Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

Game over man. Literally.

Game over man. Literally.

Let me be blunt: I have alot of bias towards ACM, making an objective review nearly impossible. Since I blew over $100 on the limited edition of this “game” (and I use that term loosely) based off that awesome single-player demo that Randy Pitchford and co. showed off at various gaming events, I think I have the right to be extremely pissed. Furthermore, since that awesome “in-game” demo was what prompted me to pre-order this “game”, I feel cheated, ripped off and led to believe that the gleaming veneer of that awesome demo was all just a fraud, nothing more than a render, a complete and utter lie. Most of the awesome ideas from the “demo footage” never even made it into the game. Like that battle at the end of the demo where it shows you and your comrades getting boxed in by a never-ending stream of xenos, with the demo ending as  the Alien Queen rips through the bay doors and your character hops into a Power Loader to presumably do battle. WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO ALL THAT? The only thing I remember from the demo being in the actual “game” (there’s that word again!) was the beginning sequence where you are running from the umbilical of the Sulaco back to the Sephora as it cracks open and starts bleeding atmosphere into the infinity of space. But enough of the comparisons. By now, everyone knows about what was shown and what we actually received in the game.

Typically, a game becomes better looking as it goes further into development. No so, with A:CM.

Typically, a game becomes better looking as it goes further into development. No so, with A:CM.

The first indication of something gone horribly awry is the opening sequence to the game, which features a list of about 5-6 developers who all supposedly worked on different parts of the game, the majority of the single player developed by TimeGate studios (oh and by the way, that awesome demo we all fell in love with making us believe “THIS IS IT! THIS IS THE DEFINITIVE ALIENS VIDEO GAME EXPERIENCE!” was actually created by TimeGate studios. So I have to believe that all the rumors from Gearbox employees swirling around on sites like reddit are meant to be nothing more than deflection of blame, because if that demo was indeed created by TimeGate then surely this studio KNOWS HOW TO MAKE A GOOD GAME.) Even the opening Aliens logo is droll, looking nothing more than a size 20 Arial font in bold. No cool Aliens logo like we’ve all been accustomed to for years with movies and other Aliens games.

While graphics certainly don’t make a game, having sub-par (or in A:CM’s case) outdated graphics only makes the game less immerse and devoid of any dread the atmosphere might bring. The fun part of playing most Aliens games is that they give you a good scare, but here the xenomoprhs are reduced to nothing more than your average FPS enemy. They are not imposing, they don’t cause a sense of dread or panic and most of the times they go down without much of a fight. You can easily beat the game playing with nothing more than the shotgun and a pulse rifle. I can only assume the other weapons such as the smart gun, sentry turrets and flame thrower were just added as lip-service to please the franchises fanbase, because none of these weapons make much of a difference in how you fight your foe. Oh, did I mention that Sega had the brilliant idea to make the game more in the image of “Call of Duty” by adding generic, dumb as shit (although not as bad as the AI for the Aliens themselves) HUMAN enemies, upgradable weapons and skins for your arsenal?! Yeah, that’s right in a game called Aliens that is supposedly a canonical sequel to Cameron’s classic sci-fi action thriller you are fighting against HUMAN ENEMIES ABOUT 50% OF THE TIME?! Was this REALLY necessary? Did Sega believe that the Aliens fanbase wasn’t large enough that they had to attract COD players by throwing in generic looking Weyland-Yutani troops that all have black face masks to obscure the fact of horrid enemy design? And if that wasn’t the biggest insult by the time you are half-way through the game your character is stocked in XP and unlocked additions to your arsenal (clearly a last minute addition to add more padding to a lackluster game) such as silencers, better zoom lenses and other useless crap that makes your character an unstoppable killing machine. The Aliens are relegated to a role of just another thing to kill on your screen and their AI is so terrible it becomes increasingly easy to do so. There is absolutely no reason why XP points and upgrades are needed in a Aliens FPS game, all it does is detract from the already weak atmosphere of the game.

The story of A:CM is also a colossal fuck-up. Basically, your character (Corporal Winters) who we have no emotional attachment to, along with a few of his surviving squad mates crash land on LV-426, blast their way through the remains of Hadleys Hope and concludes with what could be one of the weakest boss battles ever created, if you could even call it a “battle.”  That’s it. Game Over. Your squad mates do nothing to add any investment in the game and for the most part, just get in the way (but more on that later). Their is a surprise return of one character from the franchise, but it is so downplayed by the poor script that you don’t really give a shit by the time it happens. Also, this characters explanation for why they are even IN the game is simply a dismissal of the conversation. You will know what I mean when you reach that part of the game, if you can manage to trudge that far into the game. The NPC’s in the game are just about as badly programmed as your enemies and seem to have a predisposition for getting stuck in door openings, deliberately getting in your way and firing their weapons at nothing.  All in all, the AI in the game is just god awful.

The multiplayer experience fares a little better, but not much. I like the fact that their is local co-op but seriously with so many better games that offer co-op why even bother? The online competitive modes are apparently the bread and butter for Gearbox, but with so few maps and the given immediate advantage to the marine players, trying to play as one of the different classes of Alien characters is very difficult. Since most players online have already gained XP and improved weapons in the singleplayer mode of the game, this carries over to their marine character in the online version of the game making for extremely unbalanced play against anyone fighting as the xenomorphs. You will likely get killed many times before your Alien character becomes stout enough to match up to most of the marine players in the competitive mode.

The only saving grace for A:CM is the soundtrack. With James Horner distinct brand of sci-fi military themes blaring throughout the game, and the unique popping sounds of the pulse rifle it definitely nails the music and sound of the franchise. Unfortunately, the rest of the game doesn’t even come close.

SUMMARY:

A:CM fails to deliver on all aspects of what a good video game should be. With this game in development hell for nearly 7 years. you think someone, ANYONE would’ve stopped and took a look at what was going on to right the train from going off the tracks. I don’t understand how Gearbox (who I hold mostly accountable) could fuck this up so badly. The Aliens franchise is a coveted license, something most developers would jump at the chance to create. All the ingredients are there: a claustrophobic, dark atmospheric world, awesome technology (ie: motion tracker, pulse rifle, power loader), badass and downright scary enemies, an evil corporation that considers anyone expendable and the niave but strong willed Colonial Marines stuck in the middle of this mess. Because of this disaster of a game and the fallout from it’s release the following have occurred:

  1. a 4 GB patch to “correct” the dull visuals and improve the AI released by Gearbox, with more patching on the way for the console versions evidently
  2. A large amount of layoffs at TimeGate Studios – when bad releases like these affect the collective welfare of a small developer it’s extremely sad knowing some talented game developers are now without jobs in a down economy
  3. the cancellation of the Wii U version which Randy Pitchford described as the “definitive” console version of the game , also developed by a completely different studioDemiurge
  4. Sega being forced to admit by the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority that the game trailers did indeed misrepresent the final product- THEY LIED. Now each A:CM trailer is bestowed with a message indicating that the trailer is not representative AT ALL of the final product. What a fucking embarrassment. 

 

Game developers pay attention: Aliens Colonial Marines is an perfect example of how NOT to create a video game. I sincerely doubt that we will ever see a proper Aliens video game experience for this current gen of consoles or even the next-gen. Sega should just sell the franchise to a publisher who is better equipped to take on a legitimate Aliens game. If you want to play an actually decent Marines campaign in a Aliens-licensed video game, I recommend Alien VS. Predator for the Atari Jaguar or AVP 2 for the PC. Both of these titles are dripping with more atmosphere and dread then A:CM could ever dish out in 5 minutes of gameplay.

SCORE:  1 / 5

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, which has been determined by multiple news outlets and metacritic to be the worse version out of the three (XBOX 360, PC and PS3). While you should stay far, far away in another galaxy from A:CM, if your interest is piqued and you simply cannot resist an Aliens licensed game, regardless of how bad the outcome is, the PS3 version is playable after it has been patched about 2 or 3 times and the graphical deficiencies are pretty miniscule and really don’t detract from the already abhorrent gameplay when compared to it’s counterparts.

 

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