Games with a twisted lineage seems to be Gearbox’s forte. After resurrecting the poorly received Duke Nukem Forever, the studio turned its sights back on Aliens: Colonial Marines, which had been continually delayed since its announcement six years ago.
With rumors of multiple studios involved and pre-release demos that couldn’t possibly represent the real game, is Aliens: Colonial Marines the “true sequel” we were promised, or is it worse than Aliens vs Predator: Requiem?
Editor’s note: Images contained within this review do not accurately represent Aliens: Colonial Marine’s actual graphical style. Look to our forthcoming video review to see what A:CM looks like in action.
Seventeen weeks after the events of the movie Aliens, a company of Colonial Marines arrives at LV-426 to find the Sulaco in orbit around the planet. Never mind the fact that the Sulaco crashed on a prison planet during the opening of Aliens 3, you got some bugs to hunt!
This starts Aliens: Colonial Marines’ almost comedic habit of hand-waving away any plot points that contradict the canon established by the film series. It’s even worse when you think that the events of this game are considered canon by 20th Century Fox, because what happens in A:CM is insulting to the legacy of the films its based off of.
Characters who should be dead reappear and Hadley’s Hope is still standing, despite being caught in the blast of a nuclear reactor going critical. It’s best not to think about Aliens: Colonial Marines’ story, because the developers certainly didn’t. The game also tries to ham-fistedly cram in some emotional character moments, but every model in the game has no emotion on their face, even when they’re upset and yelling at somebody, or breaking down crying. That coupled with the sub-standard voice acting makes this game almost painful to watch.
If the story was the only bad part about Colonial Marines, then it might be a bit forgivable. Game stories are almost never that great, but A:CM manages to have terrible mechanics to match.
Colonial Marines looks and plays like a budget shooter from 2006 as opposed to game that came out this year. When you’re not fighting against idiotic Weyland-Yutani mercenaries, you’re fighting xenomorphs which, instead of being the horrible killing machines the movies make them out to be, are straight-up cannon fodder, running blindly into the barrel of your gun.
Shooting is unsatisfying in this game as all enemies, alien or otherwise, don’t react to having round after round pumped into them, so your only clue that you’re doing damage is when your target falls over dead. The lack of feedback makes an already bland corridor-shooter even worse, which is exaggerated by the xenomorph’s tendency to clip right through you when they attack, robbing them of any menace.
Besides being dull to play, Colonial Marines is one of the worst looking games I’ve played in a while. This game has textures that would have looked bad last generation, and the lighting engine is inconsistent, changing wildly when you’re in a loading area between rooms.
The only redeeming aspect of Colonial Marines is that, aside from the story, it’s faithful to the look and feel of the movie, almost to the point where it feels like you’re hanging out in the room of a friend who likes the movie maybe a little too much. You run through recognizable locales and pick up dog-tags bearing the names of the ill-fated marines from the Sulaco and use their “legendary” weapons. The pulse rifle sounds exactly like it does in the film, but you can stick a variety of attachments on to it like a red-dot sight and an American flag decal. The motion tracker even makes an appearance, but it’s more of a cameo since everything runs right at you, meaning that there’s no reason to whip out that device other than to hear its iconic sound effects.
Co-op is the only thing that can make playing this game bearable, if you can find three friends who are willing to spend money on it.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is frankly embarrassing, both for the studios involved and for SEGA, the publisher, who allowed the project to be delayed to the point where it had to be rushed out to release. To charge full price for this game is a little insulting and this franchise deserves better. Has anyone else played this game?
How does our grading system work? Check out our grade chart!