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Aliens: Colonial Marines, xbox360 Review

“Its not even worth making a “nuke the site from orbit” joke… just don’t go there.”

The internet is awash with theories around the development of this game, I’ll stick my neck out say “that really doesn’t interest me”. What does interest me is the finished product. People might just wonder at how promising demo levels have vanished and the product appears to have gone backwards in presentation. Well, if this is the product they locked in for launch, then somebody must have been happy with it and they should be held to account.

Delivered as an epilogue to the classic movie of the late eighties, Colonial Marines borrows heavily from familiar surroundings and accessories. Nothing wrong with that, anybody that likes games and Aliens who was around back then would have loved the opportunity to walk these shadowy halls shotgun in hand. There is a pleasure to be had in experiencing some of the classic locations, seeing the attempted details that have been crafted to remind you of the horrors that befell the marines before you. Who could resist walking up to a hole in the floor, tilting the view forward and mumbling ‘acid for blood’? The message here is that some of the developers tried to bring the world to life, sadly they didn’t try hard enough and at this stage of the current generation a lot of the textures, objects and lighting fall way short of the mark.

It really is a hit and miss affair, weapon models look authentic, but the players hands seem to me too big and incorrectly positioned. The game does deliver top notch weapon sounds that do take me back to the movie, and the motion tracker is the most faithful inclusion, but the suspension of disbelief is shattered whenever the action kicks in. The lack of ambient noise from the environment or the aliens and their activities just kills it, stone dead.

Action, it is an Aliens game, you would think the xenomorphs would be scary, suspenseful and unpredictable. They are none of these things, they canter around like badly animated ponies, pre-directed attack routes and obvious spawns just add to the sadness factor. These are not Aliens, these are ducks in a shooting gallery, from a distance the animation is poor, up close they seem to float from one position to another. I can recall an 8-bit computer game of Aliens that actually did a better job. They leap from hiding like toddlers playing hide and seek, and the lack of ambient sounds around their movement or attacks drains any urgency, let them get close and your weapon of choice can cut to an execution style close-up. Really useful if you like being covered in acid. On top of the Aliens, there are Weyland Yutani troops peppered through the story to mix up the combat styles, these encounters only serve to point out the atrocious aiming mechanic and apart from the occasional flanking run, they don’t offer anything clever.

The campaign does offer some experience based unlocks that enable your arsenal of weapons and helps you accessorise them, its okay, but it has been done to death. There is a reasonable online component that offers the choice between Marines and Aliens, game types are pretty much a standard fare. Having had a couple of sessions it is safe to say there is no real pull to go back, one note that makes sense design wise, but feels wrong to play is the third person view when playing as the Aliens. It may help with the bad wall crawling, but puts you at a disadvantage over a Marine peeping down his sights.

Colonial Marines could have been good, actually it should have been better, there are a lot of decent inclusions and nods to fans of the series. However it falls way down on poor gameplay and final presentation, both of which are areas that will not be forgiven by today’s gamer. Not my cup of tea, I’m really sorry to say. It’s hard to fall when our expectations have been high and this is another example where a protracted development term just seems to take the product backwards, and even though there are very odd moments where the franchise seems to be at the party, it all falls apart again soon after.