Aliens: Colonial Marines (PC/XBOX 360/PS3)
Price: $49.99 (PC)
Hours Played: 8-10 Hours
The Bitch is Back!! The Aliens franchise has been through numerous sequels and mash ups and with the most recent origin story, Prometheus, the series has only become more forgettable. With Colonial Marines, it is now Sega’s turn to take up the banner of this once glorious franchise. Read on to know more about their attempts to make the audience sit back and take notice.
Story & Character: In an effort to stay true to the Alien franchise, the story takes place after the events of the movie, Aliens 3, and tells the story of a marine platoon sent out for a search and rescue mission to investigate the whereabouts of the survivors of the space ship, USS Sulaco. The story then takes players through a mildly amusing “mystery” about the big bad Weiland-Yutani Corp which is up to no good. The company has taken over USS Sulaco and the planet LV-426 to carry out profit-making research on the xenomorphs. Players take on the role of Corporal Winter, a typical marine jock, and tear through the waves of xenos and mercenaries through locations which would be familiar to all Aliens fans.
In an attempt to expand the franchise, developers have created new sub-species of the xenos however sparsely utilized them, making appearances in different sections of the game. Different sub-species should mean that players have to adapt their death dealing tactics but the game does not accommodate any further depth on those grounds either. These minor efforts have been made to keep the experience fresh but at the end of the day add nothing ground breaking to the franchise. (5/10)
Game Design: Colonial Marines is an FPS-Shooter through and through. The developers do not try to re-invent something which has worked before but neither do they try to innovate within the genre (probably the way the recent Farcry 3 or Borderlands 2 did). Players can wield weapons taken straight from the series – ranging from pistols and shotguns to the pulse rifles and flamethrowers. The arsenal is surprisingly limited though, even for fans of the FPS genre, and so are the customization options (Do you really need silencers when you don’t ever get a chance to sneak up on enemies?).
Usually accompanied by NPCs, players unleash their arsenal into waves of xenos rushing in for the kill (similar to the Horde mode from the Gears of War series, only difference being GOW does it better). A veteran of the genre can make short work of these vicious death dealers by taking headshots from a mile away. There are sparks of innovation such as the level where players have to make their way through a lair of a blind suicidal sub-species of xenos which only react to noise (which in my opinion could have been one of the most memorable levels of all time in gaming). However, this has been implemented so poorly that you forget it as soon as you’re done with it.
Staying “true” to the franchise here means only that developers let players use technology from the franchise and the special weapons which are nothing but weapon mods of the standard arsenal available. There is a shallow level of discovery involved within each level through collecting dog tags of fallen marines and audio logs which “reveal” what really happened. The reveals are as ignorable as the story and don’t really demand a player’s attention to make an effort to discover. (6/10)
Game-play: Aliens are supposed to be smart creatures which use the environment to hide themselves and attack when no one expects. The description suggests developers would pay special attention to making the enemy AI formidable and players would feel cornered even in an open world. The execution though is a letdown with aliens rushing head-on into you and bursting into their acid blood as you pump them full of lead. Over and above, they don’t really take notice of any of the NPCs to engage and the player is left with defending himself against the entire horde which is a really dumb way of making you feel special (If I wanted mindless enemies rushing at me, I would rather play Left for Dead which still has more number of mindless zombies rushing at me!).
Similarly, the AI of the NPCs will also make you shake your head in disapproval as they get stuck in the environment on numerous occasions for no apparent reason leaving players alone to proceed to the next checkpoint only to re-spawn again. As compared to the player, the NPCs are pretty much invincible to any damage and carry an unlimited supply of ammunition (You can actually sit back and watch them mow down an entire swarm without you firing a single bullet).
Besides the poor AI, the game falls short on numerous game-play aspects such as a basic cover system. Almost all shooters today implement a cover system, and although hiding is no use against an enemy rushing at you but you do see your fellow NPCs and enemy mercenaries leaning into cover against walls and different objects during a firefight. Everyone but the player can accomplish this inhuman feat. The dumb AI and lack of features which have become a staple in shooters today make this outing painstakingly wasteful. (4/10)
Production Design: The one aspect which was widely publicized pre-launch was how good the game looked. The execution although sadly doesn’t really stay “true” to the word. The character models are as expressionless as they come. The much toted lighting technology which was revealed prior to release doesn’t really seem as big a deal as it was made out to be. Perhaps the only redeeming quality is the recreation of locations which would probably impress only a handful of players but wouldn’t really matter to a generation brought up much after the original trilogy of the franchise.
Similarly, the sound design also is lacklustre – there are some military tunes that surround you during some of the game’s big moments but there is nothing noteworthy here to mention. The weapon fire sounds genuine but as far as the creatures are concerned, the screaming sound of the aliens when they are put on fire sounds like somebody hitting a cat rather than a horrifying creature who is about to die. (5/10)
Final Verdict: This game should not have been released in its current state. The focus has only been on recreating the look of an otherwise hollow experience for even “true” fans of the franchise. Story be damned, the essence of Aliens is about this vile creature which is dangerous even after it dies and killing even one should be considered an achievement. It’s about feeling alone and vulnerable even if you’re surrounded by the toughest platoon of soldiers carrying the type of arsenal that would make anyone piss in their pants. Where a player does not have the wide angle view of a third person game, FPS has a lot of potential as a format for implementing survival horror but according to me Colonial Marines does not have that soul and is best forgotten.
Final Final Verdict: Ignore. If you are interested, try renting it for a week
Watch the Launch Trailer: