The movie Aliens is my favorite out of all the titles in the franchise so far. Now, imagine my excitement about 6 years ago when Aliens: Colonial Marines was announced as a videogame sequel to that movie, and then double it. That’s how much I was looking forward to this title, and why it’s disappointing that I had to wait until 2013 to play it. Delayed titles often don’t live up to the hype (Duke Nukem Forever, anyone?) and I’m sad to say that Colonial Marines didn’t either. However, as a fan of the franchise, I still had fun playing the game. I’ll explain why….
Aliens: Colonial Marines is set up as a direct follow-up to the events of the Aliens movie, and the plot in the game frequently references the events of the movie. This is where the game shines, because it was clearly made with a lot of love for the movie it’s based on. You feel like you’re walking in Ellen Ripley’s footsteps when NPCs mention her character and you’ll find yourself recognizing several scenes and environments as well. As a fan, this kept propelling me forward through the campaign and allowed me to ignore some of the game’s shortcomings. It’s not until after I wrapped up the main storyline that I began reflecting on the game in a different light, which speaks well for how immersive the game is but not so well for how well it’s all executed.
The game’s surroundings convincingly convey the Aliens universe, but when you stop and look around you notice that the level of detail is somewhat lacking. This is true for the environment as well as the character models, which look okay for the time period in which the game was announced but fall quite a bit short of the likes of Battlefield 3 or Crysis 3. The sound design, however, is excellent throughout the entire game. Sound effects that include a radar ‘ping’ when trouble is near capture the Aliens vibe perfectly, an experience that fans of the original movie will definitely appreciate.
In terms of gameplay, the game also has its faults. The storyline isn’t that gripping and doesn’t properly wrap up at the end, but my main issues were with the AI component. What the Aliens movie does extremely well is capture moments of sci-fi terror, and this is what the core experience in an Aliens game should revolve around as well. Colonial Marines gets this right in terms of atmospheric lighting and Giger-inspired artwork, but fails when it comes to the behavior that xeno’s display. All too often, I stayed behind in a door opening when my teammate went into a room, only to see an alien storm into the room before completely ignoring my teammate and coming straight for me. I also had a xeno run up to me only to stop running and stand still right in front of me, and experiences bugs (of the non-alien kind) where the game wouldn’t progress because my teammate would freeze in place or a scripted event wouldn’t kick in. After such a long development time, glitches like that really shouldn’t be happening anymore.
When all is said and done, I didn’t have a bad time playing Colonial Marines, and my gripes are largely due to my high hopes and expectations as a fan of the source material. Purely based on its own merits, this game probably wouldn’t thrill gamers used to present day standards, but for gamers who love the original movie it’s far easier to cope with the shortcomings and blast your way through rougly 6 to 8 hours of a sci-fi shooter in the Aliens universe. Determine which category you’re in and make up your mind based on that.
Test setup for PC:
CPU: Intel 3770K
Video: Asus GTX 660 Ti
Installed on: Kingston HyperX SSD drive
RAM: 8 GB DDR 3, Kingston HyperX Beast series