Aliens: Colonial Marines is an Action-Shooter developed by Gearbox Games – the studio that brought us Brothers in Arms, Borderlands and Borderlands 2. It seems like the perfect combination for greatness, a studio with a good reputation for high quality production, talented writing and then the tremendous lore potential of the Aliens franchise.
We’re in control of a Marine named Winters, tasked with finding out what happened to another Marine team sent to investigate a distress signal, evolving into a basic survive against aliens and angry mercenaries romp set against a variety of confusingly recognisable backdrops such as Hadley’s Hope.
That is about as in depth as the storyline gets – there is very little to flesh it out and we meet the main villain in the final cutscene of the game, which felt like it was setting itself up neatly for another sequel, lovely. For a great deal of the game I found myself asking “Why?”, but ploughed onwards through basic tasks to survive and escape a grand total of three or four types of aliens and a fairly unexplained human mercenary soldier type, all the time assuming that once we were off the planet there would be some sort of explanation and the story would kick off. Instead of the story progressing, at a grand total of around six hours of gameplay after a mediocre boss fight in which you get to push a grand total of 5 levers, it ended. It veers away from any of the movie canon and leaves you at the credit screen with plenty of questions and absolutely no answers.
Hey though, not every game is about the storyline. I like a good action filled horror romp and I could forgive the complete lack of believable writing or semblance of a plot if I could have a lot fun along the way and I’m pretty easy to please. Sadly, no.
The allied NPC and enemy AI’s are both glitchy and flawed. At one point in one of the many long tunnel-battles, the human mercenaries ran towards me with intent to kill, my squad mates likewise ran towards them, armed to the teeth. Instead of an epic gunfight, both allied and enemy AI ran straight through each other – and kept running! Hello? Guys? What’s going on! At another moment I had to search the entire map for the final enemy in order to activate a lift that refused to move until the level was clear – I found the guy just standing in a corner staring at a wall. I shot him in the back of the head, put him out of his misery and couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy. His suffering was over.
Your allied AI team will magically appear through walls and out of floors or just zip in front of you in a puff of blue light and sometimes they will just wander around in circles or stand there for minutes, staring blankly. The blank stare is in fact the only facial expression that these character models have for the entire game so you get used to it after a while. O’Neal, my invincible testosterone fuelled buddy throughout the entire campaign has a habit of telling me to be quiet and then running ahead shooting his submachine gun at absolutely nothing whilst yelling out generic meaningless encouragement at the top of his voice. At one point in the gameplay I’m told to crouch to avoid being spotted and the game crouches automatically for me every time he yells at me. I’m not even trusted enough to hit the C button at my own discretion. Enemies seem to be deaf – not that it would matter, because he can’t take damage anyway and the game treats me as if I’m as stupid as the AI.
It’s really hard to keep any level of tension, horror, action or immersion when half your team seems to have teleportation skills, the guy you’re supposed to be saving is standing in front of an enemy turret taking thousands of rounds of damage whilst waiting for you, and the enemy has managed to get themselves stuck on a corner of the wall.
Gunplay is generic, boring and easy. There’s a decent selection of weaponry, but ammo is available in a multitude previously unheard of so even on the higher difficulty levels you can afford to spray and pray. I did die several times, but only because the explosive sticky gun was bugged and for some reason kept bouncing off allies and exploding in my face. There’s an upgrade system based off you gaining ranks earned through levelling up – the problem is, there are very few things you can upgrade and I ended the game with 5 points to spare. It’s basically a linear upgrade system that gives only the farcical image of choice and customisation – in reality everyone is buying the same. It might as well be auto assigned.
I felt like I was playing an alpha. It seemed like cut scenes weren’t finalised, that animations were left unrendered, that some ancient low res textures had been left on environment, especially lava, fire and smoke, that the AI hadn’t been tested and even the soundtrack seemed disconnected to the scenes, with the music jumping around oddly at times. I’m pretty sure the track to the shower scene from Psycho was playing during one particularly safe moment. Ultimately I can’t help but wonder why this title was released as it is. This is a studio that knows how to write, develop, polish and package and has proven to us that they can deliver. This is an AAA title with an appropriate budget and price tag – gamers deserve better than this.
I will say one positive thing; I laughed a lot during this game. Well, it was either laugh or cry, look on the bright side eh? This title was originally announced seven years ago by Sega and plays like a seven year old shooter at best. The icing on the cake was steam reminding me that for another £20 I could purchase the season pass for the DLCs that will be released. Wow. Thank you, but no.