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Review: Aliens: Colonial Marines Just Flat Out Sucks Xeno Dung

ACM

Gamers, I feel that I have led you astray.  Over the months leading up to the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines I made a valiant effort to promote it based on what I saw and felt at E3 2012.  I honestly thought it played well and looked next-gen during my demo, and every bit of promotional material screamed top-notch development, but alas the finished product is a piece of crap, and it’ll undoubtedly go down as one of the gaming industry’s biggest blunders in 2013; if not this entire generation of games.

With that being said I apologize if you bought this game based on my urgings.  Hopefully this review will atone for those sins, and at least it’ll help prevent further sales of this huge disappointment.  Mind you the attached game screens do not represent the final Xbox 360 build that I played.  These are from the PC version, so they do look better than I make out in the review.  Enjoy!

Aliens: Colonial Marines

EB 4.9 out of 10 Buddhas

(Xbox 360 version used for review purposes)

The Awesome (awesome may be a little too strong)

  • Pulse Rifle and Motion Sensor sound nostalgia
  • Not having to play it again

The Not so Awesome

  • Does everything count?
  • Plethora of graphical and technical issues
  • Robotic AI characters
  • Aliens provide no sense of fear
  • Uninspiring story
  • Linear gameplay

Buy, Rent, or Forget:  Rent only if you’re a super Aliens fanboy

 

Story

The original purpose of Aliens: Colonial Marines (ACM) was to provide a true sequel to the movie Aliens, which would give fans a look at what happens after Ripley and company got their asses kicked on LV-426.  It was supposed to give fans another reason to return to the alien infested planet, and to explore the Hadley’s Hope colony to relive some of the monumental experiences from the film.  I can tell you with regret that Gearbox failed to deliver on their promises.

ACM’s story features a second company of Colonial Marines who get dispatched to LV-426 to check on their buddies who sent out a distress call, due to the events from the film that we are all familiar with.  This is where the game’s tale is centered, so there’s tons of potential for a great story to take place.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t even get close to paying off on the tease of being a true Aliens sequel due to the quagmire of shit Gearbox unforgivably coded into this game.

For a video game narrative to work it has to have a strong plot, an interesting setting, and a believable cast of characters.  In this generation of gaming most developers have been able to invoke strong emotional reactions from gamers due to the level of polish they can employ to help sell the world, and story being told within it.  Gearbox failed to deliver on both fronts in ACM.

R2-D2 has more personality than your teammates and he can only make beeping sounds

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Graphical and technical issues aside, the story of ACM would still be a failure due to the crummy plot, bush league environmental textures, and forgettable AI characters.  Not once did I feel immersed in this game’s world, and most of the time I don’t think the game’s cast felt excited about being in it either.  I haven’t seen video game characters so devoid of emotions and life since the early 2000’s when the technology couldn’t even produce this effect.

Every time one of your AI teammates opens their mouths they say the dumbest sentences.  You would’ve thought an elementary student wrote the script.  In addition to their poor oratory skills they also looked so generic and fake that there’s no chance you’ll ever believe that they could be real people.  Their eyes provide no indication that they’re alive outside of the programming code and graphical assets used to create them.  They can’t even look at you in the face when they talk to you, or the other cast members!

All of these issues compound with each other to provide what I deem to be one of the most uninspired video game story’s in 2013, and for that matter, this entire generation.  It really is a shame, because the source material is so strong, and I think both gamers and fans of the Aliens movie would’ve eaten this game’s tale up if it weren’t so hampered by poor design choices.

Gameplay

Aliens: Colonial Marines is your typical early to mid-2000’s first person shooter.  There’s absolutely zero innovation.  You can play the game’s campaign with up to 3 other friends, or by yourself.  I didn’t get to test out the co-op gameplay, but I’ve read reports that it actually makes the abundant amount of technical issues even worse.

The core of ACM’s gameplay revolves around slogging through various different corridors on spaceships, and eventually on LV-426’s surface.  Along the way you’ll be tasked with shooting both human and Xenomorph enemies, who provide almost no challenge due to their poor AI.  Xenos are supposed to represent fear itself, but outside of one surprise moment I never felt that I was in danger, nor did I experience anything remotely resembling fear.

Don’t expect awesome moments like this along the way

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The firefights you encounter for the most part can just be observed by you passively.  Unless you’re in a section where you’re on your own you can more or less stand back and watch your stupid AI teammates take on the even dumber enemy AI.  On more than a few occasions I could stand right smack dab in the middle of a battle only to find my presence on the battlefield being ignored.  I wouldn’t be attacked even if an enemy was 10 yards in front of me.  This issue mainly occurred with the human enemies, but the Xenos faced similar problems.

Xenos are supposed to be the pinnacle of killing machines, but you would never guess that fact from playing ACM.  Half the time they bounce around so unnaturally that they become more clown-like than alien-like.  I found them running right by me, or coming at me in such a slow pace that I could’ve grabbed lunch before I would get attacked.  Other times they’d instantly spawn out of the environment and not even realize I was standing right next to them.  The Universe’s most fearsome killing machines my ass!

If you like mindlessly trudging through corridors whilst fighting against brain dead AI and opening closed doors, then you’ll love ACM’s brand of gameplay.  I just imagine most of us expect more than that from a game being made in 2013, which also took 6 years to develop.

Graphics

[UPDATE] – Here’s some actual gameplay footage to show off what this game looks like on the Xbox 360.

Oh where to begin.  Aliens: Colonial Marines sports some of the worst visuals I’ve seen since the dawn of this console generation.  It’s as if it were meant to be released way back in the early 2000’s on the Xbox, PS2, or Gamecube.  No, I’m not over exaggerating, OK, maybe a little, but I really want to drive home how poorly executed this game’s visuals are.

To me the most egregious offenses are rooted in the game’s penchant for low-quality environment textures, and the more troublesome issue of screen jitter (the effect that causes lines to be seen on screen during fast motion scenes, simulates a skipping effect).  There’s nothing worse than playing a FPS and having to deal with a frame rate that constantly skips on you.  This effect will grate on you to the point where you just want the game to end.  It further removed me from any sense of being immersed in this game’s world, and it tarnished my experience from beginning to end.

ACM’s graphics did nothing to make me feel like the game world was alive, so when you combine that with the crappy story and robotic AI, you get the perfect recipe for a disastrous gaming experience.  There’s a part of me that feels this game could’ve at least been slightly above average if it weren’t hampered by its poor graphics, so it’s a shame that Gearbox let it out of their care in the condition that it is in  after 6 years of development.  In fact, I don’t even know what the hell they were doing for those 6 years, because they definitely weren’t working on making this game look like a 2013 title.

Sound

Oh yes the sounds of Aliens: Colonial Marines; the one glimmer of brightness contained in this shit filled package.  If you can remember how awesome the pulse rifles sounded in the Aliens movie I’m happy to report that Gearbox at least nailed that effect.  The few moments of joy I experienced in this game were when I first got to fire the pulse rifle and listen to its awesome report, as well as hearing the iconic motion sensor sound that used to spell trouble for Ripley and her friends.

Unfortunately, even these upsides get old after awhile.  Especially the gun sound, which you’ll hear almost constantly due to the fact that your AI partner seems to have an unlimited amount of ammo, and plenty of free time to expend it regardless if he’s attacking enemies or not.

He may not be a talker but O’Neal loves to shoot his gun non-stop

27594ACM_Preview_Online_03

Multiplayer

Like I mentioned earlier ACM does feature a co-op campaign option, but I didn’t get to test it out because my gaming friends are smarter than me, and didn’t pick this game up.  Although, ACM does feature a true team based multiplayer mode.  Surprisingly, the multiplayer piece of ACM is almost tolerable when compared to the campaign.

Each game mode pits two teams of human controlled gamers against each other with one playing the role of Marines, and the other Xenos.  After each match the two sides swap to take control of the opposite faction.  It has a Left 4 Dead feel to it, especially when you’re in control of the Xeno classes.  The game modes feature TDM, a Horde-like mode, an Escape mode, and an objective based mode.  Each one has their own merits, but I’ve found the escape mode to be my favorite.

Multiplayer always pits Marines versus Xenos

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ACM’s multiplayer tries to infuse some COD-like qualities through load out customization and rank ups, but it’s not nearly as robust as the king of FPS multiplayer.  When you compare it to the game’s horrible campaign it seems stellar, but when you take an honest look at it, and compare it to franchises like COD and Halo, it’s plain to see that ACM’s multiplayer is just a temporary diversion from this mess of a video game.  Let’s just say I don’t anticipate too many gamers playing it in a few weeks.

Final Thoughts

I had extremely high hopes for Aliens: Colonial Marines; not only because it’s based on a badass science fiction franchise, but also because it was coming from Gearbox Software.  Mind you this is the same studio that created the fabulous Borderlands franchise, and considering their work on Borderlands 2; it was disturbing to see how poor of an effort they put into ACM.  Everything from the story to the technical aspects of this game are mediocre at best.

The lack of atmosphere, robotic character performances, and piss poor graphics give this game no chance of winning my adoration.  Trust me, I didn’t get involved in ACM to purposely troll it.  It deserves every bit of criticism I’ve laid upon it.  Those of you that love it and think its stellar, I ask that you get your head’s check out.  Unless you’re the biggest Aliens fanboy on the face of this planet I just don’t understand how anyone can say this game is solid with a straight face.

For all of its failures I have to give Aliens: Colonial Marines a disappointing EB 4.9 out of 10 Buddhas, which could be the lowest video game rating I’ve ever doled out.  It’s just plain bad, and a game that will make me forever question future Gearbox titles.  I hope to get a video out for it soon to show just how bad parts of this game are, so stay tuned for more ACM hating in the upcoming days!  You’ve been glad that I jumped on this video game grenade for you…

The reviewer paid for their own copy of this game for review purposes on the Xbox 360 platform.

*I usually include the launch trailer in my reviews, but after playing ACM all of its promo materials should be considered false advertising.

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Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.