The fact that I was such a huge fan of the film series that the game was sourced from, and the fact that Gearbox was tasked with the development, game gave me high hopes for this one. Unfortunately the authentic looking and sounding Xenomorphs, the unique weapons and the fond memories could only take me so far. The nostalgia didn’t last and soon enough I became copiously aware that I was just playing through a sub-standard shooter.
Developer: Gearbox Software
For fans of: Action, horror, shooters, 80’s Aliens films
Reviewed on: Playstation 3
Also available on: Xbox 360, PC, Wii U
If we had to give it a numerical score: 5.5/10
What I loved
- Control mechanics
- 80’s Aliens films nostalgia
- Authentic sounding and looking Xenomorphs
- Weapon progressive system
Not so much
- Shallow storyline
- Uninspiring gameplay
Sound and Visuals
Aesthetically Aliens: Colonial Marines is almost inexcusably poor. I expect a much higher standard this far into the generation. From the presentation to the animations, the overall quality of the visuals is very ‘low budget’ looking. At first I thought it was to keep with the authentic 80’s films’ theme, but in one of the opening scenes, you need to cut down a soldier trapped amongst the alien membrane sort of thing that covers the ship’s walls. The entire wall with the soldier pinned amongst looked so 2D, so far from anything realistic that I kept walking past him. The graphics lack texture, detailing and are overall very bland. This was especially evident for me coming off playing DmC and Dead Space 3 which are both an audio-visual delight. The cut-scenes did elevate the quality somewhat, but I was never too impressed.
What I did like was the authentic look of the in-game HUD, the HUD on marines’ visors and the look of the handheld motion detector. The Aliens series was futuristic, but a future envisioned in the eighties. So the HUD and other gadgets’ visuals are all authentic-looking as they were in the films. The screens are monochrome looking and the text looks like a small step up from a calculator – authentic to the tee.
The weapons’ sound-effects were the highlight for me with the aesthetics. The sound of the pulse-rifle was like music to my ears and so I am pretty sure I used up three times the amount of ammo that I needed to, just to listen to that pulse-rifle. The scoring was as drab and old-fashioned as I would imagine watching the 80’s films would be nowadays. I am not sure if this was too keep with the authenticity of the films the game was based on, but the highs and lows of the scoring were too old-fashioned, not really selling “the moments” as it should have.
The aliens themselves did create an anxious and eerie mood with their disturbing screeching, as did the sound-effects in general. Again, very authentic and completely sold me on what I remember from the 80’s film series. The Xenomorphs’ movements were perfectly replicated – swift and relentless, switching from running around on all fours to standing upright when attacking. The Xenomorphs are the stars in this one, but unfortunately the support cast was below par. The dialogue was totally forgettable, from the marine’s banter to the calling of commands in military style. Again I suspect that it was to represent the source material truly, but after a few hours I needed to remind myself to listen to what was being said as the marines do give you commands on where to go.
I suspect that if I wasn’t an impressionable young lad in the 80’s when the film series was a hit, the game would just look and sound way below par for me. The nostalgia eventually ran thin, and eventually everything just looked and sounded below par, especially this late in the generation.
Gameplay and Features
I never begin the body of my reviews with the sound and visuals. After all this is never a deciding factor for me. I did this time and there’s a good reason for that. Let’s face it; shooters are hardly ever ground-breaking. They vastly rely on the production quality and narrative to lift them. Spec Ops: The Line for example, the psychological narrative set it apart from the mainstream singleplayer shooter experience. With shooters you generally run around shooting stuff, and if it sounds and looks good while you doing it then all the better. We moan when we don’t get Call of Duty quality productions, and then funnily enough we cry ‘clone’ when we do. But other than from generation to generation, we hardly ever get anything defining from the genre. Strong mechanics and solid gun-play do play a big role in separating the good from the bad. Gadgets and the weapon designs also separate them, but shooters generally speaking are driven by a good story and visual and audio flare.
These aspects strongly deter from Aliens: Colonial Marines, getting in the way and pulling the experience down. There’s the solid gunplay and some really great and unique weapons. The source material made for huge potentially, but the game is generally let down by the audio and visual quality. I know for example that the Xenomorphs do camoflouge right into that membrane (stuff) that the ship’s walls are covered with. I also know that the ambiance is generally dark to set the mood, again making it difficult to see your foes. But the shoddy graphics really make life difficult – spotting aliens or the bland looking humans, was to often a chore. This really detracts from the gameplay – a lot of the time I would die just because I couldn’t see what the hell was going on. Turning up the brightness would only wash the screen out. If a game takes place in dark gaming worlds, there needs to be a lot of texture or definition. I would frustratingly need to repeat levels, and I know that is part of the fun, but still, the shoddy graphics didn’t help. A lesser of evils, but still on the negative side was the AI. I bet the co-op mode is the ticket with this one as playing with one or two other AI marines was frustrating at times. Often the AI marines would lag behind, and at first I thought it was because we hadn’t properly cleared the area, but this often turned out to not be the case. The AI often seemed a little clueless on where to go next and weren’t exactly the biggest contributors in dispatching the opposition.
The mechanics are as solid as you would want in a shooter, with the gun-play and looking down the sites portrayed realistically. The weapons were the highlight for me – unique and upgradable. There are four groups; the handgun, assault rifles (some for humans and a pulse rifle for the aliens), there are shotguns and all sorts of explosives. The weapons are selected with the D-pad and as you progress you can either upgrade the weapons by adding gadgets, or unlocking the range of weapons that fit into the primary categories. The progressive system with the weapons was definitely rewarding as was the XP system which works hand in hand with the weapons – you need to gain mini-objectives for XP to unlock the weapons and gadgets.
Uniquely, the XP system from the campaign carries over to the multiplayer modes. So what you gain, you can use in the multiplayer arena. The multiplayer modes allow you to play as either Xenomorphs or Marines in either Team Death Matches, Extermination, Escape or Survivor modes. Team Deathmatch is the usual. Extermination has you wiping out Xenomorph egg clusters as marines in a 5 on 5 match. Escape lets you play either side and you need to either escape from the Xenomorph infested area or stop the marines from doing so. Survivor is basically a Horde mode.
The online code is actually pretty solid, and the small lobbies make for lag-free gaming. The matches are also pretty easy to get into and the fact that the lobbies don’t need to be full makes it easier to get the matches going. You can choose to play in private, friends only or in public lobbies. For something a little different I am sure I will play online from time to time, but I suspect this one won’t exactly be a strong seller, so the longevity of the following remains to be seen.
In all honesty I had to play it. Given the source material I would have always wondered about it. Unfortunately the nostalgia ran thin quickly, leaving me to just go through the motions. I cannot say I totally hated it, but is that ever a good thing – to not “totally hate” something. The few charms weren’t fleshed out enough, and the production quality wasn’t there to drive an otherwise standard shooter. Other than picking it up in a bargain bin or as a rental, I would find it difficult to recommend.
Read about our ratings here.