Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

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Like many, I too was a fan of the original Alien films while growing up. The dark and twisted sci-fi horror feeling that the film produced went on to inspire many top hitter titles today such as the Dead Space and Halo franchises. It’s not new to the industry to see a game based on Aliens; after all, we have had over twenty of them since the films first started. After countless letdowns, hearing that the developers behind the highly acclaimed series “Borderlands” would be taking charge of the Aliens project ignited a new flame of hope for fans. Sadly that flame nearly died the moment I started playing.

I’ll start with the multiplayer segment of the title. In multiplayer, there are two teams: The Marines (Humans) and the Xeno’s (The Aliens). As such, they both have their own leveling up system as well as unlocks and every match has two sets of rounds where you play as both. This is a pretty unique and clever way of doing it as each round will tally up the scores. So, say Marines got 40 kills and Xenos got 12, that round goes to Marines. In the next round (swap round), if Marines were to, say, get 50 kills and Xenos got 11, then the Marines (now Xenos) win because their overall score would be higher.

Playing as a Marine, I wasn’t expecting it to feel so bland. All the guns feel “nerfed,” meaning there is barely any recoil or feedback from them whatsoever. Walking feels extremely sluggish in a game that requires fast reactions. It’s not common for someone to randomly spawn with no weapon or clip through the floor for god knows what reason. As mentioned, you earn levels and with each level you get an unlock point. These points can be used unlock new attachments for weapons and support perks. It’s a nice touch, but honestly, the menu’s for the Marines load-outs are so unattractive compared to the simplicity of the Xenos’, it’s an immediate turn off from even bothering with weapon modding.

Could have been a great survival title.

Could have been a great survival title.

This is the first Alien title to actually feature classes and perks for Xenos, which is a great addition. However, it goes without saying that the controls for them are just as bad as the Marines. Climbing up walls, at times, becomes discouraging, even though they opted for third-person view to help cope with motion sickness from past titles. Often times, you’ll find yourself clipping onto other walls, pulling random reverse maneuvers, or even magically popping out in midair and getting stuck in place until you release the climb trigger. The camera is just a mess with it randomly going berserk often. Unlocks for the Xenos are, of course, better than the ones offered for Marines. One of the pluses found in the multiplayer: The Xenos’ unlocks range from changing their types of strikes all the way down to the type of fatality kill that they can perform. While at the start of a multiplayer campaign one would find that using the Xeno soldier was better, after progressing through and unlocking multiple unlocks, other classes like the Spitter become more ideal with its ability to stun spit followed by an almost immediate heavy death strike. The perk system on the Xenos side allows more robust combos to be performed, which is something that I found extremely enjoyable. There are also two special classes on each map (one at a time) for the Xenos. The Boiler is a fast paced Xeno whose only purpose is to die and take out as many Marines as possible. Upon combat, the Boiler will explode and spew acid on nearby enemies. The Crusher is literally a moving tank. It has an extremely high health capacity and a few attacks that are normally one hit kills. I can’t say that there is much to be enjoyed with the Xeno’s though, considering the problematic controls.

I want to get this out of my head with people complaining about Marines being overpowered or Xenos being overpowered: They aren’t at all. This review is coming off very negatively towards the game because most of it is negative. However, I did say that the flame was nearly extinguished in the intro of the review, meaning that there was something that kept me playing. The reason why Xenos or Marines feel over powered is because most people out there rush in alone to take on groups of enemies or enemies who already know your location. Playing this game alone is a disaster, but playing with friends who are also fans of the film and know exactly how to play is where the joy of the multiplayer comes from. If you’re playing as Xenos, always stick together and attack to weaken an enemy. Don’t just rush in alone and get torn to shreds by bullets. On the Marines side, you always want to stick together and go defense while going offense only against single opponents. It’s a great feeling when it’s all done right, which is probably the main reason why I’m still playing. With that in mind, there is still some hope for Gearbox to patch the crap out of this game. 

Game Modes

The match-making in the game definitely needs work. Finding other players can be a hit and miss, either because the game sold so poorly or it’s just that bad. When in the lobby, the game has a chance to actually freeze up if you attempt to edit load-outs or even leave the game. It’s not really “frozen” like most games since you can still see the dynamic background moving, but all action buttons are rendered irresponsive. Anyway, here’s a brief explanation of the available game modes.

Team-death match

This is your multiplayer norm. No need for much of an explanation. Two teams fight for the most kills.

Extermination

In this mode, Marines work their way to nest beacons so that they may be captured. The job of the Xenos is to stop the Marines at all costs from destroying the eggs. There are two points at a time, and once one is captured, another one appears.

Survivor

This mode and Escape are pretty much the same. In Survivor, it’s the goal of the Marines to survive until the timer runs out, and the Xenos have to hunt each Marine down. Unlike in TDM, Marines are equipped from the start with an auto-turret and a full set of body armor, making it difficult for the Xenos to kill them. The main strategy here is if there are hoards of enemies, weaken them. If one Marine is red and the rest are still yellow, never ever go after him unless you’re in a pack that’ll kill him before the Marines can revive him, otherwise it would be pointless.

Escape

Exactly like Survivor, except Marines are given objectives rather than a timer limit. On the top of the score, you’ll be able to see the Marines progress through a level. The objectives include finding ammo stashes, opening doors, and defending points. This mode requires absolute teamwork because every time a Marine reaches a checkpoint, their health is replenished, making it more difficult for the Xenos to win.

Co-op

Like Borderlands 1 and 2, ACM features a campaign that can be played with up to three other players (4 player co-op). One would expect this to be the top feature of the title, considering Gearbox’s previous experience. That is, sadly, completely not the case. Saying that it’s utter trash would be going lightly. The story, which was meant to clear up those pesky Alien 3 questions, left a lot more to be desired. A buddy and I finished the whole campaign on Ultimate Badass (hardest difficulty) in less than 7 hours. To give a brief experience, here’s an image of me chasing the Queen Xeno, though she was gone on my partners screen.

Ugh, what is this, I don't even.

Ugh. What is this? I don’t even… 

This pretty much sums up my whole experience for the campaign: Buggy. Absolutely buggy. Xenos drop frame-rates, there are screen tears all over the place, and the friendly firing does not help in a game that is not meant for co-op. It’s known that Aliens throw players into tight little spaces, but we we’re just a group of two and multiple times, we shot each other down. It’s hard to imagine what this would be like with 4-players battling it out for what little space is available. And when there is enough space to walk, such as outside, the space feels wasted with a lack of any objects, hidden items or special Easter eggs. It sounds like a strange complaint, but it’s so open at times that you would expect more than just a few random crates sitting around. And remember when games had loading screens? Well, ACM only has it when you select levels, but they might as well just say the game is loading when you’re opening doors. We’ll sit there and wait for nearly 30 seconds or more at a time when we encounter sealed doors. It’s a terrible annoyance, along with clipped Xenos, random teleporting even though we’ve had further distance from each other before, and just an overall badly written script.

Bishop: Le plot twist sucks, it can't possibly get any worse..

Bishop: Le plot twist sucks, it can’t possibly get any worse…

Story-wise, the plot “twist” is an absolute insult to all Alien fans out there. Nonetheless, it’s recommended not to play alone as you’ll most likely suffer from aneurysm due to the crap plot. Oh, and don’t be afraid to play on Ultimate Badass mode, because it’s 7 hours, tops, and extremely easy.

Easily the best and only part they got right in campaign.

The only good thing about the co-op is the legendary weapon placed in each level. Collecting dog tags is also fun since you’re seeing some classic movie marines’ name, but the audio logs add absolutely nothing to the story more than what we already know.

I wasn’t expecting the graphics to be a huge reason to buy Colonial Marines, but my god, they are absolutely terrible. Playing ACM in 2013 sends us back in time to the early 2005-2006 titles that released on Xbox 360 and the PS3. I’ll admit the lighting is pretty good, which was a crucial part of the films. However, often times, you’ll be struck with screen tears, unfinished textures or slow loading ones, or other graphical issues. There was one part in the campaign (Raven) where you sneak through the sewers without a gun. It was probably the best part of the game seeing that it truly felt like something from an Aliens movie with its dark atmosphere and flickering lights. However, for most of the parts in Co-op, you’re facing very linear level design. As for the multiplayer, the maps themselves aren’t that bad, if it weren’t for the broken controls and bugs. For both Xenos and Marines, there are varieties of locations on each map that can be used as defensive outpost or paths for stealth attacks. Xenos can crawl through ventilation shafts for quick shortcuts to confuse the Marines, but for the most part, you’ll be battling with bad texture pop-ins and horrible lighting drop-ins and -outs instead.

Environment could have looked better weren't for some muddy and overused textures. The character models though are extremely lifeless.

Environment could have looked better if it weren’t for some muddy and overused textures. The character models are extremely lifeless.

One thing I do like about the visuals, though, are the characters’ appearances. I like that we can edit what type of gear is present on our Marines, but with the Xenos, it’s pretty cool to see the different skins and head models in the appearance menu. They are so highly detailed that it makes me wonder why the whole game couldn’t match it. There is a disappointment of no 3rd-person view – just the frontal portions. The sound is spot on, however, as they perfectly mimic the same sounds from the movies. The pulse rifle sounds like the pulse rifle, the motion tracker pings when an Xeno is near, and the screams of the Xenos sound great.

1 / 5

From a studio that won our Game of The Year Award (MPE2012), we expected much more from Gearbox. It’s such a shame that we won’t be getting the Aliens title we longed for. In a year where both the PS3 and Xbox 360 are nearing their deaths, one has to wonder why Gearbox bothered with releasing Colonial Marines in its current state. This is perhaps one of the most unpolished pieces of Xenomorph turd I have ever played, right up there with Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens Resurrection. If, for some reason, you still want to get this game, wait until it goes into the bargain bin, which shouldn’t be too long. Or, buy it on PC considering that the mod community will most likely end up fixing it. I don’t know if I would rather be dipped in a pool of Acid or be flown out to LV-426. This is a title that I can only recommend to the extremely hardcore Aliens fan; though, prepare to be deeply disappointed. The promises that Gearbox has told their fans but failed to deliver on is unforgiving. General consumers, stay away.

This review was based on the PlayStation 3 version of the Aliens: Colonial Marines, patch: version 1.02, copy courtesy of SEGA. 

If you guys really want to know why I’m truly upset, watch this video by VideoGamerTV.

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