Thursday, 21 February 2013

Aliens: Colonial Marines

You would assume when a franchise as popular as James Cameron’s Aliens is combined with Gearbox Studios development quality, the final product would be nothing short of spectacular. Unfortunately this isn’t the case with Aliens: Colonial Marines which is a woeful misrepresentation of the rich heritage behind Aliens and the quality of game development we’ve seen from the company behind the Borderlands series. There is nothing here that you’ve not experienced before and small glimmers of hope do nothing more than frustrate as you see what could have potentially been an awesome title, fall short of greatness.

Colonial Marines acts as an unofficial sequel to James Cameron’s 1996 classic with the plot beginning approximately 4 months after the events on LV-426. While the story pays homage to some iconic characters, events and scenarios, very little positive can be said about the original content provided here. In fact probably the best part of Colonial Marines is the occasionally well placed Easter Egg that may have die-hard fans grinning as their nostalgia grows for the series.

While the story is set throughout some well-developed locations, the 6-hour or so campaign has little thrills to offer. This is largely the fault of terrible AI in the form of the Aliens themselves. Everything we’ve learned about the Xenomorph (hunts in packs, clever, lurks and waits to ambush) is completely thrown out the window as mindless Aliens run at you head on like a bull seeing red as you devour wave after wave with an almost never ending supply of weapons. The terror and desperation that Xenomorphs cause us to feel when we watch the movies has been completely omitted and the end result is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill generic first-person shooter. It doesn’t help either that classic FPS clichés have also been implemented like the ability to carry more than 2 weapons thus making you an almost invincible killing machine. Upon reaching the end you find nothing more than a convoluted and frustrating attempt to close off what was supposed to be a sequel of sorts that paves the way for obvious downloadable content to finish off this mess.

One of Colonial Marines’ strong suits is the cooperative and multiplayer elements. As poor as the campaign is, playing with up to 4 friends does provide some fun – especially if you’re willing to overlook the obvious flaws present. It’s just unfortunate that bar the Aliens skin, there’s absolutely no reason to play this over say for example the Borderlands series or something like Left 4 Dead. Speaking of Left 4 Dead, Colonial Marines provides a competitive multiplayer mode that sees a group of soldiers fight their way to an extraction point while the opposing group of Xenomorphs tries to stop them reminiscent of the Zombie survival shooter. This is probably the closest this game ever gets to adrenaline fueled gameplay and it’s a shame that the lack of level variation makes this game mode stale before long.

If after all this you’re still thinking that you might give Colonial Marines a whirl then make sure to do yourself a favour and if possible, play the PC version. While we’ve all come to accept PC’s superior graphics in ported games, Colonial Marines PC port shows off superior quality across all areas of this game. This is largely due to the console versions of the game being strung together by a different studio as opposed to the PC version. The result is an even more sub-par experience on PS3, WiiU and 360.

Ultimately Aliens: Colonial Marines is such a disappointment that it’s difficult to funnel all the flaws into one coherent sentence. The campaign is short, repetitive and not structured efficiently for cooperative gameplay. The multiplayer lacks any form of replayability beyond a few initial attempts. What’s perhaps most frustrating of all is the horrific use of one of science fiction’s most renowned licenses. James Cameron should feel ashamed that his work of art is in any way related to this drivel.

4.5 | Gameplay |

Generic run-of-the-mill FPS gameplay coupled with a few admirable attempts at shifting the gameplay and creating some tension in what is supposed to be a horror-themed game. There is nothing here that you have not experienced before and to a better standard. What a shame.

5.0 | Presentation |

Visually the license is used quite well with some key locations really bringing out some nostalgia. However, this is all let done by really poor development quality, especially on the home console versions with technical issues across the board.

4.5 | Replay Value |

The game wants you to play cooperatively with friends but the campaign doesn’t even feel designed to hold so many players at once. There’s not much reason to come back to the campaign after an initial painful play-through. The multiplayer as well leaves you wanting a whole load more.

5.0 | Final Thoughts |

What a shame. That’s all I have to say. Aliens: Colonial Marines had so much potential especially taking into account the long development cycle it went through. The final product not only insults the Aliens franchise but also discredits Gearbox Studios who less than a year ago brought us what was in my opinion 2012’s game of the year: Borderlands 2. How could so much possibly go wrong with the same formula? Just change the skin of the enemies and repackage Borderlands if you ran out of ideas!

Igor Kharin.

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