-through I saw Xenos walk from behind me to my front, turn to face me, then attack. This is only cemented by heavily-scripted set pieces, if you have to reload a checkpoint for any reason, aliens will attack from the exact same direction. So much for the dynamic a.i. we were promised. There is however, one section of the game where you are captured and stripped of your weapons and you have to make it back to your gear solely using stealth. This part was probably the only small glimmer in the entire game. It doles out suspense as you try to quietly sneak by a new alien-type, the husk, who are blind but react to sound and instantly combust if they feel a threat is near. Here is the only time I felt they sort of captured that fear we were craving, but sadly it's nowhere near enough. I had to stress why game play is so important in a game like this, but here it's just tossed out the window.
Enemy a.i. isn't the only type that's terrible, but so are your npc tag-alongs. Your annoying buddy, O'neil refuses to shoot things directly in front of him and will sometimes run off way ahead of you, stand completely still, sometimes right in your way, hindering your progress, and even get stuck on a wall for two minutes. When your partners do actually shoot something it's like they have airsoft guns. O'Neil's smart gun would literally hit and enemy 40 times, showing their blood splatter out, but they don't go down. It wasn't until I shot them once or twice with a pistol that they died, basically leaving me to be the janitor throughout. I recommend playing on Hard from the get-go or even Ultimate Bad-Ass, the game's hardest difficulty. I also recommend playing with a co-op buddy, if you have one willing to suffer with you. It makes things less annoying, but it feels tacked-on. Gearbox stated that Four-player cooperative was a big emphasis during development, I figures maybe we can be different classes or have different roles, kind of like Borderlands. You know, the game you guys make that doesn't suck. But what's here is just you and 3 other clone characters suffering together. No strategy needed just shoot anything that moves.
Your arsenal is one of the few things that makes you remember you're playing an Aliens franchised game. The Pulse Rifle looks and sounds the part, and was one of my favorites throughout the campaign's entirety. The other weapons weren't in the universe, but they made them look like they could've been. It's a small strong point, but not much. The smart-gun is awesome to use, as always, but you only get to use it twice in the entire game, Ouch. The main problem however, is that you basically have your entire arsenal at the ready. You can equip two weapons and a sidearm, plus a grenade to switch to quickly, but whenever you want, you have access to your entire armory pretty much whenever and you can change your quick loadouts. In the off-chance you run out of ammo, which believe me will take a miracle in this game, you can easily switch to your shotgun or rifle or any gun that suits the situation, and to me that should not be the case in an Aliens game. I know a lot of people hate the two-weapon mechanic, but let's face it, it's realistic. I don't know many people who carry a Rifle, Machine gun, Shotgun, Burst-rifle, SMG Side arm, grenades, a ton ammo and Under-barrel secondary ammunition on their person at any given time. It's fine and works in some games, but here it once again throws out any and all types of survival.
From a Technical stand point, Aliens doesn't suffer as bad, but it neither impresses all that much. The sound department is pretty well done. The pulse rifle sounds the part and the xenos screeching bring back memories of better games and movies. The music is cued very well during high-action or stress moments and it works. Voice-acting however is not the same. Characters are not believable as lines of dialog are spoken with little emotion. Graphically, Aliens is hard to describe. Playing on the PC, the game had a lot of pop-in and tons of low resolution textures. The environments, on the grander scale, looked and felt pretty iconic. Seeing Hadley's hope and what's left LS-426 is nicely done for the most part. Slimed up walls and destroyed door panels and roofs give a nice touch as well. Other areas however feel a little bland and some are re-used in other levels. The main problem is the severe lack of dynamic lighting. A lot of areas seem to be overly bright and are missing the atmosphere from the movies or past games. If any one saw the supposed "Work-in-progress-Demo" it looks completely different and better. This is a completely changed game from the ground-up. Graphics don't make a game, but in this game it severely hinders the source-material being portrayed. Aliens should feel like an unseen threat, something that can strike from the shadows and it doesn't help that we can see their every move. Characters designs and animations all feel stiff. Xenos have wonky movement and character faces look stiff when they talk. It's also pretty bad that you can clip into NPC's something I thought was fixed back in 2002. The game, on PC, also only uses Direct X 9, which is pretty sub-par for something released in 2013. Even AVP 2010 supports Direct X 11 and that game is three years old. It's bad enough to release a game with these lighting and graphical issues but it's even worse when modders have already released an unofficial Direct X 10 patch as well as a SweetFX mod which tries to enhance the lighting and colors. After applying these the game looked better, but it's low res textures and stiff animations still bear their ugly head. This took 6 years? Come on guys. I can't comment on the console versions, but I hear they are quite terrible in comparison.
The game took me about 7 hours to complete on Hard. With a co-op buddy on the hardest difficulty about the same time, since I didn't have to suffer with spastic a.i. counter-parts. I don't see much reason to replay again. There are audio logs and dog tags to be found in the game which bring back some nostalgia from the movies, as well as legendary weapons, like Hicks Shotgun or Vasquez's Smart-gun. These are really cool, but trust me you will find most, if not all in your first play-though You also level up during the campaign and can complete a few challenges for more xp. You can use that to upgrade your arsenal with different attachments, camos, or secondary-fire options.
Multiplayer is here and can give you some longevity to the game if you decide to keep it. Games themselves can be quite fun and intense as play either side. You have your Aliens vs Marines play style with a couple of different modes of play. You have your typical Team Deathmatch modes which is self explanatory and three others which give a small twist to common Multi-player modes. Extermination is essentially domination, but marines only have to do the capturing, where as the aliens don't need to capture any, but just stop the marines in their tracks. Escape is technically "Vs" mode from Left 4 Dead and Survivor is your beaten to death Horde mode. Both sides have their strengths and weakness and as you level up you acquire new skills for both sides. Here though, customizing your Xeno is pretty nice with some cool skins. Playing as Aliens is always fun, but I miss being able to play in first-person like past games. Unlike in the campaign, your motion tracker is pretty vital online when playing as the marines. Also you don't have to deal with the horrendous A.I. problems here, which is a breath of fresh air. But, sadly the Multiplayer is limited. You can take less than day or so to pretty much unlock everything and with only 5 maps for two modes and only a pathetic 2 maps for the other two, makes me wonder how much was taken out of the final game. Also there are no dedicated servers and even on release day I had problems connecting to some matches with P2P. Also matches will not launch unless the full amount is present, which can lead to problems in the near future once the game's online community starts to dwindle. Also a ton of innovation was lost in this portion of the game, and I am not surprised the online feels stripped since a Season pass was already announced for this game prior to release, which promises to add more single-player as well as multiplayer content. Unless major updates and/or content arrive quickly, I don't see how long we can stay entertained with the multiplayer portion of the game, which is probably it's strongest selling point.
I wanted to like this game. The whole time I kept hoping it will get better. Sadly it didn't. With Horrendous A.I., complete lack of survival-horror, which should be the focus in this type of game, Poor writing, unlikable characters, short campaign, emphasis on fighting human mercenaries and not xenos, and dated visuals it's hard to recommend Aliens: Colonial Marines. Even though I paid only $30 for the PC version, because of a game distribution site's special promotion, I still feel cheated. Having to pay $50-60 for this is downright thievery from both Sega and Gearbox. The game is nothing like the demo vids that made me, and ton others fall in love with what's to come and we all feel lied to. Randy Ptichford himself swore on this game, claimed it was his "baby" and a bunch of other lies, so why did it get outsourced to a ton of other companies, like Time Gate and Nerve? It makes no sense, if your dream was to work on a game based off the Aliens Franchise why let other companies mess it up? It's just too many questions and no answers. I'm being generous with my score because of the source-material and my love for Aliens. But what has transpired here is just shameful and I only recommend for it's Decent Online play, only when it gets major price cut. Sadly by then, the online portion may be dead. Here's hoping a development company can finally pay proper homage to the Aliens franchise, and make a game that rivals the classic Aliens Vs Predator games.