Developer: Gearbox Software (Borderlands)
Platforms: PS3 (version reviewed), Xbox 360, PC, Wii U
Release Date: 12 February (US,UK)
I am a massive fan of the Alien franchise, the first two films in particular. James Cameron’s Aliens has had a huge influence on the world of sci-fi, especially on video games. Games such as Doom, Halo and Gears of War have taken obvious influence from that movie, so how original can a game based on the original source material be? In the hands of Gearbox, it would be easy to assume this game would be certified gold. This couldn’t possibly go wrong. Right?
First off, the story. Oh, the story. Taking place after the events of Alien 3, the game returns to the dreaded LV-426 for a story that is supposedly now official canon. And to that I say this: BULLS***! This has got to be one of the most contrived, lazy and downright awful attempts at making a proper sequel to Aliens that could have been attempted. The whole endeavour comes across as bad fan fiction, squeezing in every possible thing that was so great about the movie in an attempt to please fans, only to come off as pandering bollocks. The characters are flat, the scenario unoriginal, and the story never bothers to explain the most basic of questions. How did the Sulaco end up back over LV-426? (this is a question brought up several times in game, but always quickly shrugged off with a “I don’t know”. Point to writers: if there’s a plot hole, DON’T POINT IT OUT!) How did so many Xenomorphs manage to get on board? This and more plot holes are littered throughout, one of which I can’t bring up because of spoilers. But trust me, this isn’t that interesting a story. You’d be better off watching Alien Resurrection.
But the gameplay is what counts, right? Well, it’s your typical run-and-gun first person shooter. Not much more to it than that. Just go from room to room, blast some Xenos, and repeat for about six to eight hours. No real strategy or thought involved, just hold fire until everything dies. While this can lead to some cathartic fun, by the halfway mark the game runs out of ideas. This wouldn’t be so bad if the game wasn’t so piss easy. I played on hard and breezed through the game with the same amount of struggle I would get from playing any Call of Duty game on easy. This is mainly due to the absolutely retarded AI. The Xenomorphs, supposedly the most lethal killing machine in the galaxy, are dispatched with little effort or fear and their tactics never ranged more than “run up to you and smack repeatedly”. The game also has you fighting Weyland-Yutani soldiers, which just causes the game to lose all originality and just become another military shooter. And after a rather pathetic final boss, the game ends with little fanfare and, worse still, a f***ing cliffhanger. One of the few bright spots of the game is the multiplayer, which can be fun for a while but the severe lack of maps and the balancing issues between Marines and Xenomorphs causes this to become old way too quick.
This game has been in development for six years, and it shows. The graphics are severely outdated, with stiff character animations, muddy textures and some of the worst lip-synching this side of the PSone. The game is also incredibly buggy and unpolished. Among the problems present are: blatant clipping issues, audio drop-outs, poorly disguised load times behind really slow opening doors, people getting stuck on objects, the list goes on. The only good thing I can say about the visuals is that at least the lighting is pretty good. On the audio front, the game’s sound effects are spot on, especially the Pulse Rifle. Nothing is more satisfying than that sound followed by the squelching of alien flesh. The music is also great, both original and the tunes taken from the movie. The voice acting, however, is passable at best. They aren’t exactly given good dialogue to read, but even major players from the movie like Lance Henriksen sound bored out of their minds.
In the end, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a massive disappointment. The story is utter tripe, the gameplay is generic and unchallenging, and the graphics are outdated and unpleasant. After this and Duke Nukem Forever, Gearbox really needs to sort themselves out and put as much effort as they put into these games as they do into their Borderlands games.
FINAL VERDICT: 5/10