Review by ptemptibus

"It grows in you; I mean, ‘on’ you."

As a thirty-something year-old, the first two Alien movies were very significant in my youth. ‘Alien' is a classic of the genre and ‘Aliens' was a great action film. The following two movies were just passable, in my opinion – okay as movies but not really what I wanted from the franchise. All of the AVPs were terrible and every game adaptation has been pretty lousy. I was therefore dubious about this game but seeing as so much effort had been gone through in its development, I figured that I'd give it a fair go.

At first, I was disappointed: the graphics did not immediately grab me and the first few levels seemed very generic, claustrophobic and buggy. So, after my first play session I was complaining to friends and ready to swap it in for a trade. Then I played again the next day and things got a lot better: the levels opened up and became more interesting; the suspense factor took a good nudge upwards, and I got access to some weapon mods that made everything more enjoyable. So, that is why I say that this game grows on you (or ‘in' you – Alien pun) because it does get better the more you play it.

Gameplay:
The maps in this game eventually differ between corridor creeping and open-area battle, thankfully. This contrast is exciting as it forces you to consider your weapon loadouts and tactical maneuvers. There is a good variety of weapons available to suit your play style. The shooting itself is pretty tight, once you get some guns with decent sights. Most weapons have a secondary fire which you can customize as you level-up. Your movement has a good weight and speed about it.

The enemies are a bit of a mixed bag. The xenomorphs look pretty awesome when crawling around walls and ceilings, but when they run at you on their hind legs with arms outstretched they look kind of silly. Their movement, however, is quite unpredictable in a natural sort of way. Human enemies are a slightly different matter, for although they take cover and flank in a realistic manner, they seem to skip and dodge in a glitchy fashion. Having said that, it is the human enemies that most often pose the biggest threat, as their fire is quite accurate, powerful, and can clip you from a long range, as opposed to the xenos who are predominately close-quarter melee killers.

Having the xenos jump out at you unexpectedly from some hidden spot is always an exciting moment. When they converge on mass, they can be quite devastating. You never know exactly where they might come from, so having a strong close-range weapon or attachment (like a shotgun or flamethrower) is a must. There are a few varieties of xeno that appear sporadically to mix things up, like seemingly bullet-proof chargers, face-huggers jumping from eggs, spitters who can get you from a distance, plus a unique breed that you will meet in a very well conducted stealth section.

Health and armor are on two separate bars – health will regenerate over time to a certain degree, whilst armor deteriorates rapidly and must be picked-up to regenerate There is plenty of highly visible pick-ups to acquire, so death is not so frequent as to become annoying (or at least not on normal or ‘soldier' difficulty, which I played it on).

Graphics:
Whilst not up to par with many modern games, they get the job done. Environments look nice, but characters (particularly of the human variety) are not particularly pretty. There are a few moments of visual jaw-dropping coolness, however, especially when you come across some very memorable areas from the original movies.

The biggest technical flaw in this game is the lousy frame-rate of the visuals, as the screen often sputters and lags in an unsettling way as if unable to cope with what is happening on-screen, even when there is not much going on. This is pretty ugly and annoying for gameplay, but I found that I could get over it. Maybe a patch will be released to fix this issue.

Controls and Sound:
The controls are almost exactly like COD, so you will know what to do. Some unique moves are the secondary-fire function and motion tracker. Sound is absolutely brilliant as everything (especially the pulse-rifle) sounds exactly like it should because it did in the films. Indeed, there are some very iconic sounds in here that may just spark your nostalgia even more than the visuals.

Story:
I'm not going to give anything away, but from what I could gather this game takes place after the third movie. It changes some things that you thought you knew and in so doing drives the franchise into some interesting territory. There are many new faces that are generally forgettable, but the appearance of some fan favorites should put a big ole smile on your face. It's not groundbreaking stuff and can be sort of confusing, but it's enough to keep you interested and playing.

Multiplayer and Co-Op:
I have not spent much time on multiplayer, but what I have seen is not particularly moving. There are a few game modes to choose from and many of these let you play as both marines and xenos. Marines are played through the usual first person perspective, whilst xenos are controlled in third person, which makes for a less immersive but also less confusing experience. Marines have the advantage because they can attack from a distance, but xenos have speed, strength and sixth-sense radar on their side. They can also crawl on walls and upside-down, as you would expect. Again, I have not gotten into multiplayer a lot so cannot say too much, but I do plan to give it a few more goes.

Something I am very interesting in doing is re-playing the campaign in co-op, as I think that that will put a pretty interesting slant on the whole experience. Would probably have to raise the difficulty level, however, in order to make it worth-while.

Overall, I ended up enjoying this game a lot, especially considering that I really disliked the first hour or two. It is not a very long campaign (eight hours, tops), but it has some variety, suspense and immersive plus occasionally tactical gameplay. So give it a chance, because I really don't think it is as bad as some reviews are suggesting, and it does take a while to get into. Not just another bug-hunt! – had to get that reference in there somewhere. 

7/10


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 02/19/13

Game Release: Aliens: Colonial Marines (Limited Edition) (AU, 02/12/13)


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