by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
Gear-Grinding Gameplay, cont.
To counter this, the game throws aliens at you by the dozens. After the first hour, xenomorphs are no longer something to be feared but instead make up the fodder for a second-rate shooting gallery. While they will occasionally climb the walls, there is little AI to speak of, and xenos will often rush straight at you. Later the game introduced the blind, exploding alien. This is a type of alien where an ill timed fall could wipe out an entire nest. Blind and exploding...because natural selection got it wrong. If that wasn't enough to tear down any sense of space horror the game might have had, you soon find yourself facing off against human mercenaries. It makes sense but lacks creativity and makes an already suffering experience that much less compelling.
Better doesn't mean Good
The game tries to liven up its experience with a series of challenges and collectibles which contribute experience to the players level. These are commendable additions that provide bursts of added depth, but more interesting is that the leveling system is tied between both single- and multiplayer providing a sense of unity most games lack. Earning rank and experience unlocks new attachments for weapons. Once these are unlocked, they can be used in any of the the game's handful of modes.
Multiplayer features prominently in the game and comes in both cooperative and competitive flavors. Co-op opens the whole campaign for up to four teammates online. Competitive play is an all-around better experience than the campaign but only in the sense that other players are smarter than the enemy AI. There are several modes, including Team Deathmatch and Survivor, but the star of the show is Escape where a team of humans tries to reach safe zones throughout each scenario while a team of aliens tries to stop them. Players should find some fun in playing an alien, but unfortunately the map design doesn't hold up to their abilities and inclination for vent-sneaking. Alien players get killed quickly and repeatedly. Multiplayer is better than the campaign but it isn't good.
Disappointments All Around
If there is one thing Colonial Marines should be applauded for, it's the faithful recreation of the Sulaco, Hadley's Hope, and LV426. PC players get the best visual experience the game has to offer and it can be tweaked in ways we have come to expect from faithful PC ports. The game can also be enhanced by a number of mods which update its lighting and shadow effects. Even on its own, however, the game looks nice and features an assortment of Easter eggs for fans of the franchise. The audio reproduction is also excellent. The pulse rifle might feel like a pea shooter, but it sounds like a pulse rifle. And the scanner also faithfully recreates the experience of tension presented in the movie. At least at first. Even though the game lacks the suspense of the films, it retains the allure of exploration and begs you to keep an eye out for every detail. It's a bit like touring a wax museum or preserved movie set. Unfortunately, the quality of the setting only makes the living elements feel that much more like spring-loaded monsters in a second-rate haunted house.
Colonial Marines is a disappointment. In my preview, I noted how important this game would be for the future of Gearbox Software. Sadly, the game fails in nearly every respect it needed to succeed. It is too bad, really, because series newcomers have no reason to return to the IP, veterans will be angry at the mistreatment their franchise, and video gamers as a whole now have a new reason to doubt Gearbox's quality and, thanks to those demos, honesty. Video games have evolved a lot in the last six years, and Colonial Marines shows none of it. Worse yet, the game is being sold at the full $59.99 price point with a $29.99 season pass. Following Duke Nuken: Forever, Gearbox needed a hit to show that they could do more than Borderlands well. If their next game doesn't deliver, Aliens: Colonial Marines may well be remembered as the game that began their downfall.
Faithful recreation of film environments and sound effects, unified leveling system
Poor AI, short, unsatisfying campaign, plot holes, unrefined weapons, under-served setting