Aliens: Colonial Marines
Review by kiriyama2
"This is really quite bad"
For a game that was in development for more than five years Aliens Colonial Marines sure feels like a game that was rushed. It's more or less the same problem I had with Duke Nukem Forever when I played that one. I know the game had been in development more than half of my life, a fact I'm sure most diehard shooter fans are aware of. That the game had been in development for thirteen years or so, not that I was about eleven when DNF was announced. When I played DNF I couldn't shake the feeling that the game had the feel of a game that was put together over the space of a year or so despite its long storied history. It certainly didn't feel like the summation of thirteen years of development time.
Point is, I don't know what the hell happened to Aliens Colonial marines. The game came out very recently, and this thing had been in development since 2006, but the game feels really rushed and half-assed. I remember back in 2008 or so reading an EGM that showed off what was going on in the game's development. I recall it showing some really cool looking dedicated co-op thing, with four marines having to work together for some goal or other. It looked great, it looked damn fun, then it kind of fell off the map, then last year Gearbox put out a bunch of preview stuff to remind people that, yes Aliens Colonial Marines is indeed still a game that is coming out. I was skeptical, after all DNF had come out and that was hardly the bastion of good game design. Also there was the Rebellion effort of Aliens vs. Predator which was... certainly a game.
What's remarkable about Colonial Marines is that it starts as a good game, it sets the tone well. You and a handful of marines show up to investigate the ship from Aliens. It's just you and mission control in your head telling you to investigate. It's rundown, it looks great, and then you catch a glimpse of an alien scuttling away from you. You feel tense, because it'll pop out and you'll probably almost die to it. When it shows up there's a rather tough fight when you kill that very first xenomorph. From there though, it's all a rapid downhill descent into annoyance, making a brief stop at mediocre design plaza, and then finally arriving at bad game civic center.
Despite the amazing beginning where you explore an empty spaceship with some aliens stalking you the game settles annoyingly comfortably in the arcade shooter camp. My primary annoyance with this comes from the fact that's not a particularly challenging game, the Xenomorphs pretty much just make a beeline at you, and only you, but they can't attack you until their within smacking range. Even when the game throws new acid spitting aliens at you the game doesn't get any harder. The biggest complaint I have with this game, and it's one that I have with the Aliens games in general is the fact that for a number of levels you're left fighting just generic soldiers. I don't understand why any and all Aliens based games feel the need to include human enemies. Perhaps the game devs feel we'd get bored fighting the titular monsters? The whole reason we're here in the first place?!
The game falls into the generic action rhythm with surprising rapidity. What surprises me is the fact that the game eschews the modern shooter contrivance of only allowing you to carry two guns. You get a whole pile of guns, by the end of the adventure you'll be carrying approximately fourteen different types of guns (more if you go out of your way to get the "legendary weapons"). It's with a certain amount of irony though that there are maybe only two guns you'd want to use throughout the game. The game does next to nothing to break up its shooting action. There are a couple moments where the action lets up but that's just a mere break before throwing you into another firefight. There is one mission that isn't straight shooting from end to end. At roughly the middle of the game you are taken and put in a cocoon, you of course break out of the cocoon, and you find yourself in the middle of an alien hive without a single gun to defend yourself. It is the only moment in the game outside the opening five minutes that actually tries and succeeds to be really tense. Despite the well-done stealth segment the game goes back to its run of the mill shooter action. The boss fights are nothing spectacular either, they are really unremarkable. The fight against the one with the powerloader seems like it would be a cool fight, but isn't, I won one boss fight entirely by accident, and the final boss was pathetically easy.
It's shocking just how poorly done the graphics are in this game. Every single person, enemy soldier, your squad, even random NPCs all have this remarkably strange animation to them. They all look really off, like they're plastic toys somehow really shoddily animated. The game has this really uneven and janky look to it that just never subsides no matter how far you get into the game. The Xenomorphs just look like they were animated in a rendering program with the barest of effort put into it. Put simply they look and act like models from some guy's mod, not a game that had been in development from a developer who has quite a few games under their belt. The environments aren't particularly good, they have the rundown industrial look down, but it is visually uninteresting. Also, it might have been my copy but my game was plagued with texture pop-in and blank gray space for pretty much the whole affair.
One segment stands out as particularly bad; near the start of the game the pilot of a dropship has to land in the cargo hold of the ship you're presently on. It's meant to be this big awesome spectacle as the pilot maneuvers the ship into the cargo hold. The ship barely bobs and weaves as it just sort of awkwardly sets down in the hold. Another graphical curiosity is the fact that if you get too far ahead of your AI teammates they just teleport to your location, not run, just in a flash of blue there they are.
One of the things the game does pretty decently is the leveling up system. As you play the game you unlock various small challenges to do to increase your characters rank in the online multiplayer mode. It's a pretty decent system, on that offers tangible rewards for you trying these challenges. Sure it's primarily minor things like gun coloration, but you can also unlock better subweapons for you guns. It's a neat idea, but one that ultimately gets thrown to the wayside as it's rather irrelevant.
It's really quite surprising at how bad this game turned out to be. I wasn't honestly expecting all that much out of it, at the very least I expected it to be better than the sub-par AvP game Rebellion put out two years ago. After all, these guys made Borderlands, and that's a pretty good game. However this game is an extremely flawed game that is most certainly not worth the wait.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 02/20/13
Game Release: Aliens: Colonial Marines (US, 02/12/13)
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