As a child I fell in love with the films Alien and Aliens. It is a franchise that I have also enjoyed in other forms of media, from comics to video games. When I first saw footage and screen shots of Aliens: Colonial Marines, I was excited. I waited from delay to delay to delay for this seemingly cool looking game. But when the game finally arrived, I discovered that Aliens: Colonial Marines is the worst piece of media in the the entire Alien franchise. Yes, it so bad that I would rather watch the film Alien: Resurrection than play this embarrassing game. Why?
Where to start? Ah yes, the gameplay. Well let’s put it quite simply: the gameplay in Aliens: Colonial Marines is broken. One reason for this is that the game has useless mechanics. For example, you are given an aiming mechanic, which is common to many shooters. However, you never need to use it as firing from the hip is overly effective. Another mechanic is a scanner which they make a big deal of very early on in the game, but hardly ever gets used. Oh, and I forgot to mention that you can jump in the game too. The jump button was only needed once or twice. So that begs the question, why were these implemented in the first place?
As useless as these mechanics are, the Xenomorphs themselves are just as pathetic. If you are familiar with the films, these creatures are primal, animalistic creatures with superior hunting abilities. They can crawl on ceilings, hide in ventilation shafts, and use the shadows to blend in. What we get in Aliens: Colonial Marines however are pale shadows of these creaturs. These imposters are a bunch of suicidal idiots that have some sort of masochistic fetish for getting shot to death. That is all they do. They run into your gunfire over and over again. And to make matters even worse, their acid blood is not dangerous in the least. If it gets on your character, some steam comes out and it barely causes any damage. By the way, what I just described is pretty much the majority of the game. Go through corridors, shoot Xenomorphs, and move on with your life.
Though to be fair, there are a few sequences in Aliens: Colonial Marines where the game attempts to mix things up. For example, the Power Loaders which can be seen in the film Aliens are playable. It should get you excited, except that these sequences are disappointing. In fact, the Power Loaders are harder to maneuver than the Warthogs in the Halo series. It just feels overly heavy and unresponsive.
Now the regular controls themselves are solid for the most part. They are responsive and smooth. However, switching weapons is like a chore. For example, changing from the machine gun to the shotgun is odd. You press the weapons menu button and a dpad menu pops up showing your different guns. Then you press the corresponding button for that weapon. Sounds simple enough, but the problem is that it does not respond. It takes multiple button presses to equip the weapon you want.
Speaking of weapons, Aliens: Colonial Marines has a level up system where you can upgrade them. This system improves weapon damage and ammo. However, like many other mechanics, it serves no purpose in the game. Xenomorphs drop quickly without any of the weapon upgrades. Improved sights (laser and holographic) for your gun are also available to replace the default iron sights. But as I mentioned earlier, you never need to use aiming whatsoever, so it renders the new sights useless.
Finally the level design is just a plain insult. The majority of the game is made up of endless corridors and hallways. Go through corridors, see some Xenomorphs, shoot them, wash, rinse and repeat. This is basically the whole structure of the game. There is the occasional big room or stairwell, but these areas are often empty and add nothing.
Your voice is next to me, but you are actually across the room!
As horrendous as the gameplay is, the presentation of Aliens: Colonial Marines is only slightly better. Why? Because it features very good voice acting that is perhaps the game’s only strength. With actors Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen returning from the film Aliens, they head up a very solid and competent voice cast. Unfortunately their voice talents are wasted on a story that suffers from shoddy presentation.
While the story is interesting, the poor presentation detracts from it. Character models are overly stiff, the character’s faces lack emotion and the blurry graphics distract. Yes, there are attempts to add characterization, such as a moment where a female marine is speaking to you, and a character states that he had a purely sexual relationship with her. But the character’s face seemed to be painted on and was expressionless. It was akin to an early PS1 game. So because of that, I ended up not caring.
The frame rate in Aliens: Colonial Marines is awful. It runs at 60 frames per second, which normally would be perfect, but this game just moves too fast and actually made me physically ill. I felt nauseated after playing this game for prolonged periods of time.
The atmosphere is also a victim of shoddy design. For example, the lighting is overly dark, even at a high contrast. This isn’t helped by the overly dark environments and minimal lighting. To also add insult to injury (or to break a broken bone further), the sound presentation is also a mess. For example, I was in a room filled with that stuff Xenomorphs stick people to the wall with and I heard a marine’s voice crying for help right next to me. Literally, it was loud and clear as if someone was standing near me and talking to me. I ended up wasting five minutes looking for him on one side of the room only to discover that he was all the way on the other side. In another area the sound of glass cracking came from far away even though it was happening right in front of me.
And then of course there is the screen tearing. Usually it does not bother me and in other games I find it to be a minor nuisance at worst. Well this cannot be said about Aliens: Colonial Marines. The screen tearing happens constantly and distorts even while simply moving around in quiet areas without any enemies.
As if that was not bad enough, the character models seem to suffer from some form of muscle disease. The models are just as stiff in gameplay as they are in story scenes and the way they are animated is also choppy. While moving around, the Xenomorphs seem to be missing entire animations, kind of like watching a movie on a scratched DVD. For example, a Xenomorph might be running and then it will be crawling on the ground with no animation to show the transition. And to be honest, this is the most entertainment I got from the game, as I was literally in tears laughing about it.
Multiplayer… more like mediocreplayer
Alien: Colonial Marines, like any other first person shooter, comes with the obligatory multiplayer mode. However, it is not much better than the single player campaign as it also suffers from way too many flaws.
First and foremost, the game offers four modes: Team Deathmatch, Extermination, Escape and Survivor. In each mode one team plays as Marines and the other as Xenomorphs. Team Deathmatch is comparable to most other first person shooters. Extermination is a goal oriented game where the aliens defend eggs and the marines try to destroy them. In Escape, the marines must move from one point to another while the Xenomorphs try to stop them. And finally, in Survivor, the marines try to survive numerous waves of Xenomorph attacks.
While some of these modes sound like good ideas, there are severe balance issues that prevent them from being executed properly.
First of all there are the Xenomorphs themselves, which are much weaker than the Marines, and are easily killed by a few shots. Sure, they can climb the walls and (being player controlled) are smarter than the AI, but the control for the Xenomorphs is clunky, causing them to sometimes move in the wrong direction. They feel somewhat like controlling a tank. They also have to get up close to kill their enemies, but since Marines have higher fortitude and are armed with guns, you rarely see the Xenomorphs’ team win a game.
Another detractor from multiplayer is the lack of maps. With four modes of play, you would think that there would be at least four maps. Somehow, Aliens: Colonial Marines only has two multiplayer maps included with the retail version of the game. That’s it. In order to get more maps, you will have to buy them via DLC. For me though, no thank you.
And finally there is a cooperative mode for the campaign, which is essentially the same convoluted mess that the single player game is. The only difference is you suffer alongside friends instead of in solitude. In this mode, when you get taken down, your friends can revive you. This feature is also found in the multiplayer versus modes. It also makes this already redundant game easier. There seems to be no increase in enemy AI, attacks or fortitude. It does not even seem as though more enemies are added, even with the increase in players. The cooperative mode seems to be there with no real purpose.
In Space No One Can Hear You Sigh
To be honest, Aliens: Colonial Marines was a complete and utter disappointment. It has minor and major problems that cause the experience to be nearly unplayable. It’s mind boggling that this game was delayed several times, but still feels like it was rushed out. There is no polish, the level design is awful and the game practically ignores mechanics outright. It is also apparent that the multiplayer was rushed, and feels incomplete. I cannot recommend this to gamers or even fans of the Aliens franchise. Instead of playing this, do what I will do: Find your copy of Aliens, pop it into your player, and sit down and watch it. Remind yourself of why you love this franchise (and try to forget that this game even exists).
Anthony played through three quarters of Aliens: Colonial Marines. Due to the game making him physically ill, he was unable to finish it (even after a dose of Dramamine). Anthony also played two hours of multiplayer and an hour of the cooperative mode.