Aliens: Colonial Marines is both disappointing in how bad it was and infuriating when compared to what it was supposed to be.
When Gearbox unveiled a demo of this game at E3 in 2011 there was a lot of buzz. Not just because this was an Aliens game that showed promise, but because it looked really good. What was released two years later not only didn’t live up to that promise, but it was a completely different game.
First there is the Artificial Intelligence, which developers promised would be sophisticated. It is practically non existent in the final version. There is no real strategy or any inkling of predatory instinct in the way the aliens, dubbed Xenomorphs in the game, attack you. At it’s best the Xenomorphs run right into the line of fire. At it’s worst they will simply spaz out and not even attack you at all.
Even the human enemies in this game show blatant disregard for human life. The Weyland Yutani soldiers you fight are supposed to be paramilitary soldiers, yet some simply stand out in the open and fire at you. It’s a mystery why some take cover and why others don’t. Even the ones that do take cover are stupid. There were a couple of instances when I walked into a room only to see an enemy take cover and never shoot at me.
Then there is the environmental detail, which is the game’s greatest misgiving. The level of detail and lighting effects look dated, not only when it is compared to games that come out recently, but also when compared with the demo shown at E3. Games are not supposed to look worse two years later.
There are other technical hiccups that really make Colonial Marines look like a budget game. When playing four-player Co-op online there is the arbitrary teleporting. It’s supposed to be triggered when one player gets too far ahead, but it’ll often happen when three other players are right in front of you. Enemies also spawned arbitrarily. There were several instances I would clear out a room, then a few seconds later, find myself surrounded by three or four enemies that blinked into existence.
The narrative in this game, which has some rich source material to draw from, is generic at best and really fails to capture what made the Aliens movies great. There is definite fan service, but it feels more like they are checking off boxes, instead of really trying to pay homage to the movies. There is no sense of isolation or fear while playing through the game. It’s akin to one of those scary carnival rides at the local fair, that only serves to make you laugh.
Multiplayer in Colonial Marines was decent, but like many other parts it feels unpolished. There are only nine multiplayer maps and not all of them are available in all game modes. Each mode follows the same format. It’s Colonial Marines versus Xenomorphs with players alternating between them, but there isn’t enough variety to make it interesting.
Both sides are upgradable, based on the amount of experience gathered through gameplay, but marines almost always have an advantage. Just one run through on Campaign mode will get you enough experience to upgrade the guns in your arsenal, but Xenomorphs don’t have that advantage.
The only way to upgrade the Xenomorphs is playing versus mode. It’s a painstaking process to upgrade when you are constantly going up against marines with fully upgraded weapons. Often, matches are heavily tilted toward marines.
The bottom line is that Colonial Marines was mismanaged into oblivion. It’s the only way to explain why a game with such a protracted development cycle (six years), could have been so awful.
For a while, it was unclear exactly who made this game, with employees from Gearbox and co-developer TimeGate sniping at each other through anonymous quotes on Reddit. Each tried to pass the buck as far as who was responsible for the flawed campaign mode in Colonial Marines.
Ultimately, the issue TimeGate Executive Robert Swiak settled the issue by saying both companies share responsibility for Colonial Marines. In the end it’s Gearbox that was disingenuous in marketing this game and they will be the ones that face a credibility issue when it comes to showing future titles.
To really catch a glimpse about how dysfunctional this game is, just take a look at the Gearbox message boards. The latest complaints are from Xbox 360 users who are seeing their save data wiped due to a bug.
If you experienced problems during your game play, leave a comment below.