As a huge fan of Alien and Aliens, I was eventually going to play Aliens: Colonial Marines. Just because it was flooded with horrible reviews doesn’t mean I’m not going to play it. I mean, it’s a game based on Aliens. How bad could it be, right? I went into it not expecting much, sadly, I didn’t get much. It’s a functional shooter but in no way do I consider it a worthy sequel or spiritual successor or whatever the fuck it was advertised as to Aliens. On the plus side, on the whole, Colonial Marines is better than Alien 3. You know, that movie that slapped all Aliens fans in the face with it’s shit story. Subjective? Yes, but I hate that movie.
First of all the story here is completely forgettable. Aliens is a classic action sci-fi movie with a pretty awesome story, great characters, and fantastic special effects for the time. Aliens: Colonial Marines does not do any of these things well. The voice acting is hit or miss and by the end of the game I couldn’t stand most of the characters. It felt like the voice actors were trying too hard or something. Michael Beihn and Lance Henriksen reprise their roles as Hicks and Bishop respectively but even they can’t make up for the bad writing. In fact, Beihn sounded like he was bored the entire time and was phoning it in. I think he did a better job in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. You play as Corporal Winters, a character who really isn’t developed all that much. You and your squad of unintersting marines are sent in to investigate the Sulaco. Throughout most of the game you’re accompanied by Private O’Neal, a dude who carries a smartgun and is always shouting. You find another fellow marine, Bella, pregnant with a Xenomorph and after listening to her and O’Neal chatter for a couple of hours, you’ll be rooting for that chestburster to kill her. You’re commanded by Captain Cruz and also accompanied by and android named Bishop (a different Bishop than the one seen in the movie). None of the characters are interesting and whoever wrote the dialogue should be fired. I lost interest in the story pretty early on and I just didn’t care about any of the characters. You come across Hicks late in the game but just like the Xenos in this game, he wasn’t represented well. Not only will you be fighting against hordes of Xenos but you’ll be up against human enemies as well. You guessed it, Weyland-Yutani bad guys.
This game definitely looks, feels, and sounds like Aliens, I’ll give it that. The guns sound like they were pulled straight from the movie, the motion tracker makes all the right sounds, the Sulaco looks like it did at the end of Aliens, and the game is peppered with all these nods and references to the movie. When it comes to the music, it’s like I was listening to the film score. Sadly, these are the only good things the game really has going for it and it’s not even original content. Visually, it’s no masterpiece. The character faces are stiff and the animations can look wonky at times, especially when a Xenomorph gets up close and personal to kill you. You can’t tell what’s going on and then you’re dead. In fact, the whole dying sequence is strange. When you die, the camera zooms out, the colors become black and white and all of the character and enemy animations just stop, but environmental effects keep going like weather affects. It’s just strange to see all organic life stop at once because you died. Like the guns, pretty much all of the sound effects are ripped straight from the movie. The Xenos look pretty good and are modeled nicely and watching them crawl and climb around the environment can be pretty cool. They hiss and squeal just like they should but considering I genuinely disliked most of the characters in this game, I was sad to see them kill the Xenos. I was rooting for them. But if that happened, I could never win and that would just be frustrating. The environments are all textured nicely and the lighting is well done. If you saw somebody playing this you would definitely know it was an Aliens game.
The real problem in Aliens: Colonial Marines is the gameplay. Now I never saw any of the pre-release screen shots or videos back in the day so I didn’t know how it was supposed to be but from what I hear, it was much better than what we got. The game is downright generic. The shooting is nothing special, the AI is pretty bad, and it feels as if you’re literally on a bug hunt except the bugs are more annoying than they are menacing or fun to take down. It’s cool to engage the Xenos early on but you’ll soon realize it’s just wave after wave of them and it’s more like a shooting gallery. Watching them explode from a shotgun is cool the first few times but gets old quick. The Xenos usually run right at you no matter how many other marines they have to pass and they look as if they’re trying to give you a hug. They’ll crawl all over structures and walls eventually landing on the ground and coming straight for you. They seem to ignore most of the marines around you and if they get close to you, you can simply press the melee button to push them back. Every now and then one will get in your face, prompting a quick-time event to get it off you but then you just need to take a few shots to kill it. You’re equipped with a flashlight but it sucks so it’s hard to see and many of my deaths were due to getting killed from behind because I couldn’t see them. Pulling out the motion tracker to spot them means you have to put your gun away and the motion tracker is useless. Even if you’re not using it you’ll hear that iconic beep meaning enemies are nearby so you just get ready to shoot. Backing up and waiting for them to come to you is the easiest strategy as you can blast them without a problem. About halfway through the game you start to encounter these new or mutated Xeno types and they’re just horrible. You end up in the sewers surrounded by husks and weird deformed Xenos that just waddle around. It’s tedious because you have to stand perfectly still if they get near you and just wait for them to go away. Eventually you run into ones that spit acid from a distance. They don’t add that much variety and it doesn’t make the game any better.
You’ll also be fighting against some human enemies. They are as generic as they come. Yeah, some have more armor than others but they don’t offer any real challenge. Many iconic weapons can be found in Colonial Marines including the pulse rifle, flamethrower, and smartgun. The smartgun is criminally underused and I only got to use it twice. The automatic weapons and shotguns are the best choices as they can plow through the Xenos without a problem. You can even find and use legendary weapons like Ripley’s pulse rifle or Hicks’ shotgun. There’s a leveling system in place and you can even upgrade your weapons but they do nothing to make the shooting any better. You can upgrade your weapon with better sights, bigger magazines, grenade launchers, skins, and other stuff but none of it makes your weapons feel anymore powerful. You can find dog tags and terminals throughout each chapter for some backstory but after completing the game I highly doubt you would want to replay to find everything. There are two main boss battles in the game and they are horrible and tedious. One has you just bitch-slapping a large Xeno while inside a power loader and the final boss fight isn’t even really a fight but I won’t spoil it here.
I tried to find the good in Aliens: Colonial Marines, I really did. Sadly, the game is a terrible Aliens game and a generic shooter at best. I don’t think it’s as bad as some people make it out to be but I agree that it’s a terrible Aliens game. It’s a functional shooter and that’s all it is. The story is shit, the characters are shit, and the only thing it has going for it is everything that references the classic movie. If you really want to play this game, wait until it’s at least five to ten dollars.