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Aliens: Colonial Marines Review: It’s game over for Gearbox

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You. Yeah, you! Over there with the pre-order copy in your hands. Turn slowly around, place it back on the shelf and walk away. You’ll thank me later.

Aliens Colonial Marines is finally here and with it a heap of expectation sitting on Gearbox’s shoulders to deliver against a long running franchise. Not since the release of the first Alien game in 1982 has there been a decent nod to the Xenomorph and it looks set to continue that way. Gearbox slapped a review embargo for a reason, and the reason is clear as soon as you install: Aliens Colonial Marines is a derivative, linear and frankly boring FPS.

They’re comin’ outta the goddamn walls, let’s book

Consider the rich history and cues to pull from:

  • A dark, claustrophobic and brooding setting of Hadley’s Hope
  • A bunch of wise-cracking bad-asses with big guns and harsh language
  • A relentless enemy and BIG mamma boss
  • The motion tracker !

Gearbox manages to apply gloss over all these attributes with a game that just doesn’t stick with you for continued playability. I’m a decent gamer, played for over 30 years and I absolutely love the FPS genre. I’m inbetween casual and hardcore so whether that plays a part in your own assessment is up to you but Colonial Marines is average in a bad way. It’s 2013 and no game like this should exist anymore, especially once in the making since 2006 when it was first mooted.

There’s movement all over the place !

Get away from that pre-order you b*tch

Above: Get away from that pre-order you b*tch

The motion tracker for crying out loud. What a gift. It’s one of the most understated plot devices ever to create tension. That’s enough to make a gamer wet their pants sitting in a dark room with a 7.1 system and big TV if executed well. But no. Mine stayed dry. Xenomorph animation and articulation is fairly sub-par which didn’t help and anyone with a love for arbitrarily spraying the room with bullets won’t encounter too much trouble from them so they’re not particularly taxing. It has its moments, don’t get me wrong. When you’re against an entire room full of them with bugger all ammo then it can give you that fleeting glimpse of where Gearbox could have taken this game but it snaps quickly back into mediocrity when your so-called marine buddies display woeful AI. Sorry Gearbox but there really is no excuse today for this level of substandard intelligence. I suppose you could argue that the marine grunt is of average intelligence and not meant to perform great feats of mental agility but frankly standing in my way or to the side and doing nothing when there’s an onslaught of aliens in a tight corridor is a step too far (this isn’t meant to be inflammatory towards armed forces, I’m trying to reason out why the AI is so dumb in Gearbox’s favor but still can’t)

The story itself is a bit of a joke and frankly leads in a way that the player just doesn’t care. It’s a clumsy narrative and a frankly cheap-ploy “find X-fix Y” on-rails mechanics. Again, Gearbox had such a rich history to draw from, even outside of the films there are countless graphic novels and books to get ideas, story and character development but the lack of any intelligence applied to storytelling is damning for me. If Valve had created this game how different things could have turned out….

Drake....we are leaving !

Above: Drake….we are leaving !

And this is just the single player campaign. The multiplayer which should be a complete riot with you and friends (ie marines and xenos) going claw to flamethrower but it’s not. We got tired of it very quickly and don’t expect much fun playing an alien, you’ll die too quickly and too frequently.

The game doesn’t feel that well held together and I’m not sure if this is due to the fact that many hands were involved in its development; Gearbox, Shoot Many Robots, Timesgate Studios and Nerve Software all contributed but it never amounts to a greater sum of the parts developed. Graphically it’s average, nothing really stands out or looks polished. I played this on an Xbox360 but I very much doubt any other platform would improve on the visuals. The sonics are not too bad, gun-fire sounds meaty enough (sub is always turned up though) but when every gun can take down an enemy with a fair amount of ease then there doesn’t feel like there’s any weight behind them.

Game over man, it’s just game over

It’s such a damn shame. This could have been great. Gearbox (and the others) could have done so much more with this but the game and missions feel like a poorly scripted and played out SyFy knock-off with zero budget. I just didn’t care about this game towards the end of my play session. And neither will you.

(If you want a score for the sake of it, then consider this a 5/10. And no I wasn’t supplied with a review copy for free, I paid for mine, which qualifies me to write from the perspective of someone who parted with cash for a sub-optimal experience.)


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