Aliens: Colonial Marines was released on February 12th, no doubt to an eager audience of both SciFi fans and First Person Shooter aficionados alike. Parting with a little over $80 for the Collectors Edition was not only easy to do for this particular reviewer, but also very much worth every last cent.
From the loading screen to the Menu Selection sound effects, this title truly is like going to your local movie theater to sit down and enjoy a couple of hours more in the riveting story that those who are familiar with the Alien saga. There is one important aspect to this, however, that sets it apart from being just another movie in the series. You are, effectively, playing through the events of the story. You are, quite literally, fighting the fear just as the advertisements teased.
Those of us lucky enough to have happened upon the Collector's Edition were treated immediately to certain perks, like the ability to use key characters from the film Aliens, as well as certain legendary-status weapons like the Pulse Rifle Lieutenant Ripley duct taped to a Flamethrower, or Corporal Hicks's Pump Shotgun. Also included in this first run Collector's release is the ability to further customize your very own grunt for the purposes of playing in the Player-vs-Player arenas.
The story line engages the player almost immediately. In fact, within the first few minutes of game play, we are already treated to an explosive decompression while trying to make way to the Sulaco, the troop transport ship prominently featured in the events of the Aliens film and briefly in the beginning of Alien 3. The shock of the game beginning in such an in-your-face fashion sets the tone for how the rest of the game would undoubtedly pan out.
Another key experience, especially for those of us who are super-fans of the series, is in the very environments the chapters take place in. This isn't like Gears of War or Call of Duty, where enemies behave in specific and predictable ways. Xenomorphs, the alien antagonist species that helped give the franchise its cult following, are capable of scaling walls and walking on ceilings. The sheer confusion brought on by not just their method of locomotion, but also by the numbers in which they tend to attack, is enough to breed a sense of genuine fear and near-panic in the player.
The Xenomorphs are also not the only enemies the player must concern themselves with. Just when you think you've gotten used to the wall-crawling and melee combat styles used by the Xenomorphs, the game then allows you to take a break from that kind of action and starts throwing armed mercenaries at you. These soldiers are under the employ of the shady Weyland-Yutani Corporation, who is known through the series as having some very nefarious schemes up their sleeves.
It should also be mentioned that, since this is a direct transition from the films to the gaming arena, you are probably going to die. A lot. However, if you've watched the movies, you expect to die. Often. And in varied, sometimes brutal ways. While the load time between death and respawn can be a bit long, this is really the only downside. Fans of more realistic health and armor damage games like Dark Souls, who are accustomed to falling prey to enemies fairly quickly, should also appreciate the feel of realism this lends to this particular title as well.
Multiplayer does take some getting used to, as this game allows you to take the role of not just the Colonial Marines forces, but also that of three types of Xenomorph who each have their own strengths and weaknesses. When in control of the Xenomorph, the camera switches to an over the shoulder view, allowing the player to have a much deeper sense of control over their character. This is an important aspect to the game, as again, Xenomorphs are capable of traversing highly variable types of terrain and using nearly every aspect of their environment to better help them survive and otherwise ambush or attack their human prey.
If you're going to get a game to help break the Winter slump the industry so often finds itself in, let this be the one to help keep you occupied for a while. Aliens: Colonial Marines is one title that will keep you coming back for more. Even after it's "game over, man!"