We all know that movie tie-in games aren’t often the blockbusters that their partner films are, but we usually have higher hopes for games that are based on popular series, but not on a specific movie. Aliens: Colonial Marines falls into the latter category and based on that fact, and the fact that we know Gearbox are capable of greatness, we had high hopes that it would be a great game. The prospect of a new, original, story based in such an iconic universe should be exciting. So in theory Colonial Marines should be great but, in practice the effort doesn’t live up to the hype.
Aliens: Colonial Marines follows a group of the same as they throw good money after bad in an attempt to rescue a team of their comrades that have been lost attempting to rescue the crew of the USS Sulaco. In case you weren’t sure where this was going, the trouble the first team of marines ran into was the Xenomorphs. For fans of the series, this all takes place after events of Alien 3 and the story is designed to have a number of references to the movies with a large portion of the game taking place in the ruins of Hadley’s Hope.
The first thing you’ll notice, when you start the game, is that the graphics aren’t quite up the quality we’re used to at this point in the generation. On top of not looking so great, textures are often slow to load and sometimes fail to load at all. Even though a lot of the environments are dimly lit, they lack the type of polish needed to provide any type of atmosphere. When you do encounter Xenomorphs they are either coming straight at you, or attacking you from the side because you walked right by them.
It isn’t simply the art that fails to set the mood in Aliens: Colonial Marines, the enemy AI doesn’t help things either. The Aliens seem to have two modes; they either come straight at you, or make you chase them around until you get tired. I get the feeling that whoever designed the enemy AI thought that having the Xenos sometimes crawl straight toward you on the wall or ceiling, instead of the floor would be enough to keep things interesting. It isn’t.
The human AI isn’t much better, and the marines that will sometimes accompany you seem to have their own agenda entirely. Just when you think they’re leading you toward your objective, they turn around and run past you, back the way you came. If you follow them, they’ll eventually turn around but none of them ever explained to me exactly where they were going. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that later in the game you’ll end up fighting some enemies who aren’t Xenomorphs, but they aren’t any smarter than any of the AI characters we’ve met so far. Some of these enemies will end up standing right next to you, paying you no mind, while others seem to be able to locate you through cover, from hundreds of yards away.
Those that do end up enjoying the 5-6 hour campaign will be rewarded by the global progression system that follows you through single player, co-op and multiplayer allowing you to upgrade your guns and unlock new ones. It isn’t very deep but it is there, and I like when these systems span every mode a game has to offer.
The Aliens: Colonial Marines campaign can be played with up to four players, online. Even if I didn’t enjoy the campaign that much, I feel like this should be mentioned since we’re in an era where developers seem to want to make up any excuse to exclude co-op from their campaign. Sometimes you want to ignore the narrative and just have fun with your friends. Gearbox recognize that.
On top of co-op there are a few versus modes that rehash ones you’ve seen before, but can be a bit of fun. Pitting humans against Xenomorphs sounds like a good idea but the Aliens, with only a handful of variants available, don’t end up being as fun to play as you might think. Survivor mode tasks the Marines with fortifying an area against an attack, and Escape plays off of this format by putting the Marines on the run instead of defending a fixed position. Like I said before, some of these modes do end up being fun, there isn’t much to tear you away from your favorite multiplayer shooter for very long.
Aliens: Colonial Marines represents a lack of effort we don’t expect to see from the folks at Gearbox. From AI, to graphics, to story you’re treated to the bare minimum in every department. It isn’t that any one area of the game is horribly broken, but just about every element feels unfinished. For fans of the series, just looking for a little more Aliens, your time and money is going to be better spent on a movie marathon. Do like Gearbox did, and don’t bother with Aliens: Colonial Marines.