Aliens: Colonial Marines Review + Drinking Game
After years of waiting, Aliens fans finally get the game they’ve been hopin… ah screw it, it sucks like an alien facehugger sticking its thing in your mouth.
In the ’80s, three movies in particular made a lasting impression on my young mind and formed the basis of everything I consider awesome.
- Die Hard taught me the importance of shoes, the unceasing determination of underdogs, and gave me a greater admiration for lefties.
- Commando taught me that a well-placed one-liner makes any situation that much better, showed the power of explosions and bullets, and instilled in me a fascination for gearing-up montages.
- James Cameron’s Aliens taught me that science fiction is cool, grunts are awesome, and women are strong.
Needless to say, if any of these three were to be released as an AA title for a current-gen console, I would pick it up in a heartbeat.
True story – my first English swear word came about thanks to James Cameron’s Aliens. I was 4 years old in the preschool playground when I yelled out “Get away from her you BITCH!“, in reference to Ellen Ripley’s immortal line, as she donned the powersuit to combat the alien queen. I only realized when I was a bit older that I was probably the only kid in that group who had actually seen the movie, and that’s why they didn’t understand the reference. Fast forward about 26 years, and this game – a successor to the 1986 movie – still has me swearing. Not in a “I’m a badass Colonial Marine, bitch, so you best get the fuck out of my way” way, but more in a “What the fuck did I just spend $60 of hard-earned money on?”, and “How do I get myself out of this chickenshit outfit?“
I’ll try to keep this review as concise as possible, but no promises… In order to keep you entertained, grab a bottle of your favourite alcoholic beverage and take a shot every time I mention an Aliens quote (I made it easy by highlighting them in blue so take a couple retroactive shots already). It’s probably a much cheaper, more entertaining way to enjoy this game. So sit back and relax because “we’re on an express elevator to hell, going down!“
It’s 17 weeks after the events that transpired in Aliens, and a group of Colonial Marines aboard the U.S.S. Sephora are sent to the planet LV426 to respond to a distress call sent out by Cpl. Dwayne Hicks. They find the U.S.S. Sulaco (the ship from Aliens) drifting in space in orbit and upon boarding, are beset by xenomorphs.
You play Cpl. Christopher Winter – he’s pretty much your typical FPS solider-type. The average, silent dudebro you’ve been playing in video games since BJ Blazkowich in Wolfenstein 3D. If anything, he’s pretty much like Hicks in Aliens. He shoots things, yells out military jargon, and opens doors. I think he might be the only person qualified to open 90% of the doors you’ll come across. Rounding out the cast are characters like O’Neal (a mixture of Drake and Hudson from Aliens), Bella (a poor-woman’s version of Vazquez), your commander Cruz (Apone-light, and light-skinned), and some female pilot whose name escapes me (based off of Ferro, known for the quote “We’re in the pipe, five-by-five“). Cruz keeps mentioning that we need to save hundred of marines, but for the life of me, I don’t recall seeing more than six at one time.
Frankly, the rest of the story doesn’t matter because it’s garbage. You go through 9 or 10 levels bouncing about aboard the Sulaco, on the planet’s surface, in the Hadley’s Hope colony, and at the derelict ship seen in Alien and Prometheus. Along they way, there’s a massive *SPOILER* which I don’t mind spoiling here because a) It totally fucks up the Aliens canon and b) You don’t really want to buy this game anyway. Basically, one of the levels has you rescuing a captured marine from the Sulaco, who turns out to be Cpl. Hicks. This is supposedly after his body was found dead in Alien3. WTF.
This game “looks just like how I feel“ after I played it. It looks old, unfocused, unfinished, muddy, and embarrassing.
“This is so nuts. I mean, listen – listen to what you’re saying. It’s paranoid delusion. How – It’s really sad. It’s pathetic.“ – that’s probably what a few of you skeptics who haven’t read the other reviews are thinking, but it’s the truth. Sadly, Aliens: Colonial Marines suffers heavily because it’s been shelved and delayed and hasn’t been brought up to today’s high-definition standards.
As soon as you start the game and watch the opening cinematic, you start noticing just how low-res everything looks. Character models are stiff and have that plastic toy look about them that many of the more current games have overcome. I honestly felt like I was playing an early Xbox 360 game like Rainbow Six: Vegas or Perfect Dark Zero, which kinda makes sense because those games came out at the time when this game was first being developed.
The textures all around are very poorly made or non-existent, with everything exuding a drab, ugly greyish/greenish/brown sort of ugly. Remember how everyone complained at how drab Gears 1 was? The environments here make that game look like a Skittles commercial. “A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm.“ – and it shows in this godforsaken game, if your idea of farms is cows shitting in fields and pigs rolling in mud.
If there’s one bright spot in this game, it’s probably the sounds, which were pretty much lifted from Aliens. You get the calming blip of the motion tracker, the awesome high-velocity sound of the pulse rifle, and the military drumbeat in the background. But sound effects have never saved a game from being crap, so I won’t dwell on them too much.
“Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bughunt?“ So ok, it looks ugly, but you’re just being harsh because you’re a huge fanboy, right? Graphics aren’t everything, right? Right?! How’s the gameplay?
One word: primitive.
Save for the inclusion of ADS, this game was ripped from 2006. It’s a lazy mess from the get-go. You run around linear levels and Aliens will pop up out of the woodwork. They then simply run up to you, and try to claw you in the face.
“Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?“
The enemy AI is simply terrible, and it doesn’t get any better as you progress through the levels. Oh, you’ll also be facing Weyland-Yutani troopers in this game, but their AI is just as bad. They’ll simply hide behind boxes, pop out and shoot. Sometimes they’ll run out in the open and stand there, or get stuck on a box while you kill them.
To reinforce the fact that this feels like an old game, there’s no hit detection for individual body parts. You shoot enemies until they die, and sometimes you’ll score a headshot that’ll pop their heads off, but that’s about it. Death animations seem to be the same, and their corpses will just collapse in an ugly heap on the ground before vanishing several seconds after.
I mentioned the plastic look of the characters, but I neglected to mention the enormous clipping problems that you’ll also encounter. You can pretty much pass through any of the NPC’s. The developers probably made it this way so they wouldn’t have to tweak the AI to script them from moving away from doors when you need to pass through. Lazy.
Speaking of NPC’s, they’re pretty much invincible in this game. Oftentimes when I was low on health, I would just sit back while enemies continued to attack my teammates without any repercussions. There’s no sense of danger or urgency, and they’ll never be knocked down and in peril.
The first few levels are your basic corridor slog through boring-ass environments. Eventually, you’ll make your way down to the planet’s surface, where things really get interesting. And by interesting, I mean utterly stupid.
The most perplexing level in the game has your character waking up in the sewers, weaponless and without your armor or equipment, as you’re forced to sneak your way past blind aliens… who like to explode. WTF. I’m sure you’ve seen the animated .gifs of Aliens walking around like they’re sneaking around like a cartoon villain. What, you didn’t? Well, here, have a look and take a shot while your’e at it!
Funny enough, this level also provided the only tense moments in this game, which really speaks volumes about how bad it is. Throughout your 6 hour playthrough, you’ll also encounter a bull-type alien that you pretty much just shoot in the ass, a large alien you just have to run away from and eventually fight with a powerloader (not as cool as it sounds), and the worst boss fight I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering. Honestly, the final boss fight consists of you flipping switches around a room while avoiding the alien queen. It’s a fitting end to this awful game.
“I wanna introduce you to a personal friend of mine. This is an M41A pulse rifle. Ten millimeter with over-and-under thirty millimeter pump action grenade launcher.“
So let’s talk about the weapons… The game gives you a plethora of different options, and your character pretty much carries every weapon on him, although you can only have two active primary weapons and a pistol at any one time. Not that it matters, since for the most part you’ll be content with your pulse rifle and a shotgun.
The Assault and Battle rifles aren’t really upgrades because they’re still weak as shit, and all the shotguns are pretty much the same. There’s no “oomph” to any of the weapons , and shooting at things has never been so unsatisfying. At least with the pulse rifle, you get the sound that you grew up with and loved. There’s also an attachment system for each weapon, but again, no point except for maybe extending your clip size. Why the hell would I need a suppressor when it’s not like it makes any difference in this game? Grenades are another underwhelming feature, with “explosions” that have as much effect as a fart in the wind.
There are some “signature weapons” lying around for you to pick up, like Hicks’ shotgun and Hudson’s pulse rifle, but they’re just more powerful variations of the stuff you already use.
Don’t even get me started on MP. You play as either marines or aliens in a few different modes, and aliens players get to control the xenomorphs via a 3rd person view. I never bothered to try Team Deathmatch because the Aliens are always heavily outgunned and outmatched anyway.
The other modes had promise, like Escape, where a group of four Marines have to make it from one part of a linear map to another, while the aliens try to stop them or Extermination, where Marines have to capture points around a level while the aliens again try to stop them. They’re decent gametypes theoretically, and if you’re very forgiving, can be pretty fun. However, playing as an alien is an exercise in frustration. Trying to climb up walls is annoying as you’ll often get stuck in the level’s geometry, and they’re so underpowered that you’ll die more often than kill someone.
Other reviews will try to sell you on the merits of the multiplayer, but trust me – it’s not worth the cost of the game. Don’t listen to those reviewers, as they likely got their review copies for free and are just trying to stay in Gearbox/Sega’s good graces by giving a decent (but still terrible) review score.
That Infamous Demo
So what about that awesome demo that Gearbox presented that made many of us salivate about the possibilities presented by this game? Well, it turns out that it was totally fabricated. There are a few videos about that, and here’s one of them. It’s definitely worth a watch:
So after this game was launched, there was a lot of controversy that it actually wasn’t Gearbox who developed this game, and a lot of it was outsourced to TimeGate and other developers. At the end of the day, I’ve come away with a new-found distaste for Gearbox after having such high regard for their work (primarily Borderlands 2). It’s actually interesting to see Sega and Gearbox and everyone else involved in this travesty throw each other under the bus. “I don’t know which species is worse. You don’t see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.“
- It sounds like Aliens
- Everything else
The Old Guy in me Says
I’m really sorry for this overly-long write-up – I know you guys have lives to live, but I really needed to vent, so I’m gonna keep this recap short. I paid $60 for this piece of crap, and spent 6.5 hours playing through the awful single player campaign and multiplayer modes. That’s way too much time and effort.
Other reviewers were way too generous on this game, probably because it’s not like they spent their own money on it, and they get paid to review games like this. Take it from me: Stay away from this travesty. Regardless of how big of a fan you are, get the hell away from this game. Even if that small voice inside your head urges you to try it, don’t.
To sum it up, buying Aliens: Colonial Marines is akin to buying the Bluray version of Alien Resurrection, but instead finding out that you got duped into buying a DVD of Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation.
If you’ve made it this far, you should take one more shot, on the house.
A note on our rating scale: We rate things out of five, but don't confuse it with ratings from other publications. We’re not professional reviewers who do this for a living, we don't get sent free copies of games, and we don't have the luxury to play a ton of games during our work hours - we buy/borrow all our games and do this during our off-time, outside of our jobs and families. Our ratings take into account the time and money spent, and are here to help you make an informed decision on whether this game is worthy of your hard-earned cash and limited time.5 – An almost flawless game with good graphics, sound and gameplay. You might even want to replay it many times, despite your busy schedule. A must-buy.
4 – It has some flaws, but it’s still worth a playthrough. Buy it if you like this type of game.
3 – An average game targeted to specific niches. It has its redeeming factors. Buy it on sale or if you fit its target demographic/niche.
2 – The game sucks, but some will get enjoyment out of it. Play it at your own risk.
1 – Broken, ugly game with few redeeming qualities. Probably shouldn’t have been made. Leave this game alone and don’t even look at it.
0 – Worse than garbage. Game companies should pay you for the time you spent playing this trash.