I picked up the buck and reviewed SEGA and Gearbox’s massively controversial flop, Aliens: Colonial Marines. Just to see if it was as bad as people say.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
It’s a difficult balancing act needed to take a much beloved cultural icon and continue it in a new direction. On one side, it means you have a pre-existing universe, characters, aesthetic and tone, which in turn brings with it an eager audience. On the other, lies the possibility of introducing fatal elements into an existing framework that might work against the whole, as well as the conservative fringes who will hold a purist’s grudge.
It should therefore have come as a surprise to no-one that when Aliens: Colonial Marines (A:CM) came out, after nearly seven years since it’s first announcement, that expectations would be high. Doubly so, as the Alien franchise is such a cornerstone of popular culture, which has permeated almost every facet of Science Fiction gaming and further into horror, drama and beyond. So when Gearbox and SEGA said they weren’t just making another Alien game, as there are plenty of those, but instead a direct sequel to the film Aliens; people were expecting something special.
Now we weren’t actually sent a copy of the game and the reason should be self evidnt for that as you read on. But we thought we’d give our thoughts on it anyway. It’s been more or less agreed universally that the entire escapade has been a godawful folly, and with Gearbox, SEGA and the subsiduary companies hired to help finish various aspects off all pointing fingers around at each other, the whole mess is getting out of hand. People are angry, and upset and A:CM is being lambasted as the worst game since ever.
And that’s a shame, because, it actually isn’t all that bad.
Now hold on! Don’t rush off, listen to what I’m saying. It’s not ALL that bad. It’s not a great game, it’s not even a particularly good game. It’s at best an inoffensively mediocre shooter, the enemy AI is bad or just dull, the guns are underpowered, the plot is dreadfully silly, and all the actors, including several stars from the movie (some reprising roles, some as new characters) sound tired, bored and like they just wanted to grab their cheques and leave. Worse still, the closing cinematic sequence of the game is woefully rushed, badly scripted and the motion capture team look like this was all shot a 5.30 on the friday night before a bank holiday weekend. In fact the funniest and cleverest moments in the game are a couple of sly nods to Prometheus. Now that’s fairly damning. Even so, there is a simple and real fun to the experience of footeling around recreations of the locales from Alien and Aliens (yes you get to explore the ship from Alien and see the Space Jockey, (see below)
The design of the levels is shockingly accurate to the movie, in fact, one of the saddest moments while rushing round Hadley’s Hope was the realisation that you could find almost every major location from the movie, medical, operations, the corridor where Hudson is pulled through the floor, the vent Newt leads the survivors to safety through, all there, in fully rendered detail. And made utterly no use of whatsoever. The guns all look and sound JUST like they should, but feel underpowered. Everything comes close then fails to deliver. Even the engine, which has been used for far prettier games like this, seems dull somehow, despite the detail present. It’s not the shambolic return to PS2 era graphics, as some have said but it’s not 2013 quality. Everything feels rushed. Which in a game that was delayed by YEARS shouldn’t ever happen.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a failure, and that failure is so much more keenly felt due to our love of the film it succeeds. It’s not a terrible game, stick it on multiplayer and there is a workable if unimaginative set of staple game-types. The campaign is short, and irritatingly swamped with segments placing marines up against ‘other marines’ rather than fighting off hordes of aggressive Xenomorphs, but it isn’t so bad you’d throw in the towel. There aren’t any game breaking moments of utterly ruined and brokenly unfair gamplay (Looking right at you, under-fire ledge jump in Black Ops 2!)
Should you buy it? Of course not, but the sad fact is that the game has already taken in millions in pre-order sales and week 1 purchases. If you hadn’t bought it, and are desperate to see it regardless of what anyone says, then heed this thought, it’ll be in a bargin bin soon enough, so wait, or buy second hand, or simply rent it over a dull and rainy weekend. Because this is not worth full retail price, it also however, isn’t the worst game ever made, it’s floating just below the line that marks out complete mediocrity.