If there’s one positive thing you can say about Alien: Colonial Marines is that it’s certainly got people talking. Unfortunately for Sega and Gearbox, it’s for all the wrong reasons as Matt Reynolds explains in our review…
Let’s get one important thing out of the way first – The Alien franchise hasn’t been good in a very long time. The first two films are universally acclaimed as classics of the sci-fi genre and rightly so. Alien 3 was far more divisive, undeservedly so as it had plenty of things to like about it. Everything that has come since has diluted the franchise, starting with the ok-but-seriously-flawed Resurrection through to the utter excrement of the Alien Vs Predator movies. On paper the cross-pollination of those two franchises might have seemed amazing but in practice it ruined both beyond saving. Prometheus went someway towards salvaging the series’ reputation, but was an ultimately unnecessary extension of the series’ canon.
Somehow, the consistent watering down of the once proud IP hasn’t dampened fans’ enthusiasm for anything Alien-related. Any announcement of a new game has consumers frothing at the mouth, hoping maybe this time someone will get it right. After all, the franchise is almost single handedly responsible for some of the most well worn, tried and tested science fiction and video game conventions in history. Making a game based on the premise of a marine squad trapped on a derelict colony, facing off against vicious, unrelenting extra-terrestrials should be an absolute piece of cake, surely?
Unfortunately, it transpires that this particular piece of cake tastes suspiciously like dogshit. Review embargo in place? Check. Trapped in development hell for practically the length of the generation? Check. Several development studios working on the project? Check. Randy ‘Duke Nukem Forever is a fantastic game’ Pitchford shouting the game’s merits from the rooftops? Check.
The problems are apparent from the moment the title screen boots up. Severe screen tear is abundant as the marine’s spaceship the Sephora thrusts into view. Screen tear on a title screen? Not a good sign at all. Delve into the game proper and first impressions are absolutely shocking. This game looks like a PS2 shooter; there are no hi-res textures, the screen tears all over the shop and jagged edges abound as far as the eye can see. The character models are an absolute joke, just wait until you see Lance Henriksen’s block-headed likeness – we challenge you not to laugh. Aliens introduced the concept of the shit-kicking oorah-shouting space marine almost 30 years ago, but the dialogue in the opening cutscene is just embarrassing, and a poor imitation of James Cameron’s screenplay.
After boarding the mysteriously re-appeared Sulaco you soon find yourself in a familiar situation; walking alone down slime-infested corridors with your motion tracker beeping. The sound effects are authentic but unfortunately lend no more immersion to the budget experience, a real shame. After a minute or two you stumble upon your buddy encased in Xenomorph goo, strung up against the wall as we’ve seen so many times. After freeing your jagged, block-headed companion you encounter you first fight with the eponymous alien. It attacks you from the shadows then disappears. In what is surely intended as a nail-biting introduction to your relentless nemesis, you stalk the dark corridors using your motion tracker to pinpoint its location. At any moment it could burst from its hiding place and savage you, right? Wrong. Upon turning a corner we stumbled upon the pitiful creature; just sitting in the middle of the floor with its back to us. We slowly crept towards it trying to be as quiet as possible; this is supposed to be the ultimate predator after all. After coming within a foot of its chitinous hide there was still no reaction so we let rip with our pulse rifle. Again, the iconic sound of the weapon was there, but strangely muted. The recoil on the gun is practically non-existent; it fees more like a pea-shooter than an enormous weapon of destruction. The creature jerked around a bit and fell on its side; dead. Brilliant.
Sadly, the game doesn’t really ever get better than this. The AI of your foes has seldom been worse; Aliens charge into your firing line with little thought of self preservation, often becoming stuck on scenery. Either that, or they are content to just sit there in the middle of the floor, waiting for you to eviscerate them. Remember that bit in Aliens where the marines stopped fighting the Aliens and instead found themselves embroiled in firefights with other humans? No, us neither. At least your human enemies have the ability to move around a bit and occasionally get behind cover. Having said that; standard firefights between humans have never been what Aliens is about, and their presence here only reinforces the feeling that you’re playing a poor facsimile of the franchise.
For a game billed as ‘the true sequel to Aliens’ the story is a total non-event. Nothing here adds to the franchise canon in any meaningful way, some things actively contradicting previous story points. The new Xenomorph variants are just stupid and unnecessary, harking back to the action figure spin-offs of the 90s. It doesn’t even have a satisfactory conclusion; one can only assume with a shudder that the available Season Pass is going to provide a paid-for wrapping up of the story. Multiplayer is perfunctory; it does its job but won’t have you throwing away your copies of CoD or Halo just yet.
Ultimately, the worst crime this pitiful excuse for a game commits isn’t that it sullies the good name of the series; as previously established this is a franchise long past its sell-by date. Its most heinous act is providing a cheap, broken experience that is nowhere near what the previews and interviews with Randy Pitchford promised gamers. The comparison videos currently doing the rounds online show everything that you need to know about what this game should have been. Seldom has a product’s finished article deviated so wildly from what was shown to people in the months and years leading up to its release. In any other retail situation a consumer would be well within their rights to ask for a refund on the grounds that the product sold was not as advertised. Game over, man. Game over.
– Matt Reynolds
Have you had the misfortune to play this shatto game? Let us know in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter ( @lowfatgaming ).