Horrific in All the Wrong Ways
HIGH The touchdown on LV426 is adequately realized.
LOW Everything else.
WTF They released this colossal pile of dross at full price?
It's a canonical sequel to the films, or so they say.
This would be a little easier to swallow if Aliens: Colonial Marines didn't regularly wipe its bum with the previously-established fiction whilst shoehorning in every reference to the source material that it possibly can.
The plot, such as it is, involves a fresh batch of "spacefaring" troops jetting off to uncover what happened to the first batch of unfortunates sent to LV426 as depicted in the movie Aliens. Will they avoid the dire fate of the first group? Will they? Of course they won't, though it would have been better for all concerned if they had.
The Trainwreck Express wastes no time getting underway on its journey to Bad Time City—Colonial Marines looks absolutely hideous from the get go. Character animations are jerky and lifeless, and textures range from "barely acceptable" to blurry, poorly defined messes. Objects are roughly rendered and suffer from blocky artifacts along their edges. Aliens skulking under catwalks might be more unsettling if their bodies didn't clip through the environments to reveal their positions. While there was an effort to provide decent atmospheric battlegrounds, the implementation is utterly incompetent due to technical deficiencies like these cropping up all over the place.
The gameplay itself would be mind numbingly routine—at best—if enemies had an acceptable level of artificial intelligence. They don't.
The iconic Xenomorphs are ridiculously predictable, often charging straight at their prey from a distance. Worse, any sense of menace the aliens pose is completely nullified by non-player characters (NPCs) routinely getting into drunken bouts of fisticuffs with them before ambling out largely unscathed.
The aliens aren't the only example of bad AI. Enemy mercenaries decide seemingly at random whether to camp behind cover for months on end or to cheerfully run into a hail of bullets in a suicidal attempt to take the player down. It's also possible to be killed from enemies firing through cover from impossible trajectories. In one example, an enemy merc in an area I'd supposedly cleared shoved his head through a solid wall in order to unload into my back. I was squatting in what I'd assumed was a safe position. He sure showed me.
The titular Colonial Marines are another gross misstep. It's nearly impossible to describe just how silly and pointless these weird homunculus automatons are without seeing them in action. During cut-scenes their dead eyes swivel across the landscape with all the intelligence and expression of shop window mannequins. In battle they jerkily hobble across environments, often holding extended gunfights with their opponents at point blank range while still somehow managing to miss every shot until the player gets involved.
The script doesn't cover these bumbling cretins in glory either. When one marine—sorry, one BADASS COLONIAL MARINE—wakes up from Cryosleep with a deceased facehugger tickling her tonsils, her immediate reaction is to completely shrug it off when recounting the event to her companions because... well, because she's monumentally thick. There's no other explanation.
Furthermore, the developers would have gotten more convincing voiceovers from a budget text-to-speech program than from the actors they hired—emotionally resonant performances are nowhere to be seen, and the overall experience would be exponentially improved by getting rid of any idiot with even a single line of dialogue in the game. I'm absolutely serious—any time the game threatens to build an ounce of tension, one of these bastards stumbles in and destroys it with an atrocious performance.
Let's not forget that misery loves company. The game's been designed with co-op in mind, so coal-hearted misanthropics who despise others can invite them into their game to suffer through these countless atrocities together. Then there's the versus modes, where players can slip into the sleek black exoskeletons of the aliens and while away the time getting stuck on bits of terrain or encountering severe camera issues while trying to scale catwalks.
It's not all doom and gloom, though. The Smart Gun's a pretty neat weapon that atomizes everything within range effortlessly. The campaign is also mercifully short at around a four to five hour running length on normal.
...And that's it.
That's all I could come up with for compliments, short of reaching for praise like "probably won't melt your console" or "might not be radioactive." Even the most hardcore Aliens fan alive would find more enjoyment in any other first person shooter on the market, so to reward Gearbox for gleefully pissing into the eyes of said fanbase by purchasing or even playing this game would be a crime against humanity.
This is the part where I should probably reference the movie with a stinging comment about how it's "Game over, man" or how it should be nuked from orbit. I'm not that witty, but I am pretty vulgar—as a result, all I can say is that if Aliens: Colonial Marines had been fished out of a Marine's colon during emergency surgery it wouldn't surprise me in the least.
Ah well. It's still better than Prometheus.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via rental and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately seven hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 times) and two hours of play in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains blood and gore, intense violence and strong language. Sadly, the ESRB does not warn of the harrowing sense of loss of their own precious life experienced by all who play this game.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Environmental effects provide audio clues as to enemy positioning or what passes for tactics in this game. Subtitles are available for anyone who wishes to read what the idiots in this game have to say.