TGC Review: Aliens: Colonial Marines

aliens colonial marinesIt’s been a long, long wait, but finally Aliens: Colonial Marines has finally seen the cold light of day. It’s been five years, yes, five years in the making from Gearbox Software, the developers of the hugely successful Borderlands games. So what have they done with Aliens: Colonial Marines? Read on for a no-nonsense, honest and hopefully informative review of Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Enjoy!

What is it?

Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii U, PC.

Realease date: February 12th (Wii U: March)

Developer: Gearbox Software

Publisher: SEGA

Aliens: Colonial Marines is a first-person shooter played through the eyes of Cpl. Christopher Winter, a solider in the United States Colonial Marines. It’s the third game in the Aliens series to be published by SEGA following on from Aliens vs Predator and Aliens Infestation.

The game features a single player campaign which is supposed to act as the “true sequel” to Aliens. In addition to the singe player offering there’s also multiplayer. The multiplayer consists of drop in/drop out co-op for the single player campaign, or two players on the same console using the split-screen function. Aside from the co-op modes there’s also competitive 6v6 online play with a variety of different game modes, much of which are your standard variations of Team Deathmatch, Capture The Flag and so on.

Story

Set just after the events of Aliens, Aliens: Colonial Marines is supposed to act as the “true sequel” to the movie, unfortunately, it’s a bit naff.

The story starts out with a short mission where you and your fellow comrades take part in a rescue mission, trying to locate Ripley and her fellow crew mates. The rescue mission is more a tutorial level, as is standard with most games these days, to get you familiar with the way the controls handle, the different mechanics and such.

This first mission is fairly simple, but does enough to inform you of who’s who and what’s what. While this first mission might seem OK and seems like it’s setting you up for an interesting and immersive story, it’s a bit of a let down from here on in.

The story has some high moments where the clever dialogue and hints at deeper plot shine, but are then extinguished far too quickly with injections of “get to this area”, “hold this are” and the rare “sneak through this area” sequences. You would have thought that having writers from Battlestar Galactica would have been a huge asset that the developers would have been able to use to their advantage, instead their presence is rarely noticed through much of the bland military jargon and confusing plot.

Still, those of you who are big fans of the Aliens franchise will no doubt find some joy in being thrust among the Xenomorphs in the Aliens universe, which some cheeky hints and throwbacks to the movies to keep the hardcore happy. If you’re not a fan of the Aliens movies (blasphemy in my opinion) then you’ll just see it as “another first-person shooter,” which, in its essence is what it is.

The story is a confusing muddle that isn’t helped by the seemingly random level design and bog-standard dialogue with characters that you can’t empathise with. In short, it’s a wet fuse that’s never going to explode with the sort of story telling we’ve become accustomed to in this generation of games.

Gameplay

This is what really matters, how does it play? Even if the story is on the wrong side of the tracks, it could at least be saved by some solid first-person shooter mechanics. To answer the question: Yes and no.

I know, I know, it seems like I’m taking the easy option and being neutral, but I’m not. There are some genuinely fun sections of the game where you forget the stories not up to scratch and the graphics are somewhat lacking (more on that particular subject below,) but the gameplay isn’t terrible, at least not all the time.

You’ll find yourself instantly familiar with the set up once you’ve passed through the tutorial rescue mission. The controls are you’re standard affair, which help in combat against the evil aliens that you’ll be pit against, as well as the human enemies that crop up in the form of mercenaries as well as your (hopefully) human opponents within the online multiplayer. With such a good starting point, how could it go wrong?

Well, for a start, the enemies. When you first load the disc into your console, you may have that small trickle of fear wash over you as you remember hiding behind your hands, peeping through your fingers during the movies, and you’ll probably find yourself wondering if it’s going to be the same deal. It’s not, let me tell you straight up right now, it’s not. It’s 90% action where going in with all guns blazing is encouraged and attempting to use stealth and cunning are rewarded with a slap in the face from digital Death. The lack of tension and fear factor really make it feel like just “another first-person shooter,” the suspense and build up found in the movies has been done away with in favour of flashing lights and Rambo style running and gunning. It’s not all bad though, to be fair, the shoot-outs have their moments where you think “holy shit, I just fucked that thing up!” but there’s also moments where the scene and setting would be perfect for some sneaky tip-toe don’t-even-breath gameplay, but are instead the setting for yet more loud bangs and casual killing.

There are some moments where you’ll be able to take a more tactful approach and use your brain rather than your weapon, but they are few and far between and are overly simple to the point of insulting. One of which being a sneaky tip-toe section where you must avoid the lights and make your way through the area undetected, but it’s a far cry from Splinter Cell or Assassin’s Creed and serves only to add some form of variety to the otherwise average gameplay.

However, there is another cool feature. Gearbox, the games developer and also the creators of the immensely popular (and much better) Borderlands series have taken cues from their own catalog and integrated challenges and XP earning. Challenges will be instantly familiar to those who’ve delved into the wacky world of Borderlands 2, with each challenge offering some variety and a reason to go back and try again. Completing challenges, as you may have guessed, rewards you with some goodies, whether it be new looks for your guns or some XP, it’s a reason to go back through the game, especially for those Trophy/Achievement hunters who can’t sleep unless they have em’ all.

There’s just enough here for the hardcore fans of the series to grind their way through the story and collect all the collectables, but not enough if you have a casual interest in shooters.

Graphics

This is probably the harshest part of this review. In short, the graphics are shit. That’s just honesty, not me being an arse for the sake of it, they are just not what you would expect to see in 2013. You’ll notice it pretty much straight away, the textures are murky and unclear, and when you get really up close, they are just plain horrible. When you have the likes of Uncharted 3 or Halo 4 sitting comfortably with their dazzling visuals, you cant help but think that a half-arsed effort is what’s being flogged for a premium price.

Characters are somewhat well designed and move with some vigour during combat, but again, the details are lacking and they look a bit outdated. Even the Xenomorphs fail to impress, instead of coming across as scary beasts that’ll rip your head off then impregnate you, they just look like big shiny penises looking to get their end away. The smaller aliens are OK, but again, it’s starting to become a common theme, they’re ultimately disappointing.

The graphics are not only a let down, but there’s the various bugs and graphical glitches that should have been addressed before the game was released, I mean, if five years isn’t enough time to have a quick look over what’s wrong, then I don’t know what is. The main glitch/bug or whatever you like to call it was the disappearing weapon act. It’s as simple as it sound, the gun would just disappear, most of the time for just a couple of seconds, but on occasion indefinitely, forcing a restart of the game, which is a pain in the arse. There’s every chance these bugs and glitches will be sorted with a patch, but don’t expect it to release for at least 18 months after it’s announced, or maybe they’ll be able to get them out in a timely manner, who knows. Maybe they just won’t bother patching it, and instead leave it to die. It’d probably be the kindest thing to do…

What I think we should bear in mind is that the game has been in development for around 5 years, so that puts it back to around 2007-2008. So the graphics that the developers built for the game may have been prepared back then and would have been fine for the time, not ground breaking, but not as bad as they seem today when we know what can be done with the current consoles on offer.

Sound

This is one of the highlights of the game, yet even then the sound is average at best. Guns, as you can imagine, make a lot of noise. Gearbox have a lot of experience with the sounds that guns make, after all, they did make Borderlands and Borderlands 2 as well as Brothers in Arms and Duke Nukem Forever. Thankfully they’ve used that experience well and have faithfully created some decent sound effects for the weapons on offer.

Unfortunately, the rest isn’t up to that standard. For a start, voice acting is something that has come leaps and bounds over the years, but with Aliens: Colonial Marines we seem to have taken a fall and a tumble backwards a few years. The characters sound stiff and uncomfortable in their roles with your generic “tough soldier” routine and overly macho dialogue. In fairness, the aliens themselves can sound down right creepy, even if they don’t look that scary. The shrieking cries made the hair on the back of my necks stand on end the first time I heard it, and a few times after.

The rest is just your typical sounds, explosions, grenades, footsteps etc none of it feels out of place, but it all feels like it’s been somewhere before. The soundtrack is a definite highlight, with some creepy jingles to walk along to and then the there’s the more in your face insert-action-music-here. Again, there’s nothing particularly bad about it all, just that it’s the resounding sense of being overly familiar.

Re-play Value

If you find yourself wanting to come back to Aliens: Colonial Marines once you’ve finished the story, there’s a few reasons. The leveling up and collectables needed to obtain those Trophies and Achievements, and the multiplayer. You won’t be playing the story multiple times because you find it an engaging and beautiful piece of interactive entertainment, lets put it that way.

The multiplayer is probably the best part of the game, mainly because it only relies on an internet connection and the IQ of your opponents, not the seemingly spastic AI. There’s a few modes to get you going, your typical Team Deathmatch and variations of the tried and tested typical first-person shooter game modes. One nifty feature is the ability to take across the XP and rewards that you’ve earned in the single player and apply them to your online profile (another Borderlands trait.)

Summary

Aliens: Colonial Marines is a tough one to like, but for the right fan in the right mind-set, you may be able to find some joy in the single player offering, whilst the multiplayer will hold your attention much longer, should it gain any sort of following. The five-year wait has been a long one, and those who’ve been waiting patiently all this time, they’re going to be disappointed with the mediocre reward for their patience. If you really must play Aliens: Colonial Marines, I strongly suggest that you wait for the price to come down, because at the end of the day, it’s just not worth the asking price.

Presentation: The main menu’s are simple enough to find your way, and the online area is simple enough with well presented icons and such. 7.0

Graphics: Bland and mucky textures with some pretty horrible glitches, it’s not the nicest thing to look at. 5.5

Sound: The sound effects are average, there’s nothing special to be said. Characters could have sounded better, instead they come across as bored, macho copy and paste soldiers. . 6.0

Gameplay: Not terrible, but not the invigorating experience we so desire from our games these days. It’s a FPS without flair, ultimately making do with being mediocre. 6.5

Lasting Appeal: Trophy and Achievement hunters will find themselves occupied with the challenges and collectables, others will have to make do with the standard multiplayer.. 5

Overall: 6/10 – Nothing special, wait a couple of weeks and get it cheaper.

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About Chris

Hi! I'm Chris. It's not the name I would have given myself at birth, but it'll do... Playing games is my favourite pastime, whether it be on a console, a handheld, a phone or some simple snakes and ladders, I just love playing games!