“What a piece of junk,” Luke Skywalker said after seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time in the movie Star Wars. He would have said the same about Sega’s new game, Aliens: Colonial Marines, which was developed by Gearbox. But at least the Millenium Falcon, the fastest ship in the galaxy, had a redeeming quality. Aliens: Colonial Marines has no such defining feature.
The game takes place 17 weeks after the end of the 1986 film Aliens, and from the start Colonial Marines set out to disappoint gamers and fans of the once-great movie franchise.
The game is little more than a generic shooter, a poor man’s Call of Duty. You play as Corporal Christopher Winters, who is part of a team tasked with finding out what happened to the previous marine expedition on the alien-infested planet LV-426, and before long you find yourself shooting hordes of Xenomorphs splashing their acid green blood through the floor. You even fight a host of human mercenaries. But shooting and running is all you do, over and over again.
Because Colonial Marines lacks a consistent Artificial Intelligence (AI) system, Xenomorphs will run around aimlessly or refuse to attack you at times, which makes the repetitive experience even more nonsensical. Sometimes I would die because my marine teammates would be firing at walls instead of the enemy. Other times the Xenomorphs would only attack me instead of other marines.
Somewhat miraculously, the functional failures of this game are actually surpassed by its cosmetic deficiences. The game looks like it was released in 2008 rather than 2013. There is a permanent light blue fog through every environment and while I imagine the dark passages that make up the abandoned buildings and ships were intended to elict fear, they only succeeded in highlighting the game’s graphical inadequacies.
To finish a well-rounded bad game, Colonial Marines‘s story is riddled with plot holes. The game begins with Winters and company boarding an apparently deserted spaceship, the Sulaco, which is orbiting planet LV-426. But as we know from the movie Alien 3, the Sulaco is last seen orbiting the planet Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161. One of the characters, Lieutenant Reid, even mentions this fact, “Sir, the Sulaco was reported last seen orbiting Fury 161, How is it back over at this planet?” Of course, we never learn the answer to this question. Perhaps most shocking of all is the fact that the game takes place on the planet LV-426 in Hadley’s Hope, which is surprisingly intact considering it suffered a nuclear explosion in the movie preceding the game.
What made the Alien movie franchise so successful (Alien and Aliens to be specific) was its pacing and tone. The movies kept viewers in quiet suspense and terror. The first fifteen minutes of Colonial Marines really captured this feeling, bad graphics and all. As I explored the deserted hallways of the Sulaco I got an eerie feeling that a Xenomorph would pop out at any time. When I finally found one, lurking near a fellow marine who had been cocooned to the wall, the alien quickly blended back into the walls. Using the motion tracker, I heard the familiar beeps of motion from the movies signaling that the alien was closing in on me. Even knowing where the Alien was coming from, I panicked from fear, and began to blindly fire at the walls.
Sadly, most of the game does not resemble its opening sequence, and these brief glimmers or fun are but a small reward for having to play through such a mediocre game.