Who doesn’t like Aliens? Those lovable, acid-dripping, mouth gaping, whip-tail snapping, vent-crawling lovers of fun that they are. Who wouldn’t want to go back to the old stomping grounds of the Sulaco – where Ripley, Hicks and other died-easily marines hailed themselves from in the original movie?
Why wouldn’t we want a new game after the hit that was Prometheus? Nervously checking our motion trackers, holding tight to guns with too-little ammo as something scurries in the dark above, ahead and around us.
Why wouldn’t we? Because if the implementation was as grab bag terrible as it is in Aliens: Colonial Marines, we’d all have thrown this beloved series into the waste years ago.
Boom boom stupid
Colonial Marines (CM) is meant to be a new, canon, entry into the Aliens franchise. It’s supposed to plug the gaps after the (now) second movie, with a bunch of hapless marines sent in to look over the busted up Sulaco spaceship and then on to the original breeding ground of hell.
But it’s hard to be bothered with a story that’s so thin we can see the director’s pulling the strings behind it. I’d wager a good half or more of CM is spent in bland corridor-shooting, of the kind we’ve gotten rid of about, oh, a decade ago. What’s the point of telling me I’m at Hadley’s Hope if I’m not reminded exactly what went on here?
And why do the reminding with the bland, characterless marines? These guys are left to shout out battle cries, and talk macho talk about “dem strange beings”. Even your main character, Corporal Christopher Winter, is a boring, bland space monkey. Boring, basic lines, some mumbo jumbo about “vengeance” and so forth just padded out a story that isn’t worth the telling here.
There’s no real environmental interaction here, no pretty big explosions changing the course of the levels as aliens swarm towards you. Instead, the fools charge you – and only you – head-on. As your allies look on and blithely shoot over the heads of the xenos, the shrieking, screaming masses the face huggers and other nasty bits jump screaming straight for your noggin. Why am I holding this motion sensor again?
In fact, why am I holding any of these tools at all? Locked door syndrome is a fine excuse if the marines didn’t say, have a bunch of welders and door openers. Why have allies when they can’t shoot? Why use guns when their much-touted “authentic sounds straight from the movies!” bits are ear-grating the first time and just migraine-inducing three hours in?
Aliens is all about the tension, the scare factor. In every single movie, these things are coming for you, and you know it. But you almost never see them till it’s too late and they’re jumping out of the walls at you. Here in Colonial Marines though, they’re everywhere, swarming like a wave. That’s fun, for awhile, but not exactly true to canon. Nor very fear-inducing.
Nor are the bright, shiny corridors (We played on the PS3 for our review) with nary a piece of dynamic lighting. There’s a comparison video we’re embedding below to let you see the difference. It is shocking, and entirely true.
Blandness begets blandness
We hoped that multiplayer would at least then be worthwhile. And it is, sorta. Games tend to invite comparison with similar titles, and here, Alien’s multiplayer feels and looks a lot like Left for Dead 2. There’s Extermination, which is a capture-and-destroy segment. There’s Escape, which sees your motley crew run screaming for the exits. There’s Survivor, where your small, pathetic bunch of marines set up shop and pray.
And honestly, it’s pretty fun. And probably the one saving grace left in Colonial Marines. Yes, the aliens – which get takes on Left 4 Dead’s Infected with a Lurker that leaps, Spitter, Soldier, and the rare-spawn Tanks and “explodey-style” albino alien. And there are problems when aliens have to keep re-spawning at the start of the level while the marines are getting further and further away.
But for the most part, it works. Competent marine teams that stick together with their weapons – the eclectic grab bag of pulse rifles, shotguns and someone lucky enough to be wielding the smart gun – give aliens a tough time.
On the flip side, aliens stalking through the shadows and coordinating pushes can easily kill off just one marine, enough to cause a chain reaction from hell for the rest. It’s tough being a mostly-melee alien, but when it comes together, watching marines just fall apart as they accidentally get separated for just that split second is brilliant.
It’s clear that Aliens: Colonial Marines is nothing like what was promised to us. Gearbox is trying to downplay it, but it seems much of the fault lies with not them, but allegedly TimeGate Studios (Makers of the B-grade title Section 8) which the title was farmed out to. In a Reddit post here an anonymous employee allegedly from Gearbox lays the crap bare, although later on in the thread someone who seems to suggest he work(ed) at TimeGate says the fault’s all Gearbox’s.
Whatever the real case behind the fiasco is, it’s clear that Aliens, for all the short-lived fun you’ll get in multiplayer, is a pile of unfortunate crap that didn’t live up to the hype. Avoid.