Aliens: Colonial Conundrum

Love at first sight!

Love at first sight!

In space…No one can post douchey mud slinging reviews.

Unfortunately here on earth, everybody can and has – it seems with respect to the recently released “labour of love” from the ladies and gents over at Gearbox:  Aliens: Colonial Marines.

Now, it’s no secret that I’ve been hornier for this game than a nymphomaniac O.D’d on roofies since it’s announcement in 2008.  I am a huge fan of the movies, comics, and games.  Alien, and everything the film has spawned since has become one of the most recognized and popular franchises in SCI-FI history.

However, when February 12 finally rolled around and the game hit shelves, the “Review Embargos were lifted… and something far more wretched and all-devouring than the xenomorph was unleashed on the known universe.  It were as though there was a conspiracy of some sorts for all the mainstream gaming journalists to collectively take a steaming dump on ACM.  And from the look of things, they all eat plenty of bran.

At the present time I have already completed a playthrough of Aliens Colonial Marines on the XBOX 360 on “Hardened” Difficulty, and I’m working on a second.  I’ve put many hours into both single player and co-op, as well as a heaping helping of the multiplayer offering to acquire a taste for this fanboy feast from Chez “Gearbox.”  And I say “Gearbox” because it was actually “Timegate Studios” (Section 8) who pulled most of the weight for the games shaky development – ironically being blamed for many of the games so-called “problems” when it was GB’s signature on the product.  In fact Timegate’s work is not acknowledged on the games packaging or manuals at all.

In my opinion, Aliens Colonial Marines is a fucking AWESOME game.  Let’s get that out of the way.  It does not come without it’s problems however and I will touch on those.  Many of the problems indicated in IGN’s review however seem exaggerated with respect to AI behavior.  The story is well thought out, and it’s fiercely synonymous with the events of James Cameron’s masterpiece.

As you progress into the game’s 2nd half however you get a mild impression of the game’s bumpy and prolonged development as it ends in an abrupt and uneventful ending like…well…you know.  Campaign DLC has been confirmed, so fanboys can rejoice, and penny pinchers can grumble.  “Haters gonna hate, Lovers gonna love.”

The level design, and script for the game deserve an immense amount of respect and props.  Much attention to detail, and dedication went into designing the game, and this has paid dividends into creating a truly authentic experience for any fan of the films, and previous games.

To the contrary of IGN’s statements on the games AI’s, namely the Aliens – I have literally had the crap scared out of me, and sat dumbstruck after being not simply overrun by bugs, but outsmarted.  They don’t just simply throw themselves in front of you blindly like lemmings.  They rush when in high numbers, but as their numbers dwindle they begin to shrink back, and go through great effort to get at your back, and sides.

In one sequence while operating the Smart-Gun in the bowels of Hadley’s Hope, I have seen singular aliens suddenly hold back and allow their hive-mates to rush waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of the distraction.  I seriously question what difficulty settings  Mr. Ogilvie was playing on.  Not that there is anything wrong with playing on “kid mode” but the scary aliens might definitely seem meek when they have the strength and ferocity of kittens.  And ammunition is not seemingly endless, as I have had several desperate moments involving my sidearm and a swath of slobbering aliens running me down like a mouse.  I have literally had my ass kicked by this game.

The friendly AI’s however are about as useful as a hole in the head, and often disappear during moments when they would come in handy – only to magically re-materialize as you enter an elevator or reach an objective.  And speaking of which, apparently Left-Eye from TLC has been reincarnated as a Colonial Marine, or she simply has a huge fan 500+ years in the future.

Don't go chasing Xenomorphs, please stick to the COD's and Gears that you're used to...

Don’t go chasing Xenomorphs, please stick to the COD’s and Gears that you’re used to…

The co-op is a real hoot, and resonates with Left 4 Dead as a main inspiration, right down to a seeming AI Director which completely randomizes many ammo, armor, and health drops.  This has not been mentioned in any of the reviews I’ve read.  Even enemy placement differs in certain encounters keeping the action fresh and challenging on the harder difficulties.  I have yet to man-up and play through on Ultimate Badass.

The multiplayer is difficult, with the power being blatantly on the side of the Marines and their firepower.  Some critics have knocked the controls for the xeno, which are “clunky” or “awkward.”  In my little corner of reality we call this “a learning curve.”  Which means, not every game you play is going to be the copy/paste comfy controls you demand, and might..JUST MIGHT involve some…practice!  And I can say that with a coordinated team, and some patience an effective group of xenos can demolish a team of humans before they can say “GAME OVER MAN.”

I have had some funny, “blooper reel” bugs and glitches which included an encounter with a lurker simply sitting on the fours swaying back and forth staring at me while I was mere inches away from it – as though it had a bad case of Alien ADD.  As well as a gamebreaker in which I clipped through the floor while trying to beat an enemy down and was trapped in a bottomless free-fall in the pitch-black purgatory beneath the map.

Many critics have slammed the games graphics, even going as far as showing promotional screenshots VS the final product while pointing and screaming.  Please.  Show me a studio that hasn’t used polished promo images that look different from the final cut.  Have you never been to McDonalds?

Yes, there are some serious surface-pop problems in the game akin to Halo 2’s fuzzy surface rendering.  It was definitely disappointing to see a game ship after 8 years of development with such blatant graphical inequities, but it did not really interrupt the gameplay, and was not as frequent as some critics had pointed out.  Again, I question whether or not they had installed the game on their 360.  The graphics were not “terrible” but did look mildly “unpolished” but this lent positively to the old school feeling the game has with it’s health and ammo pickups right out of Doom.

So there we have it.  All I can say is that you should try a game before allowing the pompous elitists of gaming culture determine for you, what it is you like or dislike.  Sometimes in order to appreciate a game you need to look past your own expectations, and concentrate on what the game offers at face-value, and Aliens Colonial Marines is a labor of love, and like all things revolving around love does not come without it’s hiccups.

I would definitely recommend this game to fans of the films, or fans of intense co-op shooters.  To the ever scrutinizing gamers with preconceived notions of how a game should play, and look who get wounded when a game doesn’t fall into this standard – perhaps you should rent this game, or borrow it from a friend.

I’ve said before that I hate giving a game a review scrore, but in the interest of offering a contradictive review of ACM to the sheer swath of negativity out there – I would give Aliens Colonial Marines a well earned 8.5/10.  It’s a great game that I am still thoroughly enjoying, but it had some obvious graphical and story hiccups which could have been buffed out with a consistent development process and diligent QA effort.

So that’s my humble opinion on Aliens Colonial Marines.  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned to Teabag or Die for more great gaming reviews, articles, and more!


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