Aliens fans have been waiting on a game that taps into the strengths of the movies for as long as I can personally remember. There have been a laundry list of failed attempts at truly capturing the essence of the intense science fiction space horror films. None have really done the movies justice. Most recently, Aliens vs. Predator from Rebellion did a lot of things right, and still managed to disappoint. Now, Gearbox Software(Borderlands), SEGA and 20th Century Fox have teamed up for Aliens: Colonial Marines. This is a game that has been billed as the Aliens game that fans have been waiting to play. It’s a shooter set in the actual timeline of the popular movie from 1986, well actually it’s a direct sequel to these events. You assume the role of a colonial marine in this first person shooting title, whose mission is to board the alien infested ship to look for the party of survivors from the movie.
In the first hour of Aliens: Colonial Marines you’ll notice alot of things. You’ll notice that Gearbox has paid extra close attention to a lot of the small details from the movies. Weapons, grenades, and items seem to be plucked straight from the origin content. The sounds of the weapons, the sights of the ships, the enemies and allies all have a distinct feeling of authenticity. And while this is all pleasing to the fans looking for this type of service to the popular movie franchise, it also doesn’t take long to recognize that Aliens: Colonial Marines is an uninspired shooter that is wholly content with being average in just about every way imaginable.
Authenticity - If there’s one thing that Gearbox and Sega got right with Colonial Marines, it’s in the authenticity with regards to the weapons, characters, and world of the game. As a direct seuqel to the movie, many of the scenarios you find yourself in feel like they’ve been plucked straight from it. The weapons are spot on in their designs, and the sounds of them are equally well done. Some of the levels in the game let you explore areas that the movies just left to your imagination, and that’s definitely a cool thing. Kevin Riepl’s score of the game also adds a movie quality tone to many of the game’s missions, and stays faithful to the source material as well. Aliens fans will definitely be pleased with how close Gearbox got with this adaptation on the licensing end.
Plenty of customization options - Aliens Colonial Marines is a three tiered game. You can play the campaign by yourself, in cooperative mode, and there’s a bunch of versus multiplayer content to explore once you’re done. Your ranking is persistent across all of the game’s modes. By leveling up, you can outfit your marine with a number of different attachments in the various weapon classes, as well as aesthetic options for your online persona. These “Arsenal Upgrades” allow you to spend points earned in the game’s ranking system, letting you change weapon optics, skins, attatchments, alternative fire options, and other customizations. While these don’t have as big of an impact in the single player story mode of the game, they certainly help out in multiplayer.
If you’re gonna play it you might as well buddy up – The single player campaign is pretty weak in Aliens Colonial Marines, and we’ll detail that below. That said, if you simply must play the story mode, it’s probably best that you do it with friends. As they say, misery loves company. You do have plenty of options in Colonial Marines to play with others. The campaign side of things will allow you to partner up with friends or with random players to trek through the campaign. You’ll be able to play with up to three other players, so the action can get somewhat chaotic in co-op. Co-op will also allow you to bypass some of the frustrating A.I. elements of Colonial Marines, and the inclusion of this option is one that could save the campaign for a lot of people that would otherwise get pretty frustrated with the lack of A.I. support.
Multiplayer saves the day, sorta - I saved multiplayer for last in this segment because that’s how this review went down. I played the game by myself, I then played it with anonymous online co-op partners, and then I dipped my toes into versus multiplayer. I was pretty down on the game after playing it by myself, things got a little better when I played cooperatively, and multiplayer gives this game even more credibility with some additional replay value. Colonial Marines isn’t the first game to do the whole Marines vs. Xenomorphs online thing, but it very well may be the best we’ve seen to date.
There’s a ton of customization in the online component to Colonial Marines. Both factions can be customized before heading out into the online world in both your physical appearance and weapon loadouts. For the Marines, you can select whether you want to be a male or female, as well as make adjustments to the face. These are presets, but there are quite a few of them to choose from. You can also change things like skin color, clothing, armor patterns, and the equipment that your character is wearing. These items are tied directly to unlocks that are earned across the game’s persistent leveling system. The Xenomorphs have a similar set of features that can be altered, though they have three distinct classes in the Lurker, Soldier, and Spitter.
There’s a nice balance between the two factions in the first person shooter gameplay, with each having their own unique abilities in the online modes. A good description of Colonial Marines is a poor man’s Left 4 Dead, minus the cool procedurally generated environments. The Marines come equipped with all of the weaponry from the single player campaign, as well as some nice goodies that can be picked up during play. You’ll have whichever loadouts you’ve chosen, plus any weapons that you can procure during a match. The marines are slower than their Xenomorph adversaries, but are outfitted with better weapons, which when used together as a team, can be quite formidable. Marines can use trackers to see where Aliens are coming from, but it requires using a separate weapon to do so. Xenomorphs on the other hand, are more agile than the Marines. They can scale walls and sneak up on them before they’ve even had a chance to catch a glimpse. While they are somewhat weaker, the Xenos have numerous attacks that are for the most part composed of different melee options. The Xenomorphs are best described as a hunter class, which are best used when picking off straggling marines that may have been separated from their squadmates.
Multiplayer has all of the intensity that the single player doesn’t. It can be fun in small doses, but even with its well orchestrated leveling system and numerous game modes, it’s hard to see this having the legs of other online shooters. While it very well may strike a chord with Aliens fans for its different approach to multiplayer and tense moments, it probably won’t wrangle players away from other popular shooters, as it does get somewhat stale rather quickly.
I didn’t know they still made these types of games - As close to the mark that Gearbox comes at times with Colonial Marines, it has twice as many missteps. This is especially true in the single player and cooperative parts of the game. With Aliens Colonial Marines having been in development for so long, to have such a strong marketing message, you just expect more out of these parts of the game. While the story and authenticity provide a solid base for Colonial Marines, the actual gameplay feels uninspired and relies on the same mechanics throughout its fairly short campaign. Run here, press X, run there, press X, shoot aliens, rinse and repeat. That is until they replace the Xenomorphs with Humans, but even then its the same general formula.
There’s just a general lack of polish in the game overall. This isn’t the impressive package that Gearbox software is capable of putting together like they did in Borderlands 2. Muddied textures can be found throughout, some things just look off or painted on when you take a closer look at it. Enemy animations seem to skip frames at times, with A.I. getting hung up in a buggy sort of way, as it seems to mindlessly transition from the same two cover spots. It makes the game feel like a modern day shooting gallery and the result is combat that is dull, repetitive, and unrewarding. It doesn’t help that targeting is loose when aiming down the sights of a weapon either, its definitely not a fun combination when both the shooting is bad, and the enemies are sporadic.
Short uninspired campaign – There are a few high notes to the campaign in Colonial Marines, but they are few and far between. It’s a largely forgettable experience because of the lack of memorable moments, and missions that seem to blend together because of this lack of variety. Actually blending together and dragging on in a campaign that’s as short as the one found in Colonial Marines is a feat in itself, obviously we expected more in such a short span. There doesn’t seem to be much reason to come back to Colonial Marines after you’ve finished it once, unless you are hell-bent on finding the games secret weapons and dog-tags that are hidden throughout. Perhaps for the hardest of the hardcore Aliens fan, but with so many better more inspired shooters on the market, it’s not likely.
The Verdict: Colonial Marines is ultimately a pretty disappointing game. It shows a ton of promise, and gets the full Aliens motif down to tee. Unfortunately it lets its foot off the gas when it comes to the gameplay, and without that it devolves into just another bland shooter in what is now a sea of games just like it. That said, it probably is the best Aliens video game adaptation to date, but beforewarned, this movie ticket does not come without its pitfalls.