Video Game Review: Aliens Colonial Marines (PC)

Aliens Colonial Marines is a very troubled game and has been since its development started almost 7 years ago when SEGA announced it. Many developers have taken a swing at the title but it was seemingly never going to come out and would probably become a vaporware legend on the level of Duke Nukem Forever. Then in late 2011, Gearbox Software the developers of Borderlands and Brothers in Arms took the up the responsibility of finally finishing the game.

For over a year we were bombarded with all sorts of cool gameplay videos and trailers that showed a game that could be genuinely fantastic despite its shaky past. However the drama surrounding the title is far from over. On launch day an ex employee of Gearbox stated that they did not develop the game at all besides its multiplayer and that the campaign was given to Timegate studios. Then Eurogamer did a comparison video between the PAX demo and the final game and it has been revealed that the demo was made solely for presentation purposes and from personal experience it does NOT happen ever in the game.

The demo also show cased vastly superior gameplay, atmosphere, graphics, animations you name it. Eurogamer also broke the news that Gearbox had been sitting on the game for years now and used the funding coming from 20th Century Fox to finance their own Borderlands series instead on ACM. The title has since been completely blasted by most of the major gaming news sites. But is it really deserving of such low scores? Let’s find out.

Before the review actually beings I just want to say Il be introducing a new review system in which there are 3 scores: pass, rent and buy. I’ve found numbered scores very limiting in the past so I hope this new score system fares a bit better and lets me give a broader verdict on the games that I review.

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One of the main selling points of the game was that it would be a true sequel to Aliens and that it would show what happened after Ripley escaped the infested planet of LV-426 after a 40 megaton explosion consumed it. We play as Winters; a colonial marine sent to investigate just what happened on the planet and is soon thrown into a grave situation where he must desperately fight a near endless horde of murderous Xenomorphs.

If the plot seems a bit shallow then it’s because it pretty much is. You go through a bunch of corridor FPS levels; kill Xenos and occasionally human mercs until you fight the worst final boss battle I’ve experienced since Darth Vader in Force Unleashed 2. Also if you’re not an Aliens fan, you won’t understand what the ever loving fuck is going on. You wont know what the Sulacho is, what Weyland-Yutani is and why are they fighting you. It does an exceptionally piss poor job of explaining anything and I had to read through pages and pages of the Aliens wiki just to get a basic grasp of the plot.

Your squad mates are about as one dimensional as a generic anime character. Nearly all of that have this gun hoo, UUUUUURRRAAAHHHH macho marine bullcrap going on that you’ve seen in a billion other works of fiction. They lack any personality and some of their reactions are just laughably absurd. Sure you do get to visit iconic places like Hadley’s Hope but those are just there for fan service and people who aren’t (like myself) wont honestly give a damn.

This really caught me by surprise as Gearbox made the exceptionally well written storylines of the Brothers in Arms games, so why have they suddenly devolved into horrible fan fic writers?!

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On a gameplay level ACM is just an average FPS in every sense of the word. You’ll fight hordes of Xenomorphs that all look the same and for the most part are the same, and occasionally engage in a gun fight with some human enemies. Despite all my problems with Dead Space 3, I can say without a doubt it did the three way war between humans and murderous alien creatures fairly well. Here you’ll have Xeno levels and human merc levels, which doesn’t make a lick of sense considering the fact that Xenos have literally infested the whole damn place so where are they when you fight the mercs?

A gargantuan issue with the game is that its painfully un engaging, I had to force myself to finish it as there is nothing compelling in the game what so ever to make you keep playing it for extended periods of time. The A.I. is truly horrendous, Xenomorphs will just charge at you head first without ever trying to flank you and they are generally a sad excuse for what’s supposedly the most dangerous species in the universe.

Co-op is included but it feels tacked on. The levels themselves are clearly not designed for it. The games difficulty does not scale to the number of players participating and it just makes a fairly easy campaign even easier and duller than it already is.

The multiplayer on the other hand is quite enjoyable for the most part but it is severely limited. It plays like Left 4 Dead in the sense that you can play as marines vs. Xenos in most of the game modes. The marines are your standard FPS power houses with ranged weapons while Xenos are stealthy and can climb on all surfaces. You have to overcome the respective weakness off both by working together with your team and it was quite enjoyable but also rather flawed.

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Some of the maps are just plain broken, the wide open ones are clearly better for marines as Xenos have almost no place to hide and need to traverse open fields which just makes them easy prey for the marines. The closed off maps have way too many spaces for Xenos to hide in and it makes it impossible for the marines to do anything. The controls are also very bad for Xenos; this is a result of their god awful animations. Your character model will literally warp all over the goddamn place and it’s very disorienting.

There are only 4 modes and 9 maps which means you can go through all the multiplayer content in a matter of a few hours. Since the game as a whole feels very un engaging too play there’s only the unlock system too keep people coming back. Its your standard CoD4 style unlock system in where you gain XP, level up and unlock new attachments for your weapons. A huge plus was that it actually tracks your campaign progress and if you do campaign specific challenges you gain XP that will translate into multiplayer.

Graphics and sound are god awful. The game looks like something from the PS2 era, none of the atmosphere, dynamic lighting and incredible graphical quality that you see in the demos is here in the actual game. Character models are poorly textured and blocky looking, there are frequent clipping issues with enemies literally falling through the floor and you walking through NPCs. Guns also sound very week, there’s no real pleasure in using them and the shotguns particularly bad in that respect.

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You would think that the PC version would look a lot better than its console brethren. Well not really, there are only a few basic options like resolutions, V-Sync, shadows, world detail and an FOV slider but that’s about it. There is no DirectX10 or 11 support and even fully cracked up to the highest settings, it looks virtually the same.

Aliens Colonial Marines is a very disappointing entry in this franchise much like Prometheus. An entry that had huge potential and all the freedom in the world to do what ever but ended up being completely destroyed by the creators who made it. I really cannot express my disgust of Gearbox now as they have clearly become no better than the bastards who released the WarZ mere months earlier. Shame on you Gearbox and shame on you Randy for screwing us all over.


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