Billed as the first true sequel to the smash film “Aliens”, Aliens: Colonial Marines has weathered various delays and large expectations. The game was developed by Gearbox Software and published by Sega, and boasts an impressive level of talent behind its construction.
Players play is Cpl. Christopher Winter who, along with his squadron was dispatched to investigate an S.O.S. sent from the USS Sulaco. Upon arrival things are not as expected. Not only is there no sign of the crew, the ship clearly has been the site of some horrific experimentation. Worse yet, swarms of deadly aliens have infested the ship quickly playing havoc on the rescue party. As if this was not bad enough, we soon learn that there’s conspiracy afoot by the evil Weyland Yutani Corporation and Winter and his fellow Marines are highly expendable in order to preserve their corporate secrets.
Action soon moves to Planet LV 426 and kicks into high gear as players must investigate and survive various locales ranging from derelict spacecraft to the Hadley’s Hope colony. At this point the game truly shines as the attention to detail is amazing. It truly feels like you’re walking in the movie as even the smallest details such as knife scratches on the table have been captured.
Unfortunately the gameplay really suffers despite the very interesting plot for the game. The gameplay is extremely linear as players must battle from objective to objective or perform various tasks. While this is standard fare for most gamers, the fact that they lack any real variation does become tedious after a while. There are also some obligatory stealth modes which in many ways are more annoying than they are challenging. One of the biggest issues I had was with the look of the aliens themselves. Their body movements seem very limited at times. While they did occasionally run on all fours and drop from the ceiling, they tended to take a very stiff pose when they came at you in a very straight on manner.
The character animation, especially during the cut scenes, seemed dated as well, and while entertaining didn’t live up to some of the other graphical moments in the game. The attention to detail is really a shining point for the game especially being able to find iconic weaponry and dog tags from characters from the film as part of many secrets in bonuses in the game. The pulse rifle was the main weapon and it does pack an awesome punch especially with the ability to launch two grenades and an all-fire mode. Unfortunately with the clip of only 40 rounds, you can expend ammunition quickly and get caught up in no man’s land during a reload. Many times I opted to use the shotgun in tight situations where rapid shooting and reloading was an option, especially when I could fire after loading only one shell when taking down an enemy.
As the game progressed, flamethrowers, rocket launchers, and other innovative weaponry was brought into play. I especially enjoyed one earlier level where I was able to take advantage of the smart gun which tracks enemies and basically requires you to do nothing more than pull the trigger.There were plenty of armor and health power ups along the way, and the game does allow you to set the difficulty level that is best suited for your style of play.
At the end of the day, the attention to detail and interesting storyline almost was enough to overlook the linear gameplay and character animations but I kept thinking about how good the game could have been. The multiplayer mode is solid as there are co-op for modes which allow up to four players to work as one squad. There are also various modes such as team death match, escape, survival, and other modes which will allow players to enjoy themselves as either Marine or Alien.
Players will be able to select from weapon class or species of alien. I found playing as the alien to be a real challenge. Getting used to being able to scale walls, and having to rely on stealth and savagery isn’t as easy. Jumping into a squad of Marines all equipped with assault rifles with only your teeth and claws definitely takes some adjustment, especially when playing in a third person perspective. Playing a Marine on the other hand is more familiar ground, especially when playing in first person. Having no limit to the arsenal and having the ability to use the points that they acquire in game to purchase power ups for their weaponry is always a plus. But playing as the alien allows you some unique power ups such as becoming a new breed of alien that is quite difficult to bring down.
In the end, the in-game menu shows a section for downloadable content. I would definitely be interested in seeing what the future may hold as despite the issues there were some very fun moments in the game. I think some reviews have been rather unfair with the game as they’re rating it on what it is not rather than what it is. If you look past the wall of expectations and accept the final product as a standard shooter then you may not be so disappointed and will find yourself enjoying it. The sound of the game and the artistic design of the game are solid and, as I mentioned earlier, you truly do feel as if you are part of the film. The voice work in music in the game really helps set the atmosphere and it was really nice to hear some of the iconic score from the film series in game. I did find much of it to dark, as even with the flash light, I was wandering in the dark far to often for my taste.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a great idea that fails to live up to its potential. It could have been the signature and defining game for the franchise but instead falls short of expectations like so many others to date. It is ironic that Alien vs. Predator 2 is still viewed as the high point of the series despite the best efforts of so many developers since.
3.5 out of 5
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