The latest issue of Games TM has started getting shoved through subscribers letterbox, and contained within its pages is a review of Aliens: Colonial Marines, a game that’s been close to 7-years in the making. So was the magazine impressed? Did they herald it as the greatest thing since Cadbury’s Creme Eggs!? Nope, they scored it 4 out of 10, saying: “Fails to capitalise on what the license promises.” Ouch! Please do keep in mind that in the Games TM rating scale a 5/10 is for any game that performs to an adequate standard. Below you’ll find a few excerpts from the review.
“We’ve been waiting far too long to explore the remnants of Hadley’s Hope, to sulk along the haunted passageways of the Sulaco and, of course, the chance to stick it to some Xenos with a powerloader. While Aliens: Colonial Marines lets you do all of these things, it doesn’t let you do them particularly well. What begins as a welcomed and sometimes mesmerizing return to the planet that shaped science fiction quickly settles into a routine of frightening mediocrity.”
Not everything is doom and gloom, though, as the review does sat that there are a few moments when it all comes together and the game works well: “Stalking through the scorched streets of Hadley’s Hope with the throbbing pulse of the motion track for company, it’s wonderfully compelling”
“It’s a shame, because when Colonial Marines pushes you into last stands with your back up against the wall, we get a glimpse of what it could have been. You versus a room of Xenomorphs with nothing but a shotgun and an abundance of ammo can be exhilarating, especially when the Aliens begin to overwhelm your position. It’s twitch gameplay, not at its finest – not by a long shot – but it’s certainly enjoyable nonetheless. Sadly these brief moments serve only to highlight the frightening linearity of the rest of Colonial Marines, because for the majority of play it’s the worst kind of corridor shooter”
However, they describe the Aliens as having no sense of danger about them, that your skin doesn’t crawl when the tracker starts to go off as it should: “At no point are you given a real reason to fear the Aliens: after all, they are pests and you are part of the intergalactic extermination crew.”
They continue on to say that Gearbox has: “patched together a pretty mundane FPS. Any fans of Call of Duty will certainly see the familiarity, but not the polish.” They also say the game is far too willing to funnel you into gauntlet runs, forcing you to get from A to B under a hail of bullets rather than focus on the tension that should be at the heart of the game. Speaking of bullets, you fight a lot of human enemies, who are described as actually being more dangerous than the Aliens because just a few rounds from their guns can kill you. Both Aliens and humans, friend and foe alike, are described as having, “terribly archaic” AI.
The magazine also noted an annoying bug: “we lost count of the amount of times we were killed by an enemy who slipped through the game world into an undiscoverable dimension.”
Weapons are also said to be have been lovingly recreated but lacking any sort of punch when actually firing them.
Games TM did not have any good words for the plot either, saying that it’s nearly impenetrable for those not completely up on the films lore, and even for those that are it’s a tough ride. “The narrative moves at such briskness, you would be excused for not following it. Hanging in between Aliens and Alien 3, Colonial Marines does at times play with expanding the lore in a meaningful way, but skirts over it almost immediately. Even some returning actors voicing their digital compatriots can’t save the train wreck of a narrative, and it certainly doesn’t help immerse you in the world when the lip syncing doesn’t even match up.”
Graphically it’s no winner, either: “As the game slowly drops into LV-426, we didn’t find ourselves in awe of the overbearing planet, but instead found ourselves taken aback by the blandness with which Gearbox has interpreted the world.” The review continues on to say: “Graphically, it’s one of the worst we’ve seen grace consoles in years – it certainly may have been acceptable back in 2006 when the game was conceived, but now it just looks embarrassing.”
Games TM close the review by saying: “Mechanically, the game functions, but the fun of the Aliens universe is quickly drained away by what amounts to a mundane shooting gallery through a drab and lifeless world.”
Harsh words indeed. It’s worth noting that the review doesn’t cover the multiplayer aspect of the game.
EDIT: Since reviews for Colonial Marines started to spring forth, Gearbox have been taking considerable flak from fans. However, most don’t realise that developement of Aliens: Colonial Marines was not done solely by Gearbox. In an interview with IGN, Randy Pitchford said that Demiurge, developers of Shoot Many Robots, had been with them from the start and had helped with multiplayer and networking, as well as the Wii U version of the game. Timesgate Studios, meanwhile, worked about 20 or 25 percent of the total time, with Pitchford noting that if you took pre-production out of the equation they had probably put in as much effort as Gearbox. Finally Nerve Software built the games multiplayer maps. Pitchford explained this multi-studio developement like this: “We know the mission. It’s about building the game. Let’s say you imagine the house you want to build. You have the blueprints, and you want to get someone that’s really awesome at making stairs to help make the stairs. You want to get someone that lays carpet like a mother**ker to come down and lay some carpet. These guys are hardcore. They have talent. If I was going to lay all that carpet myself and build the stairs myself and do all the countertops myself, that house would never get done.”
So, still excited for Aliens: Colonial Marines? I must admit that as the release has drawn nearer the past few months, my interest has dropped with every new trailer and screenshot released, and this review confirms some of my fears.