Author: Lydia Sung
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/aliens_colonial_marines/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Aliens is a great movie, no doubt about it. Decades later, it lives on through games and other media, though these offshoots have varied widely in quality and success. Aliens: Colonial Marines is the latest entry to Aliens canon, a direct sequel to the 1986 flick and an attempt to bridge the gap between Aliens and Aliens 3.
From the start, SEGA marketed Colonial Marines as a cooperative horror experience. Team up with three other players, experience the terror of xenomorphs, all while re-experiencing a sci-fi classic. Sounds great on paper, except the actuality of it is anything but enjoyable. No, it’s quite the opposite in fact, because there are times when Colonial Marines feels like downright torture.
Despite suffering more than one delay over years of development, Colonial Marines is an unpolished mess that adds little of value to its highly acclaimed source material. The game’s greatest draw was its story, which is apparently recognized by Fox as an official follow-up to Aliens, but that falls short of expectations just like everything else, with the exception of multiplayer.
Colonial Marines is easy to grasp. After a fairly pleasing introduction that seems to mimic a movie opening, players are dropped in the shoes of one Corporal Winter, one of several soldiers sent aboard the U.S.S. Sulaco in search of the previous squad. The premise is simple enough, but then, it doesn’t get any better from there. Some attempts at plot development are apparent here and there, like when the Marines encounter Wey-Yu mercenaries and don’t know why, resulting in a whole lot of screaming and shouting and shooting.
The mechanics are pretty basic, giving Colonial Marines a very classic arcade flavor, just without much of the nostalgia or old-school charm. First thing you’ll notice is how ugly everything looks. I’m not normally one to pick on a game for its graphical prowess (or lack thereof), but in this case, it has to be mentioned. The textures are noticeably muddy, whether at a distance or up close, and they’re recycled quite a bit over the course of the campaign. Environments aside, the characters themselves don’t look so hot either, though seeing a human spontaneously explode into bloody cartoonish chunks is surprisingly hilarious. I never could figure out how to make this happen though, because weapon damage is so inconsistent that enemies can sometimes survive grenades blasts or a whole clip from your sidearm.
The game feels just as outdated as it looks, implementing fixed character stats despite also including an XP system. Yes, you can actually earn XP in the campaign, either solo or cooperatively, but all the game offers for your troubles are additional weapons, none of which can beat the rifle-shotgun combo you start out with. Special weapons like flamethrowers and turrets are scattered across missions, but these are all temporary and can’t be added to your arsenal. If Colonial Marines were trying to emulate that classic FPS, then it doesn’t actually need a complex progression system. Yet Gearbox threw one in anyway, and it’s just not very good, failing to offer any real sense of reward for sticking through the entire ordeal.
Going by the game name Aliens: Colonial Marines, one might assume the game involves shooting aliens, and lots of them. While you do run into a good number of xenos – some new variations, even – they’ll often wind up taking a backseat to Weyland-Yutani’s private army. Apparently Wey-Yu only hires the dumbest and most generic-looking grunts, too, which makes fighting these mercenaries all the less exciting. Seriously, they all look the same, and fight with that absurd “They’ll choke on our dead!” mentality, where the best (and only) strategy is charging at players in waves. The xenos don’t act a whole lot smarter, but they’re not expected to; besides which, the aliens actually look cooler and behave like monsters.
The aliens really are the highlight of the game, too, providing some nice atmospheric touches now and then that seem to remind us Colonial Marines is supposed to be scary. Is it ever truly frightening? No, not when you’re armed with the loudest guns and dumbest AI partners in existence. But what the game does try to serve up is some of that tension the movies were known for. Success sometimes glimmers through, before quickly disappearing in a hail of gunfire and poorly voiced dialogue. I’d seriously have been happier if the AI Marines just never opened their mouths. Ever. Uninspired dialogue becomes nearly unbearable when paired with equally unimpressive voice work. O'Neal, your partner, says at one point that he had "a thing" with another Marine, to which Winter asks, "What kind of thing?" At that, O'Neal replies, "A sex thing, okay?" This exchange happens pretty early on, yet hours later the lines are still stuck in my head, making me cringe.
Surprisingly, multiplayer is where Aliens: Colonial Marines actually kind of excels. With how abysmal everything else is, the online play offers some welcome respite with a couple rather creative game modes. Team Deathmatch and Extermination are staples which practically all shooter fans are already familiar with. Escape and Survivor, on the other hand, are a little more interesting, inspired more by zombie games than conventional shooters. Escape, for instance, has a Marines team running from point A to B, while the opposing Xeno team must stop them before they reach their objective. In Survivor, the Marines need to hold out against xenomorphs for as long as possible.
I don’t exactly see Colonial Marines’ multiplayer becoming a major contender in the competitive gaming scene, but it’s at least fun, even if I don’t think it’s worth the full price of the game. If you enjoyed the 2010 Aliens vs. Predator game, then this should scratch your itch.
As much as it pains me to say this, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a huge miss on SEGA and Gearbox’s part. It’s a real shame, too, when you consider how much effort they went through – getting permission from Fox, bringing back artist Syd Mead, and so forth. All of that just gets buried underneath disappointment, when you realize how unpolished and unfulfilling the game is. It’s difficult to recommend even for Aliens fans, simply because of how terrible it feels to play; not to mention a complete eyesore to look at. At the end of the day, the Aliens name is all Colonial Marines has going for it, and that’s not nearly enough to redeem it.
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