Aliens: Colonial Marine’s long hard journey through development hell is finally at an end. For years we’ve been waiting for a proper shooter based on the ever so awesome Alien franchise, and here we get one that is part of the official franchise canon, and a spiritual sequel to one of the most acclaimed films in the series, but sadly Aliens: Colonial Marines’ story mode fails to do anything interesting with the license and falls short in almost every department.
The story is set 17 weeks after the events of Aliens, as a search and rescue team of Colonial Marines are deployed to investigate a distress call sent by Cpl. Hicks. To their surprise they find that the USS Sulaco is back in orbit over LV-426 (and not Fiorina-161, as in Alien 3), and board the vessel in order to find out what the heck is happening. They find the Sulaco overrun by Xenomorphs (aliens) and that Weyland Yutani PMC troops are on site as well.
You play as Cpl. Christopher Winter, and together with Sergeant O’Neal, Private Bella, Lieutenant Reid, and Captain Cruz you set out to rescue any Marines missing in action, and try to find out what the Weyland Yutani Corporation is up to. The story itself is not half bad, and it was interesting to see where it went, as a big fan of the Alien franchise. What drags it down is the company you keep for the majority of the game. The characters are one-dimensional beyond belief, and are desperately trying to mimic the iconic cast of Aliens without success. For example, the Vasquez clone; private Bella, is a supposedly tough as nails female character, but she has none of the charm of Vasquez and ends up playing the damsel in distress anyway, ultimately rendering her character useless.
The campaign takes you through the Xenomorph infested Sulaco, to the remains of Hadley’s Hope, a Weyland Yutani research facility, and even the derelict “engineer/space jockey” ship from Alien. The environments are one of the highlights of the game, as it is obvious that a lot of effort went into recreating them for Colonial Marines. It’s really appealing on a nostalgic level to see the room where Hudson got dragged through the floor, and to wander through the wasteland of LV-426, in a game. It’s just a shame that the game in question isn’t much fun at all.
In a day and age where the fps genre is way over crowded, games really need to do something special to separate themselves from the rank and file. In Aliens: Colonial Marines’ case, the license is just about the only thing that stands out at all, and it doesn’t go a long way towards creating a unique experience. The gunplay feels weightless and just isn’t much fun. The AI (both friendly and enemy) is embarrassingly stupid, and the scenario’s you play through are uninspired and too repetitive. There are times when the campaign shows brief signs of offering something genuinely fun, like the mission where you are stripped of your weapons and equipment, or the smartgun segments, but most of the time there are merely some good ideas that never fully come into fruition.
You’ll face off against a variety of enemies in Colonial Marines. You’ve got your basic Xenomorphs and facehugger’s, aliens that spit acid on you, a bulky bull-like alien, and different classes of Weyland Yutani soldiers. What they all have in common is that they aren’t any fun to fight. The Aliens, which are supposedly the most dangerous animal in existence, don’t seem too vicious when I’m mowing them down in the hundreds. Their animations and movements are jerky and awkward, and sometimes seemingly totally random. They’ll be facing one way, and then all of a sudden they’ll jump onto a wall in a way that just looks weird. The soldiers are some of the dumbest I’ve seen in a shooter for a long time. Most of the time I could just either stand in one place and wait for them to come running into my line of fire, or I’d just equip a shotgun and walk up to them and blast them at point-blank range. Add the fact that ammo is plentiful, and even though you can only have 2 weapons equipped at a time, you can always bring up the armory radial and choose between all the guns you have acquired. This resulted in me never feeling vulnerable in the least in any situation.
The entire campaign can be played cooperatively with up to 4 players. Co-op is always a welcome addition, but in the case of Colonial Marines, it doesn’t add to the experience at all. If anything it removes whatever little immersion there is, as there’s just too many marines around. The campaign missions already feel crowded enough when you have three NPC’s with you, and when you add two or three more human players it’s simply too much. Expect plenty of three stooges moments as you get stuck when too many marines are desperately attempting to squeeze through a door at the same time. Co-op feels tacked on, as it is clear that many of the game’s scenarios weren’t designed with four players in mind.
The presentation of Colonial Marines is also a complete mess. The visuals are horribly un-polished with subpar lighting and particle effects, downright ugly human models, stiff animations, and screen-tear aplenty (in the console versions). During my play through of the first mission alone, I encountered more graphical glitches than in most other games I’ve played. Enemies and friendly NPC’s alike would clip through walls and objects, and get stuck in animation loops. While graphics certainly don’t make or break a game, there are just too many small things that are off in Colonial Marines. All these small things detract from the experience, making for a decidedly lackluster visual spectacle.
The sound department fares a bit better than the visuals. The iconic sounds of the pulse rifle and smartgun are always a joy to hear, the alien hisses and screeches are in order, and the great score from Aliens returns in Colonial Marines. The voice acting is decent, with Aliens stars Lance Henriksen (Bishop) and Michael Biehn (Hicks) reprising their roles, along with a few other of the supporting cast. It’s just a shame that the script is dull and uninspired, and the voice acting talent is mostly wasted. Aliens: Colonial Marines sounds good because so much has been lifted straight out of the movie, and this is the case with most of the game; the best parts are the ones that are instantly recognizable from Aliens.
Aliens: Colonial Marines’ campaign is ultimately extremely mediocre, and often plain bad. For the most part it fails to capitalize on its fantastic license. There are a few moments that stand out, but they are overshadowed by the numerous shortcomings. While playing you really do get the feeling that you’re playing an unfinished game, which is true in many ways given the game’s troubled development history. Colonial Marines cannot hold its own against any recent fps release, and it is far from being the Alien game that fans want and deserve. Aliens: Colonial Marines is best avoided and nuked from orbit.
|We liked The moments and elements lifted straight out of the Aliens film|
|We disliked Horrible glitchy graphics, dull game play, ill implented co-op, bad AI & one-dimensional characters|