Ah, what could have been. Fans had been waiting for years to play a truly good game based on the Alien movies. At first, Sega and Gearbox looked like they might deliver. Then the game came out. And people played it. And, in a majority of cases, wish they hadn’t. The possibilities were all there. One of the more beloved science-fiction franchises, with a richly detailed universe and some of the best sci-fi/horror movies to draw from. A truly nasty monster in the Xenomorph and all its variations, and a suitable villain in the Weyland-Yutani corporation. The core story, which in itself is decent, to bridge James Cameron’ s Aliens with David Fincher’s Alien 3. Two actors reprising their roles from the films in Michael Biehn (Hicks) and Lance Henrikson (Bishop). So, what went wrong?
First off, I’ll say this review is only on the single player campaign for Aliens: Colonial Marines. I don’t often play multiplayer, but there is that for those who enjoy that sort of thing. At least in multiplayer you can play a Xenomorph. And you can drag a friend along to do the campaign in a co-op mode. But for the mess the solo campaign is, you may not even want to try going online. So, back to the review.
Let me mention what the game does do right. And it does do a few things right. The music is straight from the movies, and provides a suitable backdrop as you traverse the dangerous terrain of LV-426. The sound effects are also stellar, from the pinging of the scanner to the sound of the pulse rifle to the screeches coming from the Xenomorphs, all help to immerse you in the world. The look of the Xenomorphs is also well done, and the game introduces a few new varieties to deal with- a spitting alien, one that charges on all fours like a deranged rhino, and a large brute just a tad smaller than a Queen but just as brutal and deadly. There’s also a bit of fan service here, found in audio logs and in scenes throughout the game. The derelict ship provides the backdrop in later levels, and we do get to see the Space Jockey in his familiar chair. Also the glowing red sensor orbs from Prometheus make an appearance. These touches save the game from being worse than it is, but just barely.
Now for the bad news. Characters clip through the scenery a lot. The facial models, while not the worse, could’ve been much better for a game in this generation. The voice actors do a competent job with the material they’re given, but the lines of dialogue they’re given to say are often pretty bad. Michael Biehn in particular sounds like he slept walked through his whole performance. The guns, while sounding good, are floaty in their handling, rendering the iron sights fairly useless. The amount of ammo spent is inconsistent from enemy to enemy, and the PMC soldiers in particular are bullet sponges. The camera can also be very unhelpful, especially if you’re knocked for a loop. The game is also very dark, even with the brightness turned all the way up. Then there’s the matter that your character has only directional hearing- face away from your allies or an audio log and the sound cuts out, making you miss that stellar dialogue for that bit. The ally AI ranges from mildly helpful to pretty useless, and often disappears behind you, only to teleport to a space in front of you. Plus, they will consistently get in your line of fire, obscuring targets while rarely hitting anything themselves. The enemy AI isn’t much better- they pop in and out of cover with no sense of strategy, and often end up out in the open to be picked off. Xenomorphs will run right through your allies (literally, right through them) and home in on you as if no one else was there. Then there’s the story itself, with its inconsistencies from the films. The explanation for Hicks being in the game is ludicrous, at best. Plus, Hadley’s Hope was destroyed in a nuclear blast, so how is it standing just weeks after the events of the movie Aliens? And where’d the other Queen come from? Plenty of questions are left unanswered, giving the game an unsatisfying conclusion. I suppose Sega and Gearbox were hoping the game would warrant a sequel. It doesn’t.
It’s a shame, really. Had a few tweaks been made here and there, this could have been a very good game, maybe even an excellent one. Instead, it’s a real train wreck, one that will prompt possible controller throwing and definite use of unsavory language. It’s not the worst game out there, but it’s a far cry from doing the license justice. With this game, in space, they will here you scream. And it will be a scream of frustration and disappointment. Rent if you must, purchase only if it ends up dirt cheap.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is available now for the PS3, Xbox 360, and the PC.
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