“This time it’s poor…”
Video games based on movies aren’t new, however video game sequels to movies are. That’s the strange and sometimes uncomfortable place Aliens: Colonial Marines finds itself in, with the plot callously glossing over Ripley’s sacrifice on Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161 during Alien 3 and instead focusing on the exploits of a marine regiment sent in to explore the U.S.S Sulaco after its doomed mission to rescue Hadley’s Hope on LV426. For fans of the series all that information is important, but if all that just went over your head you’d probably do better to find another multiplayer-centric FPS to lust over.
Gearbox has talked at length about how this is the canonical sequel to Aliens, taking place 19 weeks after the events of the film, but despite boasting the luxury of having this fantastic universe to work with, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a cynical spin-off that offers little in terms of the wider fiction. Instead what you get is a forgettable campaign which simply copy and pastes key moments from the Aliens story with little attempt made to do something new with the source material. Battle with an alien while controlling a power loader? Check. Running away from an alien queen? Check. Cameos from actors from the film? Check and double check.
Proceedings start promisingly enough with two giant marine capital ships battling it out while orbiting LV426 in a manner that reminded us of ancient sea, but as soon as the action shifts to Hadley’s Hope things take a turn for the worse. You’d expect the bulk of Colonial Marines’ campaign to focus on shooting aliens in the face causing their fleshy acidic innards to hit the floor, but you’d be wrong. Instead much of combat actually involves taking on human adversaries in a plot development we won’t ruin here. Varying up the enemy types should result in a more interesting experience, but it doesn’t as the AI is poor and predictable for both species. Humans just spawn in, run to their designated safe spot and shoot away, whereas the aliens rarely do more than just run full pelt towards the player leaving them the simple job of killing them up close. There’s none of the subtlety or the patience that ‘xenos’ should have; they don’t blend into the scenery and wait, instead they act like zombies ready to embrace their demise as soon as you show your unsleek beak. What happened to the “perfect organism” we saw on the big screen?
Once the environments move from claustrophobic corridors to wide open spaces the xenos move with more purpose, making superhuman jumps from ceilings to floor and back again merely taunting the player, but those scenarios come up so rarely that you’ll quickly grow tired of these stand-off moments.
Part of this monotony comes down to the weapons as well. In terms of looks and sounds, Gearbox has done an admirable job of recreating the M41A Pulse Rifle with its signature ‘chugging’ fire sound and under slung grenade launcher, it’s just a shame the weapon is nowhere near as powerful as viewers of Aliens were led to believe. In Colonial Marines the Pulse Rifle feels underpowered and borderline useless at anything other than close range, even when you target enemies via the iron-sight. Whether you’re talking about human or alien foes, enemies usually take a couple of controlled bursts to take out which slows progression and makes combat feel spongey rather than reactive.
Xenomorphs acid blood also seems completely inconsequential. In James Cameron’s film a splash of the green gloop rendered marines incapicated almost instantly, but here it simply wears away at your armour making no damage to your health or most jarringly the environment. Instead you simply pick up some new armour plating or helmet and you’re good to go – this feeling of near invincibility on the lowest and normal difficulty rating completely nullifies the fear of tackling these powerful foes.
The amount of gun options on offer also feels restrictive. There’s two pistols, two shotguns, three rifles and one compact machine-gun weapon – the other more notable varieties like the Smartgun, flamethrower and rocket launcher are restricted to pick-up weapons only with limited ammo whenever you’re blessed enough to wield them during set pieces. I understand if this is a balance issue, but why not give players the entire tool-set from the off to choose from like first person games used to do? Rather than only allowing certain weapon choices when objectives arise or restrict players to carrying three weapons at a time.
This lack of choice is probably to do with the game’s weapon customisation system, which allows players to unlock sights, paint schemes and bolt on new weapon functionality when they accumulate enough XP during the co-op campaign or competitive multiplayer, but this inclusion seems almost unnecessary. The Legendary Weapons are a nice touch, like wielding Hicks’ Shotgun or Hudson’s Pulse Rifle, but even these feel underpowered in comparison with fully kitted out standard weapons.
Even the flamethrower seems tame with again enemies requiring a few seconds of toasting before they actually set fire. The Smartgun is the only exception to this rule, with the auto-targeting weapon making swiss-cheese out of any enemy which wanders into its sights, but the linear 8-hour campaign has only a couple of opportunities to use it.
Tags: Aliens Colonial Marines
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