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Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

  • First Released Feb 11, 2013
  • Reviewed Feb 12, 2013
  • PC

The dull, unattractive Aliens: Colonial Marines is a functional shooter, but little more.

The Alien franchise deserves better than this. Aliens: Colonial Marines is a disappointing exercise in bland corridor shooting, dragged down by laughable dialogue and cooperative play that makes the game worse than when you adventure on your own. Colonial Marines is unremarkable in every conceivable way: it's far too easy, generally devoid of tension, and lacking in the variety it so desperately needed. It occasionally lets you peek at the game that could have been, allowing its rare scraps of unsettling atmosphere to seep into your bones. But brief moments of dread and excitement are quickly supplanted by more shrug-worthy shooting and a general aura of "whatever"-ness.

"Tepid" isn't likely what you want from a shooter--nor is it what you look for in an Alien narrative. Easter eggs are there for the fans of the film franchise who want them, but even when the game pays homage to the films that inspired it, the results are lackluster. A gruesome event that remains Alien's most well-remembered image is replicated here without a hint of fright or gusto, and Colonial Marines frequently relies on visual and dialogue references to fill in for proper storytelling. (Hey, that guy just mentioned Ripley!)

When relieved of the cumbersome cloak of nostalgia, the story gives you little to hold onto. As Corporal Christopher Winter, you join other marines on a rescue mission to infiltrate the U.S.S. Sulaco, thus initiating your post-Aliens journey through a number of storied areas from the franchise, such as the Sulaco and Hadley's Hope. Several strained confrontations between key characters temporarily raise the narrative stakes; when anger comes to the forefront, you get a glimpse into the loyalty that bonds the marines. But most of their interactions are characterized by snippets of awful dialogue, such as, "Any thoughts on the exploding chest issue?" and "Woke up gagging on a creature like a spider, but wrapped around my face. It's dead, sir." Such lines are delivered without a hint of irony--or any other emotion, for that matter.

Sometimes, acid harms you. Most times, it doesn't.
Sometimes, acid harms you. Most times, it doesn't.

The awkward storytelling is hardly energized by character models and facial animations so stiff that humans look every bit as synthetic as famed series androids Ash and Bishop. Aliens: Colonial Marines is not a looker. Graphics glitches abound, fire and goo effects are unconvincing, and clumsy visual details--jittery transitions in and out of canned animations, abrupt game-over screens upon death--give the game an air of carelessness. Graphics may not make or break a game, but the success of a game in this universe relies somewhat on the atmosphere, and these flaws can make it difficult to stay immersed. And that doesn't account for nonvisual bugs, such as scripting errors, and the occasions when you spawn into the game in a nigh-unusable third-person view.

Luckily, moody lighting and some creepy environments help pull you back in, though not consistently. Outdoor exploration is given heft by the sight of burning structures dotting the horizon on LV-426, and dark corridors are lined with shiny slime and gross tendrils, keeping your eyes momentarily averted from the bare textures and poor animations. You move through these places, mostly corridors, shooting down xenomorphs, mercenaries, and little else. There's mild entertainment here and there, at least during the biggest battles. At one point, you must disconnect several fuel lines as aliens skitter across ceilings and appear along the walls, eager to close in and snatch your life away. An enjoyable rhythm can set in as you fend off waves of gross xenos before making a run for your objective. It's satisfying to gun down an alien before it makes its way to the ground from a high ledge, and watching xenos explode into gushers of goo has a grotesque appeal.

Bella looks cross. You would be, too, if you appeared in such low-res cutscenes.
Bella looks cross. You would be, too, if you appeared in such low-res cutscenes.

All too often, however, you just walk forward, shoot the aliens and mercs that appear with your bog-standard weapons (assault rifle, shotgun, and so forth), open a door, and do it all again. On the whole, the action lacks any sense of momentum or challenge. Aliens: Colonial Marines is exceptionally easy on normal difficulty; human enemies lack smarts, and alien arrivals aren't horrifying--just horrifyingly predictable. You're granted the requisite Alien motion tracker, but it's wholly unnecessary; you don't need it to stalk aliens hiding in the shadows, or to avoid xenomorphs on the hunt. Enemies arrive just as you'd expect, and you shoot them.

And that's Colonial Marines' biggest problem: enemies come, and you shoot them down easily, again and again. The game is remarkably light on variety. A couple of battles masquerade as boss fights, but they require no strategy and are just as easy and thrill-less as the rest. The four- to five-hour campaign has no thrust to it; it feels the same from beginning to end, and the finale just drops with a thud. And by being so easy and predictable, the game lets down the license. There's little suspense, nothing to absorb you or spur your curiosity. Colonial Marines is tone-deaf to what makes the Alien franchise what it is--and what makes the best shooters so exciting.

One level, however, serves as the exception to the boredom, and it's telling that it's the only level in which you don't begin with a gun. You push forward carefully, occasionally forced to remain still lest you draw a xenomorph's attention with the sound of your sloshing. A creature--or several--might stride right up to you, stare you down, and then return to a resting state before you are safe to continue. Eventually you must weld doors shut behind you to escape a pursuing alien's clutches, which infuses the level with a sense of fear and uncertainty. It's a clever, menacing sequence that puts you on the defensive.

Yawning is contagious. How appropriate, then, that adding other players to the mix doesn't offer the needed explosive boost--it actually makes the experience less enjoyable. If you use the matchmaking option, online cooperative play requires four players to start the match. Only if you have buddies to invite--and only if you switch the networking type to "friends only"--can you limit your match to fewer. (The console versions also support split-screen co-op for two.) Your friends don't take the place of AI companions; instead, they are added to the roster, leading to ridiculously cramped exploration in four-player matches in which players and non-player characters fight for elbow room and try to shoot xenomorphs rather than the back of teammates' heads.

Even worse, many of these levels were clearly designed without co-op play in mind. The aforementioned stealth level--the game's most dramatic--is a sloppy mess devoid of tension when played by a full crew. For instance, should one player move too far ahead, the others teleport to him, potentially triggering nearby aliens to annihilate a defenseless teammate. Furthermore, having others join you destroys the narrative, making certain elements of it laughably nonsensical. Co-op feels thrown together without any regard for how it affects the game's challenge and flow.

They look menacing, but they pose no threat. Colonial Marines is remarkably easy.
They look menacing, but they pose no threat. Colonial Marines is remarkably easy.

Competitive play finds more success, because the unpredictability of other players leads to occasional moments of tension. All four modes pit a team of marines against a team of aliens, though Escape is the standout among them. Here, four marines make their way through alien-infested territory from one mark to the next, hoping to escape the wrath of the acid-spitting, sharp-clawed opposition. As a marine, there's a sense of camaraderie missing from the campaign; you must have each other's back, protecting each other from the alien onslaught while you wait for elevators to descend and steel doors to open. As an alien, it's satisfying to slink toward the marines with your teammates and swipe your talons across their faces, hoping to down each squad member and thus bring their plans to a screeching halt.

Survivor mode hits similar notes, with four marines trying to simply stay alive for the allotted time before the xenomorph team can slaughter them. The other modes--Team Deathmatch and a capture-the-node variation called Extermination--are more mundane. No matter which mode you choose, however, you can't escape Colonial Marines' sloppier elements. You can skitter up walls and across ceilings as an alien, but there's no telling which surfaces you will stick to and which you won't. This can lead to awkward moments in which your plans falter because you have to mess with your positioning when you'd rather be messing up marines. Additionally, issues like screen stuttering when entering vents and when in spectator mode make online play feel unfinished.

Co-op is a major missed opportunity.
Co-op is a major missed opportunity.

The first two Alien films are steeped in mystery and anxiety, qualities all but absent in developer Gearbox's lackluster interpretation. Instead, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a shallow bit of science-fiction fluff with cheap production values and an indifferent attitude. It's forgettable enough to deem unnecessary, which is a grievous sin for a game in a universe brimming with so much potential.

Back To Top
The Good
Online multiplayer offers some fun, anxious moments
Interesting stealth level brings some suspense to the single-player campaign
The Bad
Campaign is mostly devoid of tension and challenge
Static pace and lack of variety lead to boredom
Tacked-on cooperative play completely negates the narrative
Dated visuals and assorted bugs
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Aliens: Colonial Marines

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.
249 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for ali_manslayer

I miss when Gearbox used to make brothers in arms .....

Avatar image for LucasGray

so i just finished this on hardened.. took me about 8 hours i think... but i went out of my way and collected everything :P that being said, this is an Aliens game... and wandering off the well lit path of your comrade's supporting muzzle fire shouldn't be a good idea, so that's a huge let down right there... the tracker didnt work...(it only tracks enemies, not movement as it should - it really added tension back in AVP), i had to tweak the graphics from the ini file... and it looked decent.. and on some rare occasions the unreal 3 engine really got to shine, sadly not while you fought or blew stuff up (including yourself), the weapons are ok but dont expect too much.. the videos... buerk... the dialogue.. meh..and the ending left me thinking how many refund requests they got.. but the worst was the whole mission debrief thingie... it just took you of it... but i guess why bother with a script.

it had potential, but someone, somewhere decided "who cares?" these stupid sobs will buy anything... just stamp a logo on it..

Avatar image for vadagar1

I miss avp and avp 2 :(

Avatar image for Warmuro

This shit looks like a bad game from 2006

Avatar image for Lucasdxx

For those that are interested in getting the most out of the visuals from this game, and are somewhat computer savvy there is a thread on the official steam forums where a 3rd party game developer, as an avid fan and out of his good heart, has an extensive guide of how and where to tweak the game ini files and enable things like dx10 textures, FoV, bloom, dynamic shadows and many other effects that for some forsaken reason the game devs chose to omit from the in game settings GUI. I followed his instructions and I saw a huge improvement, the game looked like the demo they showed us last year and was nothing like the disaster the finished product came out as.

Furthemore he has tweaks to allocate more memory to enemy AI, which results in xenos becoming more fast and bouncy on their feet and thus making them much harder to get a hit on(used walls and ceilings much more). Mild Spolier Alert: For example during the Raven Xeno encounter, in Ultimate Badass diff, I died 4 times because the Raven kept sidestepping my clunky loader swipes and hitting me from behind, behavior I didn't notice before the tweaks. It almost seems that someone purposfully chose to bog everything down in this game and actively sabotage it.

On a last note don't hesitate to turn everything to max, I have a 4 year old quad with a Nvidia GF 250 GTS and the tweaks run like a charm.

Here's the link:

Avatar image for ShadowRaptor89

I completly agree with you! i recently completed the campain and the ending completely sucked! other than that multiplayer is still very entertaining. especially when you bring a friend along

Avatar image for langager_g

I spent the last few weeks talking with people as to why this game sucks. This is all I heard, "Its a mediocore shooter, it's a corridor shooter, the aliens are funneled to you.". If you have seen the movie ALIENS then you would understand that this is the atmosphere. Everywhere you go the aliens just rush in, thats just what they do. I have also heard that there are not a lot of tense moments. Turn up the difficulty and go single player not Co-op. If you want a real aliens experience play mulitplayer! NOW THATS WHERE THE GAME COMES INTO IT'S OWN!!! This is where you will be on the edge of your seat especially if you and your squad have comms running.

With some new content coming in March I'm looking forward to some new maps and see some other features that will come along with the game. If you love the franchise get it. If your unsure rent it. There are plenty of copies at Gamestop now so I'm sure you can get you for a lot cheaper than a new version.

Avatar image for DiamondDM13

Blind guess, Kevin's reviewing?

Avatar image for ShadowRaptor89

I actually thought the game was pretty good. sure the games AI is not the best but if you want the feeling of an alien stalking you just play the multiplayer. Also in escape and survivor it is harder to kill the marines, once me, a friend and some other alien dude attacked a single marine all at once and he killed all of us with a pulse rifle! despite this you have to learn to be patient and accept the fact that in escape and survivor your going to get cheap alien deaths. personally I would give this game a 7/10 at most.

p.s i do agree that geatbox could of done WAY better but i see the best in games.

Avatar image for redbat41

looked good on the commercials but wasent good when I played it

Avatar image for midnight_trashh

Kevin is right. This simply IS a major disappointment. The developers of gearbox should be ashamed of themselves.

The only one I played which was descent, was Aliens vs Predator which came out on pc in 2000. It was developed by Rebellion. It was a Great game. A lot better then this garbage.

Avatar image for robbiejones

@midnight_trashh alien vs predator 2?? came out in 2001

Avatar image for Gravity_Slave

I hate you Gearbox...I flippin hate you.

Avatar image for maxrsp

Seriously guys? I know its disappointing and as a huge fan of the movie franchise I'm sad too, but to be surprised? C'mon. Its a F'ing console port!!! Anyone expecting a great PC game from a console port after so many disappointments really needs to look in the mirror.

Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.

Avatar image for Gravity_Slave


being a console port has NOTHING to do with it. Gearbox took forever and dropped the ball on what should have been a slam dunk game license. The lack of surprise should have been after learning Randy Pitchford got his grubby mitts on this license. Three words..."Duke Nukem Forever"....FAIL.

Avatar image for mohamedmounem

i thought it will gt 8.0 at lest

Avatar image for hosseingamer

This gamecouldbebetter thanthese.

Avatar image for awfitzwater

bad reviewer ewww.

Avatar image for Sgthombre

@awfitzwater Clearly you haven't played the game. I just finished it and, honestly, a 4.5 is more than it deserved.

Avatar image for Roland3710

I was expecting more from Gearbox. Maybe they've been putting all of their development money into Borderlands? Still, this has me wanting to go back and play the 1999 AvP game. I wonder if they still have it on Steam . . .

Avatar image for risingc79


Avatar image for JamesJoule

@risingc79 hello .. dead space . mass effect .. starcraft .. crysis .??!

Avatar image for montruo

@JamesJoule he's talking about Aliens game!! games with Xenomorphs and Marines

Avatar image for JamesJoule

@montruo @JamesJoule opps , my bad

Avatar image for jonsono2

I think it's worth a buy if you're a big Aliens fan and you don't play video games too often to see what this one is missing. If you're a regular gamer, probably worth a rental of the 360 version to at least sate any curiosity you have of why so many people hate it.

Avatar image for ASnogarD

@jonsono2 Better off just watching a Lets Play (Rad Brad has a few episodes up)... I find myself doing that more often with games I am curious about but not convinced I want to buy.

Avatar image for jonsono2

@ASnogarD @jonsono2 Yeah that's a good option too, I just wanted to try it out for myself.

Avatar image for step-up2

I think the previous game was really better than this one

Avatar image for Absalomx

@step-up2 Agreed.

Avatar image for GT_APE

Damn it. I had high hopes for this game. How could they develop such mediocrity. I hope the company goes under if they keep churning out rubbish.

Avatar image for Absalomx

I was just about to buy this game and decided to go with the reviews this time, because I have been burned just about every time in the past. Thanks GS and GS members for the heads up!

Avatar image for moc5

@Absalomx This has been a good year for getting burned. Even more so than last year. Good plan.

Avatar image for Absalomx

@moc5 @Absalomx I just hate that so many life hours are sacrificed for our benefit! lol!

Avatar image for Absalomx

Just one more thought. I do believe that Kevin VanOrd was very fair with this review. He did point out the bad points though they were more than the good. The video reviews over the past years have helped immensely. You can plainly see what the reviewer was talking about when they are narrating the video. I would like to know what they use for capturing the video! Fraps doesn't work with Windows 8!

Avatar image for bloodyruben

i was expecting a good game

Avatar image for samedizombie

@bloodyruben Yes, me too and I guess I'm lucky because (for me) that's what I got :-)

Avatar image for samedizombie

OK, I think I know how this goes now

If Crysis 3 gets a good review from gamespot, go to 1.

If Crysis 3 gets a bad review from gamespot, go to 2.

1) Yes! I knew this game would rock better than anything ever...Blah, blah

2) I knew this game would be junk, I'm so glad I didn't pre order it it's the worst thing ever, even worse than Colonial Marines.....Blah, blah.

Avatar image for Absalomx

@samedizombie So you are saying that you are with the rest of us? Thanking our lucky stars that we didn't buy Colonial Marines?

Avatar image for samedizombie

@Absalomx Actually no. I bought the game and am enjoying it. It's just that a lot of people seem to be are saying, (reading previous comments) that because CM has got bad reviews then it must be a bad game, some of these people haven't event played it.

Avatar image for l2humpie


People who make shit games count on guys like you.

Avatar image for Sevenizz

quote from above "Kevin VanOrd is a lifelong RPG lover and violin player."

Yea, definitely someone who should be reviewing a shooter.

Avatar image for Sgthombre

@Sevenizz So someone who plays RPGs can't enjoy or play shooters? Well, I guess I better uninstall Half-Life 2 then, because I also own Skyrim, ya moron.

Avatar image for Absalomx

@Sevenizz Oh wow. I am so happy you posted this comment, as I would have thought that an average human would know what he or she likes in a game. Unfortunately I did not pay attention to the part where he said he was a lifelong RPG lover, or a violin player! OMG! How could some human who loves pizza be a person who could review hot dogs!? You are soooooo right! ...NOT! Dude, if you can't provide depth in your critiques, and if you are going to apply blanket accusations to folks like you did above, just go somewhere else. We are looking for useful reviews to help us save money in game purchases (for the most part anyway).

Avatar image for moc5

@Sevenizz lol! That means...well nothing really.

Avatar image for Herenr


Are you gonna provide a psychological profile on the 20-30 other reviewers who have said the same thing as Kevin?

Avatar image for DITHRICH

@Sevenizz the word you should learn is "innovation", mate ;)

Aliens: Colonial Marines More Info

  • First Released Feb 11, 2013
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Aliens: Colonial Marines has players be a part of the United States Colonial Marine squad as they prepare to confront hordes of the infamous aliens solo, or in four player co-op mode.
    Average Rating892 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Aliens: Colonial Marines
    Developed by:
    Gearbox Software
    Published by:
    Shooter, 3D, Action, First-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language