Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 02/19/13

A bug hunt that you should skip

Aliens: Colonial Marines spent so much time in development hell, it was rooming with Duke Nukem Forever. Coincidentally, the same people that revived and finally finished Duke Nukem Forever is the studio behind Colonial Marines, Gearbox Software. The difference is that Duke Nukem Forever had a certain B-movie style charm to it. It was so bad that it was good, in its own way. Aliens: Colonial Marines, on the other hand, is so bad that it's, well, bad.

The Internet has been abuzz about the severe drop in quality between the product that was shown off by Gearbox at demos of the game around the world and the product that was actually released in stores. Videos have been popping up all over YouTube of the atrocities that plague Colonial Marines, and message board users have been raging about the game that they feel they were tricked into buying. From that regard, Colonial Marines is truly an outrage.

I struggle to think of a game that can match Aliens: Colonial Marines in pure ugliness. The game is truly one of the uglier games I've ever played this generation, if not the ugliest. The graphics are far below the mark, with repeating visuals and objects all over the place, and a genuine lack of detail in the environment. Textures take forever to load from room to room; this was so much so that I don't believe any single room I entered had all its textures loaded and ready to go before I actually stepped foot in the room. In my long and storied history with gaming, this is unprecedented.

The ugliness of Aliens: Colonial Marines doesn't stop there. Clipping issues are everywhere one looks, and the animation is atrocious. The Xenomorphs simply don't move or act like Xenomorphs. The human enemies and ally characters have similar issues. However, it's not quite apparent just how bad the animation is until the cut-scenes, which are nearly unwatchable due to how poorly acted and animated they happen to be. It doesn't help that two of the main characters look nearly identical, and that no one's voice matches their face, making for a downright laughable presentation that makes the story being told during these cut-scenes incomprehensible.

I wish I could be done talking about how poor the game is visually, but there's even more to mention. On top of all the other issues I've already listed, Colonial Marines suffers from a god awful framerate. The framerate in this game is so bad that simple actions such as looking around with the right analog stick causes the screen to go on a frenzy of screen-tearing. Even worse are the little weather effects, which use canned, outdated animations that reminded me of the Nintendo 64. Oh, and you know that little graphical effect where liquid falls on your character, and then that liquid rolls down the TV screen? You know, that neat little graphical effect that's been implemented in countless games for well over a decade now? Somehow, someway, Colonial Marines manages to even mess THAT up.

But I'm done talking about the visual presentation, because at this point, it's like beating a dead horse. The sound design is mostly okay, though the voice acting and the dialogue are both equally bad. The sound effects are nice and loud, and the Xenomorphs make creepy screaming sounds that will send chills down your spine before you realize how easy it is to kill the Xenomorphs. The orchestral score does a good job of making Colonial Marines at least have an atmosphere akin to the film franchise, but it fails to capture the intense horror elements of the original or the action-packed sci-fi epic style of its sequel.

Taking place after Aliens, this game tries to capture the magic of that sci-fi classic by being billed as a canonical sequel, but it really fails at delivering on that promise. The game stars a group of generic, cookie cutter marines as they investigate the happenings at Hadley's Hope weeks after the events of the film. All the obligatory "Alien" moments happen, such as people being strapped to walls by Xenomorph gunk, Facehuggers popping out of eggs, and of course, chest-bursting Xenomorph babies abound. Colonial Marines fails to break new ground, and is ultimately unimportant in the grand scheme of things, making it a story that is absolutely pointless to tell, which means that even the most diehard fans of the series can skip this one and not feel bad about it.

The game saddles you with AI partners, with the choice of playing in up to four player co-op. Good luck getting anyone to suffer through this with you, however. The co-op completely negates the story, which is strange since, in the past, Gearbox has managed to provide compelling co-op campaigns by making all the characters matter, as we have seen in their other efforts such as the highly successful Borderlands series. The AI partners are present regardless of co-op, though, and they are quite erratic.

The AI partners range in intelligence from room-clearing murder machines to idiots that can't seem to find their way around the simplest of corners. I don't know how many times I saw an AI partner get stuck on a wall or couldn't figure out how to reach me. AI partners also have a tendency to magically teleport ahead of you if you get ahead of them, and the reason for that is nearly every objective the game boils down to following one of the AI characters through the levels. If you thought Call of Duty was a bad "Follow Me" simulator, Aliens: Colonial Marines takes the concept to a whole new level of boredom.

Enemy AI isn't all that great, either. The Xenomorphs are varied and can be fun to fight, even though they are sort of mindless. The human enemies can be incredibly frustrating, as they, much like the AI partners, can't decide whether they want to be vicious murder machines or be dumb as rocks. There are multiple sections in the game where the human enemies can't even see you if you just stand still. They can walk by you, look straight at you, and even touch you, and still, they will not be aware of your presence.

Despite all these issues, the core gunplay in Colonial Marines is admittedly solid. There's a nice variation in weapons, and there are even Legendary Weapons from the movie to find. The game also sports a progression system through the campaign, so players can level up their multiplayer marine in the campaign levels by completing challenges and getting kills. Every level up results in a commendation point that can be spent on upgrading the weapons. I admit that the RPG-like progression system for the campaign was a nice touch.

The campaign doesn't really break away from the on-foot running and gunning, except for a couple of segments in a Powerloader. The Powerloader is a machine most famously utilized in Aliens. It is clunky and slow in the game, and using it doesn't make invoke the feeling of "power". It's akin to controlling a mech that suffers from severe lagging issues. Honestly, the Powerloader is rather pathetic, but it only shows up a couple of times, so I suppose that I should be grateful for that.

Different Xenomorph types inject a bit of variety into the gameplay. There are the regular Xenomorphs, plus acid-spitting ones that serve as the ranged enemies in the game. I've already mentioned the Facehuggers and such, though they don't show up as much as the other Xenomorphs. This is just as well, because the Facehugger encounters turn out to be incredibly annoying QTE segments that suck away much of the fun, as little as there is to begin with, from the game.

I enjoyed the blind Xenomorphs that walk around all creepily, because they were part of one level that I actually found entertaining. Without spoiling anything, I will say that there is one level in the game in which the main character is left without any of his weapons or gear, and this level is a slow and scary stealth level. An overgrown and powerful Xenomorph pursues the player by clawing through the vents, and if encountered, results in a one-hit kill. The stealth elements create an intense atmosphere, and this segment ends with a thrilling chase. This is only one part in one level of the game, but it showed that Aliens: Colonial Marines could've been something great.

The game concludes with one of the most underwhelming boss fight in gaming history, and then what is there to do? The achievements are all very easy to unlock, and the game has a list of collectibles to hunt down if you're into boring chores like that. Another way to add replayability is the multiplayer, which is about as generic as possible. There are four different modes that all feel very much the same despite having different objectives, with one team controlling the Xenomorphs and another team controlling marines. The Xenomorphs have the same level of customization as the marines, but they are not fun to play as, and are way too underpowered for the games to be any fun. Playing as the marines in multiplayer has its moments, but I found myself tuning out and being bored of the multiplayer after only a few matches.

It won't appeal to fans of the movies, and it won't appeal to gamers. Aliens: Colonial Marines does just about everything wrong, and the game is so bad that I'm genuinely surprised it wasn't just canned altogether. Sega and Gearbox have succeeded in tarnishing the reputation of Aliens with their partnership, and it might be a good idea to let the license rest for a long while before giving it a gaming reboot down the line. I can't recommend this to anyone except those looking for a bad time. Because trust me, with Aliens: Colonial Marines, you're gonna have a bad time.

Rating:   1.5 - Bad

Product Release: Aliens: Colonial Marines (US, 02/12/13)

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