A short game deserves a short review, so that’s exactly what Aliens: Colonial Marines is getting. Rushed and slipshod, it’s a little surprising Sega and Gearbox didn’t bite the bullet on this one and just not release it. There are simply too many cooks in this kitchen, and too little care taken with the recipe.
This game will take you perhaps six hours to beat, to lead with the single most damning thing we can say about it. That’s literally one hour for every year Gearbox spent developing this game.
This has the very odor of “contract that must be begrudgingly fulfilled”. Consider that Borderlands came out in 2010, Borderlands 2 just last year, and both games had a full boat of DLC.
It’s blatantly obvious that this game was in development right up until it became clear that Borderlands was going to be a much larger hit that Gearbox had expected, and began devoting resources to that.
It’s a shame, in a way, because there are good ideas here, if unrefined: Being forced to sneak past Xenomorphs and use the environment against them is a great concept in one level, but it fails in the actual execution. The only real work here that’s fully realized is incorporating the game into the Aliens universe: While the blather about this being a sequel is just that, it is fun to come across Bishop chunks in the Sulaco, or visit exactingly imitated locations from the movie.
A large part of the problem is that the enemies you fight at incredibly stupid. Aliens have two modes: “Standing around enjoying a latte” or “Oh, yeah, we should run directly at this guy.” When you inevitably run into the standard space marines, they at least have enough sense to hide, but they’re not much smarter. Sequences featuring franchise standards like the power loader feel forced and pointless, and watching the two main enemy types fight each other is often more entertaining than actually shooting them. That is, if you can watch them at all.
This is an unbelievably ugly game. While playing on PC, we didn’t run into any major graphic glitches, but it was still full of rough textures and graphical sloppiness. Why, precisely, this requires NVidia hardware to run is a mystery: It makes no credible use of it. The voice acting and sound editing are, if possible, even worse. “We’ll wait for you, soldier, but don’t make us wait!”: That’s an actual line of dialogue. And it’s delivered in about the least convincing way possible.
The level design is painfully linear and flat, and in fact the game is so hidebound and dull to play that I literally forgot I could upgrade my weapons. I just assumed there was no upgrade mechanic: Hell, everything else in this game is from 1999, why expect modern mechanics?
Ultimately, this is a failed opportunity. Aliens has been relentlessly mined by video games for material, but done properly, an Aliens game is still a lot of fun. But it’s abundantly clear that this game was rushed out to fulfill a legal obligation, that good ideas and proper design were thrown aside in favor of projects the developer preferred to work on, and in the end, a bad game resulted. This is not worth $60: Aliens fans should give it six months, and pick it up for $20
Aliens: Colonial Marines is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.