Mediocre For So Many Reasons
Before we begin, there are two things that you need to know about me:
1. I’m not particularly manly.
2. I have a soft spot for big-budget monster movies.
So, when SEGA and Gearbox announced that they would be teaming up to make Aliens: Colonial Marines in 2008, I squealed a little. Like a schoolgirl.
Now, I think everyone has some kind of irrational, unforgivable vice in his or her life. Some people eat too much candy or refuse to wash the dishes. Other people suffer from alcoholism or watch Jersey Shore. For me, it’s monster movies, which should explain my excitement for Colonial Marines.
But even by monster movie standards, the Alien franchise has been subpar for a very long time. Anyone who touches the series seems to think that he can just reiterate everything that made the original movies scary and hope that the tricks still work. But Alien was released 33 years ago, so we’re ready for something new.
Unfortunately, Aliens: Colonial Marines isn’t anything new.
Typically, monster-themed movies and video games aren’t known for their remarkable plot lines, but they get a pass because they play on our instinctual, evolutionary fears. However, it takes a lot of work to maintain enough realism in a monster movie to keep those fears alive. Anytime we can see the puppeteer’s strings, the movie turns into a comedy, and it becomes impossible to salvage. Unfortunately, Colonial Marines never establishes itself, so it has far more in common with a movie like Tremors than the series it purportedly belongs to.
The game takes place just after the events of Aliens, the 1986 sequel directed by James Cameron. Reports of Ripley’s ordeal have made their way back to civilization, and the United States has dispatched a platoon of Marines to investigate the incident. As you can imagine, things don’t exactly go as planned.
SEGA and Gearbox have always said that Colonial Marines is a canonical member of the Alien series, but, be warned, the writers have taken a few semi-unforgivable liberties. One event in particular, which I won’t give away because it’s a part of the game’s clumsy plot twist, retcons a major plot point from Aliens.
However, the first time you actually catch a glimpse of a Xenomorph, the franchise’s iconic alien race, there will probably be shivers. The early missions provide an admirable, albeit chunky, backdrop for the overall storyline, but the whole thing quickly devolves into a mindless flood of easily dispatched aliens with no regard for tension and suspense.
And the deeper that you get into the campaign, the more disappointing the game becomes.
Colonial Marines contains very few recognizable characters from the Alien universe, though Lance Henriksen does reprise the role of Bishop. Ironically, Bishop’s character, a synthetic human, is probably the most compelling of the bunch. All of the other crewmembers are characterized by frivolous in-fighting and a fondness for saying “Hoorah.”
Aside from that, most of the dialogue is spent repeating the phrase “No Marine left behind” just before heading into another swarm of aliens, even though nearly all of the Marines are eventually left behind in body bags.
The game’s pacing is a bit odd as well. An uncomfortable amount of time is spent waiting for elevators to show up or waiting for an NPC to open a door. Though, the entire campaign is only about six hours long, so you won’t have to wait too terribly long for it all to be over.
Plus, even when the NPCs aren’t opening doors, they’re constantly a problem. Your teammates will run in front of you when you’re launching a grenade and you’ll trip on them when you’re running from an Alien queen. They even managed to trap me in a corner once, which got us all killed. Jerks.
Obviously, I think it’s safe to assume that mechanics aren’t this game’s strong suit. Enemies frequently clip through the walls, textures are constantly tearing, and the maps are often embarrassingly unfinished. It’s not uncommon to get hung up on something in your path, only to discover that you’re actually running into an invisible wall that as been intentionally placed there by the development team.
With all of the problems in the game’s campaign, you might assume that Gearbox was focusing their development on the multiplayer components. But, unfortunately, you would be wrong.
The multiplayer is, to be fair, a far better experience than the campaign. Depending on the mode, players are typically split into two teams: aliens and Marines. Aliens have the ability to track the humans through walls via their handy infrared vision. The Marines, of course, are equipped with the motion sensor that anyone who’s seen an alien movie is familiar with. The sides are surprisingly well-balanced and gameplay is fast-paced.
Though, the same problems that exist in the game’s single-player campaign are apparent on the multiplayer side as well. Animations are choppy and/or missing, textures are flat and broken, and the game’s gun mechanics are frustratingly unintuitive. Plus, there’s a latency issue that feels like an extra slap in the face.
Players can play through the campaign in the game’s co-op mode, but I’m not going to sell it here. There’s no reason for it to exist. Your friends will like you even less if you trick them into playing it with you, so just avoid it altogether.
Even though I have a terribly high tolerance for bad monster movies, I still couldn’t find an excuse for Aliens: Colonial Marines. The game has been in development for over five years, and nearly every single component has some major flaw.
It’s yet another black eye on a franchise that’s already taken a heavy beating.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.0 Graphics
The graphics would be great if the game had been released five years ago. 2.0 Control
Unintuitive and often frustrating. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound design is often perfect, but suffers from laziness. 2.5 Play Value
If multiplayer is your thing, this might be a fun distraction, but the campaign will make you sad. 2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best