Review – Aliens: Colonial Marines
Start to finish, Aliens: Colonial Marines (ACM) is a half-baked effort that fails to respect the license it trades on and never comes close to being worth the $60 it’ll cost you. SPOILER WARNING – this review will cover a plot point that’s important, but ridiculous.
While it seems almost comically easy to make a decent Aliens game, Gearbox fails on every front with ACM. The alien xenomorphs are well rendered but poorly animated, and their artificial intelligence (AI) frequently breaks down and results in enemies that flat-out ignore the player, even when being shot.
Instead of the lithe and quick aliens seen in the movies, ACM is inhabited by twitchy beasts that rarely seem aware of the environment, much less the player. Even allies frequently have pathing issues through the terrain, perhaps partly to blame for the design decision to have them continually teleporting in front of the player when they get left behind, instead of running to catch up.
The game, first put into development in 2006, looks far more like an early-generation release than a late-gen one. Visual issues range from poor lighting and shadows to muddy textures and terrible clipping problems, where characters will pass right through enemies, walls, or other characters. It’s particularly amusing to walk around during the short in-game sequences meant to advance the plot, casually strolling through the bodies of other characters like they’re not even there.
Even the plot falls flat, returning a dead character to the land of the living with the wave of a hand. Hicks, seen crushed to death in his cryopod at the start of Aliens 3, is brought back to life with no explanation for any of the inconsistencies this brings but a quick “That’s a longer story.” It’s the same sort of ‘look, don’t worry about it’ counter they use for earlier questions about why a ship last seen orbiting a different planet has appeared over LV-426.
In addition, the Alien franchise has long featured a strong female character, Ripley, who cleaned up the messes caused by the stereotypical ‘tough space marine’ characters around her. Not so this time, with Ripley out of the action and Bella proving a poor replacement.
Finally, the game’s real villain isn’t introduced, and then unceremoniously killed, until the final cutscene of the game, leaving the player with reams of unanswered questions and no real moment of resolution to the five-and-a-half odd hours the campaign lasts.
There’s multiplayer to help extend the experience, but even at its best, the competitive game doesn’t come close to making up for the rest of the package. Playing as or against the aliens has been done better in other games, ones that are available far cheaper now as well.