Video Game Review: ‘Aliens: Colonial Marines’ Fails in Every Way

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CHICAGO – How can something this hyped feel so rushed and blasé? Gearbox Software must be counting on the strong “Alien” franchise fanbase to carry sales but word of mouth is going to kill “Aliens: Colonial Marines” quicker than a Xenomorph can kill an unarmed civilian. This was supposed to be a flagship title but it has been in some state of development since 2008, and it quickly becomes clear what kept it off the shelf for so long.

HollywoodChicago.com Video Game Rating: 1.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 1.5/5.0

The whole point of licensing a major movie franchise as established as “Alien” is the opportunity it gives your creative team to mine the narrative history and iconography with an eye toward playability. You can even leap off into unexplored storylines or characters if you demonstrate an understanding of what gave the franchise its cherished qualities. Ruin that and fans will laugh you off the screen. That’s exactly what has happened here. The story isn’t expanded on or even honored, unless you call a little added melodrama for effects’ sake a method of homage.

Aliens: Colonial Marines
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Photo credit: Sega

“Why do I have to fight so many @#$% mercenaries before I get to fight aliens? Why do I have to sit through so much exposition via audio logs instead of experiencing the story firsthand? Why are the voice overs so weak?” There so many things that kept me from losing myself in the game here. Visually, it is especially bothersome. Characters walk through each other, textures in general just won’t load quick enough so that characters even talk in sync with their own lips, and so much more. Gunfire, when you can get it to work properly, offers up perfunctory results. You will definitely experience problems with clunky controls and staggered movement. I even had a character literally get stuck. Bottom line is that this plays far more like a game in development than a finished product, offering extremely sketchy playability with way too many pauses and not enough animation to work as a first person shooter or a multiplayer offering.

Some games use their pauses to build tension or spring surprises and although the score here, what there is of it, builds nicely it cuts off way too often to accomplish much in terms of setting tone. The sound effects, taken from the original films, are generally welcome but even here there’s little imagination at work. Unforgivably, for me, a loud siren is used to denote the alien presence presumably so you can make sure you are ready whenever they pop up. Forgive me but isn’t the whole point to “Aliens” that the creatures act on surprise?

Ultimately, there are no surprises here and precious little of what has made “Aliens” such an iconic bit of pop culture.

“Aliens: Colonial Marines” was released on February 12, 2013. The version reviewed was for the Xbox 360 but the title is also available for the PS3.

By Dave Canfield
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com

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