- Some atmospheric moments
- Ranking up/challenge system is decent
- It has Xenomorphs!
- It has too many Xenomorphs
- Bland, unoriginal level design
- Bugs and graphical issues
- Multiplayer isn’t too well thought out
Aliens: Colonial Marines has found itself at the butt of just about every gaming-related joke since its launch a few weeks ago. After spending an eternity in development, many dismissed it as a rubbish space shooter strewn with more bugs than there were Xenomorphs, and all the lasting appeal of one of the toothy otherworldly beings repeatedly stamping on your face. And to a large extent that’s true, the game is far from brilliant, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it altogether if you’re a fan of the films or generic FPS’. Just don’t go expecting a classic or anywhere close to it.
The story is about as engaging as it is long. Bearing in mind you’re looking at a tale that’s around 4-5 hours in length, I needn’t say much more. It all starts when the Marines are called to a distress signal on the Sulaco, which as you may have gathered is overrun by the Xenomorphs. Because simply talking it out and having a cup of Charlie with them wouldn’t be quite as exciting, you’ll find yourself at arms with them for the short time you’ll be playing. So in summary, the game is all about repelling an Alien threat and saving the world, uncovering conspiracies and saving your colleagues who get in spot of bother along the way. It’s generic as sin, and by next month you’ll have forgotten all about it. I completed it less than a day ago and I’m proud to say that I’ve nearly forgotten the ending already.
With a generic story comes even more generic gameplay. Unfortunately it falls into that awkward category of not being good and not being hilariously bad, which takes away any appeal to want to play it. There are moments when it does things right; dark environments with just you, your guns and your flashlight to save you from a potential onslaught. But for every good moment, along comes a bad one to kick you in the face.
The environments look like they were designed by a race of people who lived in either a) a cave or b) a fancy space laboratory as seeing anything other than these two recycled environments throughout the 11 missions is a rare luxury. That’s before even mentioning that the levels are completely linear, offering only multiple paths in the places where it adds no tactical depth in any way, shape or form. The fact that the PS3 version seems to take two decades to load textures hardly helps matters, and the whole design just feels bland, unmemorable, and extremely brown.
Of course, if the game boasted amazing gunplay then at least a few of the sins would be forgiven. Unfortunately it’s missing basic elements, as you’re limited solely to a couple of different rifles and machine guns, a shotgun and a few pistols. Each of them feels like you’re using an outdated model of Nerf water pistol rather than advanced Marine tech, and the fact that they’d get anything wet let alone harm seems like a miracle. There’s not even a form of sniper rifle, which seems like a really odd omission given some of the environments are fairly open and allow for long range popshots.
The enemies themselves don’t really help either. Admittedly the films don’t exactly feature an immense array of beings, but around 80% of your fodder is the same type of enemy. Lurkers literally plague the game, and it’s a blessing on the occasion when you get something different. As for the A.I, it’s brilliant. If you excuse the fact that enemies often sit in front of you waiting to be shot, your allies’ constant shooting through/running into walls, Xenos and rival soldiers having predictable attack patterns, nobody ever running at you nor deviating from the norm in any way, then yes. It’s brilliant.
Then we’ve got the multiplayer. The odds of anyone sticking around for any length of time on it are so slim because it doesn’t seem to be designed to have any lasting appeal. It’s a simple matter of Aliens versus Marines over four match types, consisting of objective-based modes and your usual Team Deathmatch. While more upgrades can be unlocked as you rank up, with customisable loadouts and whatnot, it essentially all boils down to the same thing. Aliens can track marines through their eyesight, and to win it’s simply a matter of running up behind the opponent and slashing them in numerous ways. Rank up, and you can unlock more ways in which to flail your arms around like you’re doing a psychotic nun’s rendition of the Harlem Shake, or explode on the spot like some overexcited fat kid going nuts in the sweet shop. On the other side, Marines get most kills most simply spanning grenades from the built-in launcher rather than with pinpoint accuarcy, so a game of skill this definitely isn’t.
One thing that I did like is that the ranking up and challenges span both online and offline modes, so you’re not forced to play one or the other should you not want to. Challenges reward you XP bonuses and you have three active at any one time, while ranking up unlocks new weapon attachments, decals and more. To make it universal is a nice touch, and something that I’d definitely like to see adopted more in better games.
As a whole package, it’s hard to recommend Aliens: Colonial Marines to anyone else other than the most die-hard Xenomorph fans, and even then that’s at a stretch. Some enjoyable moments are bogged down by some less than impressive execution, and the game is riddled with little bugs and AI issues which dampen the experience further. Put that together with a forgettable story, boring level design and average gunplay, and you haven’t got a lot left. It’s not quite as bad as having a Facehugger latch onto you, but you’ll find your attention harder to keep in check than the alien threat. Not as terrible as some say, but not a masterpiece either.