A few months ago Sega released “Aliens: Colonial Marines” for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Everyone expected great things from this game, and the previews were promising as well as the demos. The hype shaped this game up to be the definitive “Alien” game. Unfortunately, those hopes proved false. The game has gotten negative reviews by critics and players alike. A Wii U port was canceled as a result of the backlash. Now that the price has gone down, is it worth a purchase?
The campaign is where most of the problems lie. For starters, the game must be played on full brightness or else it is too dark to play. The campaign is a standard first-person shooter where the player just goes straight (with occasional turns) from point A to B while shooting bad guys. The style in going from point A to B is similar to “Halo” or “Call of Duty,” and the great height the player character can jump is similar to how high Master Chief of “Halo” can jump. This is odd since Master Chief is a superhuman while the player in this game is just a human. There are hidden objects in the game for anyone who looks hard enough. The objects include dog tags from fallen marines, audio logs, and legendary weapons used by the heroes of the movie “Aliens.” Finding these objects nets the player experience points.
Like “Call of Duty,” collecting experience points and leveling up gives the player upgrades for the weapons to make them more powerful. Completing challenges also nets the player experience points and completing them can unlock skins and decals for the weapons and the marine’s armor for multiplayer matches. These upgrades are useful, but the weapon can only have a few, so the player is encouraged to mix and match weapon configuration to fit his or her style.
Not all of these upgrades are useful for the campaign, however. There is little strategy to be had in the campaign. The xenomorphs, the titular aliens, just run towards the player and attack. There are no tactics involved in their attack. They do not try to flank, divide and conquer, or even ambush. The xenomorphs just run up at attack. The entire campaign could be played by running and shooting at whatever alien shows up in front of you. They never attack from behind.
The player also fights humans from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, the antagonists of “Aliens.” This may come to some disappointment to those who just wanted to fight the xenomorphs, especially since half of the levels in “Aliens: Colonial Marines” are dedicated to fighting Weyland-Yutani. Unfortunately, the humans are not that smart, either. They just hide and shoot, and sometimes run at the player only for the alert player to gun them down with ease. Basically the best strategy is to take cover and fire when there is an opening. Again, there is little strategy involved.
The best level of the game is by far the level five where the player is stripped of his or her weapons and forced to be stealthy. This is a tense, fear-inducing part of the game and it feels just like what the game should have been. Unfortunately, it is dulled by the xenomorphs waddling around like penguins. It is ridiculous to behold, but that is offset by the fear of being detected. When the xenomorphs approach, they detect the player through sound instead of sight so staying perfectly still is how to make them go away, though it seems odd that they cannot see or even smell. Sadly, this stealth part is short and then it is back to the mindless shooting.
The xenomorphs themselves have little variety. There are the xenomorphs who run and then attack, those who spit acid from a distance, and those who run faster and then attack. Monotony can set in quickly especially with the repetitive stages on the ships. The scenery improves once the game switches settings to the planet and there is more variety in the stages, so the game improves a little after the ship levels.
Speaking of the settings, the graphics feel outdated. The colors befit the setting and the lighting is conducive to the atmosphere, but the graphics do not take advantage of the Xbox 360’s power. The humans seem like CGI puppets and move awkwardly. The running motions are okay, but the characters feet do not always hit the ground. Even when characters die, and that includes the xenomorphs, they can be hovering a couple of feet off of the ground. Other glitches pop up throughout the game and are a much too common. Most of the glitches are graphical and the environments take a long time to render and look cheap. Additionally, the environments are not impressive when fully rendered and in one part of the game, a ship is only half put-together with a lot of empty space.
The sound is passable. It is nothing special but it is not annoying. The music is bombastic but forgettable for the more exciting parts. What is truly annoying is when the game is paused the music keeps going as loud as before. Even when in the Xbox home menu, the music is still playing as loud as in the game. This is extremely irritating as pausing the game should imply that everything is paused, including the music.
The player character is Corporal Christopher T. Winter attached to the USS Sephora to investigate the disappearance of the USS Sulaco and its crew. The crew finds the xenomorphs infesting the ship and fall under attack. In the meantime, mercenaries from Weyland-Yutani attack the Sephora and her crew to cover up their misdeeds. Now, Winter needs to fight for his life against xenomorphs and Weyland-Yutani and save his fellow marines.
This story is sub-par. The characters are completely one-dimensional. There is nothing to them except their basic personalities. As a result, it is hard to connect to them. When one dies, it is hard to feel sad or vengeful because all of the characters are so flat. In addition, the story explains plot points too poorly for proper emotional investment so it feels like random events happen in the game with little explanation. The overarching theme is that no marine is left behind. This is a great theme, but is hammered in so much that it becomes annoying. Happily for “Aliens” fans, this game contains a lot of callbacks to earlier movies which fall flat to people unfamiliar with the movies. There is a lot of “fanservice” for the fans but non-fans are confused and lost. After a while, the player forgets about the story and just focuses on getting through the game.
The final aspect of “Aliens: Colonial Marines” is the multiplayer. There is little to say except that it is fun. It pits xenomorphs against marines in deathmatch and survival modes. For those who enjoy online multiplayer, it is great and challenging. Players can upgrade the xenomorphs in multiplayer and have more variety. The campaign is multiplayer as well, but it is poorly done. The split-screen is surprisingly awkward with neither player having a great view of the area and in multiplayer the game runs slower. The drop-in drop-out co-op is tough for the game to handle. Still, the multiplayer is well done and provides a lot of enjoyment.
Fortunately, the PC scene is working on modifications to improve the game. The purpose of these mods is to improve gameplay and add to the game in terms of game modes, gameplay, stability, and more. This is great for PC gamers, but not console gamers. The mods cannot improve the story, but can improve the gameplay.
Overall, “Aliens: Colonial Marines” is a mixed bag. The campaign is awful gameplay and story-wise with dumb AI, flat characters, and little narrative flow. The multiplayer truly feels like an “Alien” game and brings great challenges. Unfortunately, there is little to attract those who are not already fans of “Alien” and hook them to the other media. The sad thing about this game is that it had so much potential. It could have been better, but that did not happen. Fortunately for the true “Alien” fans, the mods that are coming for PC will provide a rich game experience to reward fans of the movies.