I’m a massive Alien fan.
I grew up on these movies and they are everything I hold dear regarding Sci-Fi horror. As far as I’m concerned, these movies wrote the book on the genre and are responsible for modern horror movie conventions. I own Xenomoph toys, a queen alien diorama, an imported Japanese metal power-loader figurine and have a plushie Facehugger hanging above my bed just to name a few. One year on Halloween, many years ago I dressed up as a chest-burster victim. Suffice to say, I really dig the Alien franchise.
When asked what my favourite of the “quadrilogy” is I will always say Aliens. The first movie is great but Aliens set the bar even higher. I remember as a kid feeling incredibly tense as the marines searched the deserted colony, being disturbed by the chest-burster scene and on the edge of my seat as Ripley desperately searches for Newt as the atmosphere station begins to self-destruct. I know the movie by heart, I must have watched the VHS of it 50 times.
So why an I telling you all this?
Well, I’m trying to give you an idea of how incredibly excited it made me when I first heard the news that they were making a game.
Early images for the then “in-development” Colonial Marines
Not just any game, though, no!Sega and Gearbox were making a legitimate Colonial Marines game for the home consoles set within the movie canon, after the events of Aliens to be exact, set on the same planet just weeks after the movie’s time-frame. To say this blew my mind is an understatement, it was going to be my game of the year when it launched. The years rolled by as I patiently waited, watching trailers and reading developer interviews until it was released in early February 2013.
And then the reviews came pouring in…
I won’t lie, I was disheartened by the negativity surrounding the game, I really thought they had something for us fans. Just to be clear I’m not writing this article on the back of any other reviews or opinions but based purely on my own thoughts and experience whilst playing it.
It’s been a while since its release, the space dust has settled and I’ve decided to get hold of a copy for myself to see what horrors the game truly holds.
The game is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows. However my review is based on the PS3.
Now first of all I decided to play the game without any patches installed. I was curious to play the game that on the disc, to sample the product that SEGA and GearBox felt was good enough to ship. Installing a patch shouldn’t make any difference on the core mechanics of a game.
I’ll split my review into five sections, each earning 1 point to contribute to the final score.
Oh dear, where do I begin?
The game is nothing special to look at, to put it mildly. It suffers from frequent texture pop-in, screen tearing and poor lighting to name a few. I found that the game is in no way up to modern game standards. It looks like a game that would have been released within the first year of PS3/Xbox360, whilst exploring the environments it reminded of the days of playing Half-Life 2 on Orange Box, the lower-res textures made me think that this games visuals aren’t “bad” but just old-looking, outdated.
However in some places textures are incredibly bad quality, others are pixelated.
Some low-quality textures are obvious on character models, which I’ll go into more detail shortly.
Reminds me of Call of Duty on Wii
They lack the polish that modern games, FPSs in particular have today. Environments are bland and poorly lit. Now I know this sounds crazy, me describing a horror game as “poorly lit” but if I literally can’t see what I’m doing then it’s no fun at all. I had to turn the settings brightness up to full just to see where to go. You’re given the option to turn on your flashlight, I had it on constantly but it just wasn’t enough, I found myself fumbling around, especially in the later parts of the game where you have to navigate exceptionally dark caves and ship wreckages.
Character models are poor. They’re not terrible but they certainly aren’t on-par with something like Battlefield 3. The most noticeable problem with the characters and enemies are the animations. Character movements whether it be during combat or quick in-game story expositions are stiff, jerky at times and poorly animated. Enemy animations are worse, the Xenos often glide rather than run at you, take a swipe and then stand still on the spot, just waiting to be shot. Human enemies in the game are just as bad, their death animations are laughable as they simply drop to the ground, no rag-doll physics, just drop.
Between chapters the story is progressed by frankly piss-poor pre-rendered cut scenes. They are incredibly bad quality and look like the FMV sequences you used to get on PS1 games, they break the flow of the game and are just redundant. A cheap way to convey the story.
The presentation is poor from start to finish, lack of dynamic lighting, any type of particle modern effects make the game appear flat and lifeless.
Presentation – 0.5/1
What should an FPS game be good at? Why shooting of course!
Unfortunately Colonial Marines fails at the most simplest FPS mechanics and makes the whole game a chore, if not punishment to play. Firstly the actual shooting is pretty bad.
So we’re playing a game as a marine, so you’ll want to use their iconic pulse rifle weapon most of the time, well good luck with actually hitting anything with it; the weapons, including the main pulse rifle are terrible, you couldn’t hit the board side of a barn with them.
Looking down the sights is pointless, the bullets just spray out all over the place, missing the enemies. The rifles are very tricky to handle when facing Xenos as the aliens dart around, coupled with sluggish analogue controls I found myself using the shotgun primarily as it’s wide spread was the only thing that could hit them with. You’re given a weapons wheel, with a small selection of other firearms to choose from but other than the shotgun they’re all more or less do the same thing, save the flame-thrower which I used once. Grenades aren’t even worth the effort.
As for the human enemies, they are much harder to kill than the actual Xenos. They’re bullet-sponges who will put you down quicker than the aliens will. Head shots literally mean nothing in this game but good luck trying to pull one off as trying to get a bead on anything further than a two metres away is frustratingly difficult. In a Call of Duty game you could easily pick off an enemy hiding behind cover with a carefully placed bullet but not in this game, no. Despite enemies hiding behind the most ridiculous cover such as crates shorter than they when crouching, you’ll still have trouble landing a hit. A feature that is standard in military FPS is the “snap to” (when you look down a gun it locks on to the nearest enemy) is all but absent from the game. I say almost as a certain weapon auto-aims for you but other than that it barely works.
Your AI teammates do their job reasonably well, they will help you in combat but they’re not very smart. They often just stand and take damage, shoot at doors that enemies are behind and get stuck in walls. Yes, it’s safe to say this game is not without it’s glitches.
“Yo, what’s up?”
Shooting aside, mission navigation is a chore. Like any Untied States Colonial Marine, you’ve got access to the iconic motion tracker, which to be brutally honest is a pretty useless device in terms of FPS gameplay. In a certain mission you have to place five proximity sensors, in order to see where you need to place them you have to equip your motion tracker, this brings up waypoints on the screen. I found this very annoying as most, if not all FPS games display the mission waypoints on the screen constantly but to keep having to bring up your tracker is tiresome. It could have easily have just been displayed in the corner of the screen rather than having to be equipped. What waypoints that are displayed don’t help much, I got lost several times, running into dead ends or leading me to doors that are inaccessible.
The gameplay was pretty dull, the game is just a series of “room clearing”, go in, clear enemies, move on. Rinse repeat. There was only one level that I thought was any good.
During a section you are left without any weapons and have to navigate through a sewer of “blind” Xenos who are shambling zombies or their former selves, you have to carefully sneak by them, not making a sound and attracting them.
For me this was probably the only entertaining section the game had to offer, it was very tense and reasonably scary, the chapter was fresh and a welcome break from the shooting.
Gameplay in general was bland, very repetitive, nothing much differed to break up the monotony. Basic shooting mechanics were poor and barely worked, resulting in a very frustrating and boring experience.
Gameplay – 0/1
The story is set 17 weeks after the events of Aliens. You play as a cliche “space marine” a character, which funnily enough is probably where all the stereotypical space marines originated from; this movie.
You and your poorly-developed squad of dull characters are sent in to investigate the Sulaco, the ship that was sent to LV-426 during the second movie and has now “mysteriously” returned. This game is not Dead Space, which is ironic as it drew inspiration from the Alien franchise. Certain events unfold which lead you to the planet surface where things, and I quote “shit the bed”. Colonial Marines barely has any horror, the twists and revelations are incredibly predictable and spoiled almost immediately by the opening voice actor credits.
The opening chapter has the most atmosphere, it’s a tense few minutes of searching the deserted ship but is soon spoilt by broken game mechanics and ridiculous lines of dialogue such as “something’s not right!” Really, what’s “not right” about standing in a room caked in alien gunk and cocooned bodies?
“Please, no tongues…”
I won’t go into all the details but I can sum it up like this –
I’m an Aliens fan and I love the fiction, I even enjoy the expanded universe laid down by all the films and even Prometheus but I felt cheated out of a story with this game. In no way did it deliver. Throughout the whole experience I felt I was passing through a much more interesting story than the one I was playing. The whole story was vague and the only question I really wanted to I know the answer to was passed off as “that’s a long story” The ending was beyond disappointing, the less said about it, the better.
It was good to see what had become of the colony of Hadley’s Hope, still largely intact despite being in the blast radius of a 40 megaton explosion. Most of the windows were still intact. Stupid plot holes aside, a few nods here and there to certain scenes from the movie and even a reference to Prometheus was nice to see but overall the plot was paper-thin and lacked the storytelling us gamers have come to expect.
Story – 0.5
Broken mechanics, poor animations and dull story aside, I found almost no enjoyment to this game. Once I realised how crap the whole experience was all prospects of fun went out the window.
After a few hours I got about half way, I had cleared the Suloco, explored the colony of Hadley’s hope and found myself genuinely bored by what’s supposed to be a game, a form of entertainment. There were a few instances where I found myself in recycled events, defending the same room twice, returning to the same areas to do something only slightly different. Once I got pass the half-way point I just wanted it over and done with. I ran clear through whole sections just to get to the next area as I was so bored by the same combat over and over. Very few enemy variations didn’t help either, barely any tactics or even skill are required to play. To be blunt, by the time the end credits started to roll I really didn’t give a shit anymore.
Other than the first chapter and the “sneaking” sewer chapter, it just feels hollow, there’s no reward for playing, no feeling of accomplishment once you beat a section or even a boss or what comes close to a boss battle in this game.
Enjoyment – 0.5
I wouldn’t ever want to replay this game. I have no interest in going back and finding the collectables, let alone even bother trying to get all the PSN trophies.
I gave the multiplayer a try and it consists of just your standard modes like Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, etc.
You play as either the Marines or Xenos, each can have different load-outs, unlockable by levelling up. The Marines are straightforward soldiers, much more powerful than the Xenos in terms of attack whilst the Xenos are definitely underpowered but rely on stealth to get kills. I played as both and each have different strategies; I found the marines could use brute force and just shoot at whatever comes their way but as a Xeno you have to attack from behind and stay out of sight. I didn’t play online for very long as, like the campaign, had its share of problems but it was a fraction more enjoyable than the story.
Replay Value – 0.5/1
(Campaign – 0, Multiplayer 0.5)
So lets add it all up –
Presentation – 0.5
Gameplay – 0
Story – 0.5
Enjoyment – 0.5
Replay Value – 0.5
My closing comments are as follows; this game is garbage.
GearBox really dropped the ball on this, they had fantastic opportunity to capitalised on a franchise that was in long need of a really good game. We’ve reached a point now, technologically speaking, where we can have decent FPS games that could be truly atmospheric, take Bioshock for instance. Even Dead Space Extraction, an on-rails, “light gun” shooter was scarier than this.
Imagine if Colonial Marines was handled by Dice and EA, created in the Frostbite engine, it could have been epic, instead we got a shell of a game that sold copies based on fan’s high hopes. My advice would be to never play this game, let alone buy it. The sheer audacity to charge £40 on launch day for this is insulting but I wouldn’t even pay £5 for this, hell I wouldn’t even accept this for free. My PSN feels sullied by the presence of the Colonial Marines trophy list. Avoid the pain I had to endure and especially avoid if your a fan of Aliens as it’s just a failed mess that’ll piss you off.
Game over man, game over!