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Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

  • First Released Feb 11, 2013
  • Reviewed Feb 12, 2013
  • X360

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.

Forget the motion tracker: just walk and shoot.
Forget the motion tracker: just walk and shoot.

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.

Whatever's happening out there must be more interesting than what's happening in here.
Whatever's happening out there must be more interesting than what's happening in here.

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.

These are the character models at the height of their expressiveness.
These are the character models at the height of their expressiveness.

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.

The xenomorphs rarely get the time in the spotlight they deserve--they're just simple bullet fodder.
The xenomorphs rarely get the time in the spotlight they deserve--they're just simple bullet fodder.

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.

Nothing will prepare you for how bad the textures are.
Nothing will prepare you for how bad the textures are.

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.
1953 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for alewis_psh

I do not get the hate for this game, I'd say ignore everyone who hates it, if you like the movie, you will like this game. It is well made, gives off great nostalgia for the movie, and is even better cooping with friends. Waiting for them to come on your motion tracker is as heart stopping as in the movie, and I honestly don't understand why people hate this game, its great, I think it should have been a movie, but nevertheless it should stay canon as it is awesome, and deserves a play through.

Avatar image for kdavenport88

I gave it a 5/10. I can't really complain too much since I got it for $5.00 at gamestop. The only perk I like about this game is that you can have split screen co-op with it, so that would probably make it a little more fun.

Avatar image for cpinheiro2

Just another waste of a great franchise license. This is getting too often.

Avatar image for wizzzer_thy_133

seen a walk-through, this pathetic excuse for a story can never EVER be considered canon! this is the worst fan fiction i've ever seen in my life for the Aliens franchise. wtf Hicks? so... Alien 3?.... give me a f****ing break! this is complete and utter bullshit!

Avatar image for DAMSOG

I can usually find something to like in a game.....usually.

Avatar image for d-man

Ignore the haters. It's a fun game.

Avatar image for The_Gaming_Baby

@d-man Disliking a game for logical reasons does not make you a hater

Avatar image for CaNkER--

I honestly hope that the person or people responsible for this..."game" are sacked. The potential was huge, the possibilities endless but a half hearted attempt has left a sour taste for gamers and fans alike.

I don't expect much from Sega, they're like that weird relative you never hear from or about unless they win the lottery or get shot by police in a hostage thing.

But Gearbox has a reputation to uphold and wow, they screwed up bigtime.

Avatar image for Lexicar

I picked it up for €5 on steam. I wouldn't say I got a bargain :P

Avatar image for iempire68

Agree with comments saying they have played worse. It's ok but the AI is dumb as dirt. I picked it up on Amazon last week used for $15. Huge Aliens fan so I had to try it. If I paid $60 for this is would be pretty upset. It's a big franchise but was made as a bargain bin shooter. Don't get why this was so long in development because it is not a polished game at all. When can we get a great Aliens game??? Anyone played the AVP that came out a while back on 360 or PS4?

Avatar image for johnwck90

@iempire68 I played the last Aliens Predator game for pc, around the time DX 11 was first coming out and being implemented and that was a very good game. Good ideas interweaving the game mechanics with the story, maybe a little short but a very good game indeed, nevertheless. If you have not played it, I suggest it's worth playing. I don't have an Xbox so maybe that is the one you are referring to.

Avatar image for omnimodis78

Well, I got my hands on the game (friend gave me his copy) and I must say I actually told myself up until about 20 minutes into the game that this isn't really all that horrible (has most current patch), but I have to say that even if this game had stellar reviews, I would have still gotten utterly bored in no time. It's like hitting a brick wall, you just realize that there's not much more the game will offer...and no real reason to keep playing either. So, my ultimate take on this is that it's not a horrible game now that it's somewhat patched, it's more like mid-budget B-list game, but without any doubt, I've played worse. It might be OK for those with a wider attention span, regardless, as it stands now, I'd give it a 5/10. At least I don't agree with most comments that the graphics are dated, they are probably on the lower end of "current graphics", but no longer seem outright dated to me.

Avatar image for Subterfuge71

It's not as bad as this review would have you believe. It's not great, but I've played much worse shooters.

Avatar image for CaNkER--

@Subterfuge71 I played Doom back in the day and it was amazing. I bought Doom 3 BFG Edition recently and after playing Doom 1 again, didn't find it half as interesting as I remembered. Aliens Colonial Marines is on par with old school games, except it's supposed to be new gen.

Games like 'Pong' or 'Paratrooper' are more challenging than this garbage.

Avatar image for monowasp

@Subterfuge71 You are right, it's worse.

Avatar image for King_Wii

I was considering the game for Wii U but now I see why Sega canceled it. I think the only thing that ever seemed interesting to me was the idea of playing an Alien. Ehh I won't lose any sleep but it is sad to see a solid franchise game fail so horribly.

Avatar image for Subaru1980

What can I say about this game? I am a huge Aliens fan and here Gearbox and SEGA made what I call a true abomination. The is a bad, very bad FPS, the graphics, the gameplay, the plot, they are all aweful.

Hard to believe these are the same guys who made Borderlands!

Avatar image for SeannTHEsheep

this game sucks and the same 3 copies we stocked on day 1 are still on the shelf gathering dust and dead moths

Avatar image for AceOfCrimson

I feel bad for the people who spent money on this garbage.

Avatar image for dougiewolf

With all the bad reveiws about this game i decided to rent it first. And so glad i did this game was so bad after 30mins i turned it off and handed it back in:-( I had high hopes for this being goty but man was i wrong, After all the delays and this is the crap they give us i felt like i was playing a ps2 game! hell i have played better ps 2 games than this piece of S***. But on the bright side just got the new TR game and its amazing so at least 1 of the games i have waited for turns out to be exactly as they said it would be:-)

Avatar image for da2g

@dougiewolf thanks for this - I had some hopes about this game but now i'm sure to stay away from it

Avatar image for slipgraeme

will probably wait till its in the bargain bucket before i give it a go :-/

Avatar image for CaNkER--

@slipgraeme It's not even worth waiting for the bargain bin. Seriously, if someone gives this game to you for xmas or a b'day, don't bother taking the plastic off.

Just sell or trade it immediately.

Avatar image for karnage27

Aliens game always fail, and what a pity that they do :(

Avatar image for Subaru1980

@karnage27 Sorry the 2000 Alien Resurrection on the PS One wasn't that bad at all. The 2001 PC Aliens vs Predator 2 was pretty amazing. So not all Aliens games are rubbish.

Avatar image for PinkFloyd2003

@Subaru1980 @karnage27 AvP from 1999 was actually really good too if not extremely difficult. But it gave you the best representation of the speed and strength of the aliens. Also I found it better without the music playing. It made it even more scary. You can still get it on Steam as Aliens versus Predator Classic 2000.

Avatar image for TheForthcoming1

@karnage27 Have you ever played Aliens vs Predator 2 (2001) on the PC? Or the recent AVP game from a few years ago? They were pretty great.

Avatar image for Spudtaco

I'm gutted. I thought the game as okay at best. I posted a non-threatening comment on twitter saying to Randy that what the company did in the next two weeks was very important for the company brand perception and all I got was blocked! Not the way to treat someone who has purchased your product since their inception!!! I was a huge advocate of this firm and its products but f*** that now.

Avatar image for Nimbil

Resident Evil 6 is certainly better than this game.

Avatar image for el_mariarchi_01

@Nimbil I actually disagree. Resi 6 was too poor for me, worst of the series. Aliens has a crappy campaign (but if you're a fan of the movies there is plenty of good stuff for you) but its the multiplayer online that is actually really good fun. Its different from all your CODS etc and its a good thing. Its a bit like Left 4 Dead.

Avatar image for TarkatanWarrior

@el_mariarchi_01 @Nimbil I also disagree. I wasn't pouring a lot of hope into this game, so when it came out, and was terrible it wasn't anything surprising. Resi 6 was so fucking horrendous.

Avatar image for XCyberForceX

Wow, what a review. It's still a better game than Avatar: The Last Airbender. LOL

Avatar image for siri285

why do all movie tie ups suck???? !!!!

Avatar image for nate3031

Gearbox sucks, just look at what they did to Duke Nukem Forever, it didnt take long for it to end up in the bargin bin @ 5$.

Avatar image for Mortz_88

"The dull, unattractive Aliens" LOL did @Kevin-V just describe himself there?

Avatar image for TheForthcoming1

@Mortz_88 Sigh... Fail.

Avatar image for Flamingpostman

@Mortz_88 hahahahahaha

Avatar image for el_mariarchi_01

@Mortz_88 This comment made my day ahahahahahaha! Have it VanOrd!

Avatar image for Totoran

is sad to hear from fans and game-spot giving a negative comment and low rated on this game. I would still give it a try first, but from the look of the preview. There is definitely many ways to improve to make this game less dull.

Avatar image for FeedMe2daForest

i say we take off, and nuke the entire game from orbit. It's the only way to be sure

Avatar image for irongladiator75

I bet if this had the TLC and financial backing of a "Gears of War" or "Halo", this coulda been way better. yeah?

Avatar image for saif_alhasani

i decided to bye it but when i see this dgree i men 4.5 .... i have change my mind ... i just dispoenteded

Avatar image for DocManhattan

Sorry to hear this - I've played and enjoyed all the AvP shooters and was hoping this would be an updated version of those games, which were all loads of fun. Guess I'll give this one a miss.

Avatar image for megadestuction

I repeat my old post... Is very unfair this review... Maybe... Grahps are not the best, but if you play this game you cant deny that is so fun!! I liked a lot. =)

Many people say: " Is too short!" cmon!!! do you want a short game? play any game of Call of Duty!!! thats a short Game

Avatar image for RAD_TRBO

I'm sad to see this score so poorly, ever since AVP years ago on PC I have been looking forward to a new Aliens title that is actually worth buying. It got alot of hype too, so im a tad shocked?

Avatar image for ChaosUndivided

Campaign was a big let down. The Vs Multiplayer is good but needs to be larger then 4 vs 4 or 5 vs 5 plus as a noob I flogged everyone which was a first for me. 16 vs 16 would make it real interesting

Avatar image for codeman101360

After watching this, and reading this article, I've lost a LOT of respect for Gearbox. I was really looking forward to this game. : (

Avatar image for CreatureRising

If your as big a fan as I am, you most likely will enjoy the game. I myself am having fun with it, issues and all.

Avatar image for CaptainLiam

GameSpot, would you mind giving at least a cursory mention to the other systems in multi-platform releases? This is just lazy.

Avatar image for DETfaninATL

Folks, don't buy into all the bad press. Yes, the game is no wonder or mindblower, but it's certainly not the P.O.S. it's being billed as. There's definitely some issues with it, not the least of which is the sub-par graphics, but the true measure of any game is 'how much fun are you having with it?'. And I have to say, I'm having quite a good bit of fun with it. Once you get past the learning curve of being an alien, the MP is quite enjoyable and almost addictive, and the story (while not Hollywood quality), is certainly passable enough and, if you're a fan of the canon, interesting enough to hold your attention. IMHO......

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 Rating895 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Aliens: Colonial Marines
    Developed by:
    Gearbox Software
    Published by:
    Action, First-Person, Shooter, 3D
    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