After a substantial delay Aliens: Colonial Marines is finally coming to consoles and PC, but not all at once. The highly anticipated version for the Wii-U was pushed to the end of the month. Developed by Gearbox and published by Sega, this game sets out to set the record straight by trying to revive the franchise.
Let’s face it, even Ridley Scott, the guy who created the first Alien movie, had a rough time jumping back into the franchise with Prometheus. Since Alien 3 the franchise has limped along, usually at an embarrassing rate. Despite Joss Whedon’s script for Alien Resurrection and the fan favorite comic books, Aliens VS Predator, which got poorly adapted to screen, the die hard fans still have longed for a proper treatment to the franchise.
In 2010 Rebellion released Aliens VS Predator on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was a modest effort, but was a game with three separate campaigns; Aliens, Predators, and Marines, and they were all short with no depth. The saving grace was the multiplayer.
Now helmed by Gearbox, the story picks up from about seventeen weeks after the events in Alien 3. The game starts with a video SOS sent by Hicks, the last remaining of the marines sent in to investigate the sudden loss of communication on planet LV-426. In the movie, the marines get wiped out and Ripley blows up the entire facility.
You play Winters, one of the marines sent in to respond to Hicks’ SOS. The Sulaco, Hicks and Ripley’s ship was last tracked over Fury 161 when there was a fire and Ripley and crew were evacuated during hyper sleep. The Sulaco has now mysterious returned to LV-426 and as the marines you are sent in to the Sulaco to get some answers. Needless to say, the marines are in way over their heads and it all goes to hell very quickly.When the smoke finally clears, you’re on the surface of LV-426 and left to deal with the mess from Ripley’s explosion of the atmosphere processor.
Without giving away any spoilers, the story had some big hurdles to clear after the trilogy was sealed air tight. One of them involves the return of a character, and when asked how they’re still alive, the character decides to skip “the long story” and just say they’re obviously alive. Or why is there breathable air on a planet where the atmosphere processor has been destroyed? Or why do the Xenomorphs resemble the ones from Alien Resurrection, and not Aliens? And why doesn’t Hicks refer to Ripley in his SOS refer to Ripley as “a female” instead of by her name, and she’s actually a lieutenant, not just a civilian.
Regardless of the minor story issues, overall it’s actually a good story, and surely beats out all the other Alien related movies. It isn’t stronger than the original trilogy, but could easily be considered a solid Aliens 4.
The mechanics are pretty straight forward for a first person shooter. Although it feels similar to the game play of Aliens VS Predator, there are some slight changes that are worth noting. Instead of having the motion tracker on display the entire time, you have to press the left shoulder button to display it in Aliens: Colonial Marines. This means that while you’re looking at it, you have to hold the weapon, in the other hand, out of the way, and this means you can’t shoot while looking at the tracker. Although it does hinder you a bit, it makes more sense since that’s exactly what the marines did in the movie.
You can also quickly switch from your primary to secondary weapon. You can also switch weapons with the d-pad, but in the thick of battle the top button is more convenient. Also if you hold down the top button you can shift through a good amount of weapons to set as primary and secondary weapons. There’s a lot of customization in weapons, and Gearbox introduce some weapons like the automatic weapons which seem right at home with the other original weapons.
My favorite part, by far is finding the hidden weapons. If you explore enough you might come across Hicks’ shotgun, Vasques’ smart gun, or Frost’s flame thrower. Once some of these weapons are collected you can equip them as standard and primary weapons, and for the most part, even though I customized a pulse rifle, I still preferred Hudson’s rifle.
The campaigns can be played by yourself or with up to four in co-op mode. My only issue is that in co-op mode, everyone still plays as Winters, instead of another character, like when co-op plays as Dom in Gears of War. If you play as two people it also goes top/down splitscreen, although it would have been nice for side-by-side splitscreen.
Online play is just as solid of game play as offline. Your ranking from campaign mode carries over to online, however since you can’t play as the Xenomorphs offline the marines kind of have an unfair advantage. The Xeno’s take a lot of practice, but once you get the hang of them and rank up, you can be a pretty bad ass mo’fo’. You have the options to play; Extermination – a 6 on 6 game where the marines try to wipe out the egg clusters, Escape – a 4 on 4 game where the marines try to get away from the Xenomorphs, Survivor- a 4 on 4 where the marines have to hold on in a certain amount of time against waves of Xenomorphs and the classic Team Deathmatch which is also 6 on 6.
When it comes to art, there’s no question, Gearbox did their homework. The characters and weapons look great. The levels are unbelievably detailed. And things like Hadley’s Hope is pretty darn accurate, right down to where Ripley slept with Newt under the bed in the med lab in Aliens. The story takes Winters and crew to the original alien ship from the first movie and again the level of detail is top notch. The simple touches like the blue light haze over the eggs shows how devoted Gearbox is to the series.
The only real down fall to Aliens: Colonial Marines is the performance issue. Although there were times where my crew would either get lost, get left behind, or even perform a task that were intended for me, I can still overlook that. I had a hard time getting over the frame rate and screen tearing however. Most cut scenes were just littered with screen tears and sometimes I could be all alone and there would still be horrible screen tearing. It’s not like the game is unplayable at the screen tearing rate, but can be distracting at times.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.