When discussing the Alien franchise, the film’s tagline often comes up: “In space, no one can hear you scream.” While die-hard fans say this encapsulates the movies to a tee, I disagree. For me, the fearful-beauty of the Alien films is best conveyed by a conversation between the series protagonist Ripley and Newt.
“These people are here to protect you. They’re soldiers,” says Ripley.
“It won’t make any difference,” replies Newt.
Aliens isn’t about a plethora of monsters getting dispatched by Marines. It’s about people struggling to survive against insurmountable odds; people who cling to life, and refuse to go down without a fight.
Gearbox Software’s Aliens: Colonial Marines asks players this very question: When faced with an army of savage killers whose only goal is to impregnate you or tear you to shreds, will you give up, or will you and your team fight with everything you’ve got?
From the get-go players are armed with the series’ most iconic weapon, the pulse rifle. Gearbox, in association with Nerve Software and TimeGate Studios, has a clear understanding of what makes a weapon feel authentic. The familiar rattling sound of the pulse rifle, along with a sense of weight, helps engross the player into the grime-infested world of Aliens.
Every weapon has been crafted with the love and care that the series fans have come to expect; fans who would instantly know if something wasn’t staying true to the films.
Armed with an array of film-inspired weaponry, Colonial Marines sees players take up the role of US Marine Christopher Winter. Despite being penned by Battlestar Galactica writers Bradley Thompson and David Weddle, the story does have its moments of caricaturish marine-speak — I lost count of how many times I heard someone say ‘badass’ in my five hour journey. While I would normally complain about this kind of stereotypical characterisation, the story does come alive through set pieces.
Without spoiling the story, there’s a moment involving a statue and an alien that generates some of the best tension this side of Slender: The Eight Pages. It may have areas of weakness, but on the whole, the story holds up and is a broad mix of fear, carnage, and gore.
Sadly, the moments of tension are, at times, let down by the game’s engine. Character models are stylized enough to look pretty in an ugly kind of way, but there are issues with out of place textures – some of which pop out of thin air. For the most part, Colonial Marines excels at creating a living world akin to that of the movies. But, there are instances where you can’t help but feel an extra layer of polish or better quality control would have elevated the game to greater heights.
That being said, if you are a fan of the atmosphere and world created in the Alien films, these problems could be overlooked.
It would be easy to attack the shortcomings of the single-player campaign, and to do so, would be to dismiss what Colonial Marines achieves: An atmospheric Alien game that mixes modern run-and-gun play mechanics with the embodiment of what Ridley Scott created back in 1979.
Aliens: Colonial Marines isn’t going to appease everyone. For those put off by the flaws of the single-player offering is a hefty multiplayer component that utilises the XP gained from single-player mode.
Multiplayer satisfies our hunger into jump in the skin of a Xenomorph and experience what it’s like to be nature’s greatest predator. In a mode titled Escape, players are either Marines, who gain extra health and armor, or Xenos, that are considerably weaker and must get up close to kill, but can respawn indefinitely.
This single mode captures the terrifying disposition of the aliens in full force. The Marines have but one life: once they’re dead, they stay dead – much like in the films. Should a Xenomorph die, there will be another to take its place within moments. This helps add to the feeling of hopelessness as players attempt to carry out objectives, restore power to elevators and hack door controls.
To add to an already stellar mode is a class system that sees Marines able to customize their weapons and loadouts, and alien players can chose from a host of different archetypes. One type in specific, the Spitter, is reminiscent of the Boomer zombie seen in Left 4 Dead; a game which Gearbox seemingly draws much of its inspiration.
It was Roosevelt who said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Fear is a key focus in Aliens: Colonial Marines. Whether it’s in the single-player campaign or as the sole survivor in a frantic multiplayer match, fear plays an important role.
Colonial Marines is fan service worthy of the attention of those who hold the Alien universe in high regard. Of course there will be those who want to pick fault with Colonial Marines, and I’ll be the first to admit it’s not perfect. But it is enjoyable. It is exciting. And it is authentic. Isn’t that what we all want from an Aliens game?
I mean, I haven’t played it. But I hear it’s good.
[Disclaimer: You’ve been had.]
Amidst the sea of review scores for Aliens: Colonial Marines are several inconstancies. Either some sites have fallen in line and slagged the game off, or some places (to generate hits to see what the fuss is about) have scored it high without having played it.
It goes without saying that there will never, ever be a universal moment where the gaming community all agree on whether a game is shit or not. I love Too Human – everyone else in the world hates it. It’s fine to have a difference of opinion, that’s what makes reviews such a joy to read; what does author ‘A’ think of this title?; I wonder if it’s different to what author ‘B’ has to say, etc.
The problem here isn’t people liking or not liking Colonial Marines, it’s with sites hit-grabbing.
“He who hath the highest score receives the traffic of the gods,”
–Wesley Copeland, a few minutes ago
What’s worse, is that some of these critics don’t appear to have even played the game they claim to be reviewing, or are lying through their Dorito-stained teeth to pull off a shoddy, half-cut review.
See what I did up there? I haven’t played Aliens at all; hell, I spent about 10 minutes Googling it for some info. See how easy it is to pull the wool over reader’s eyes to convince them that what we write is gospel?
It’s a really shitty way of operating.
I’m not saying that every positive or negative review is faked. What I’m saying is, if there’s any doubt, question it. Reviewers who have nothing to hide should more than happy to answer your questions and won’t be offended is someone asks them what was their favourite moment in a campaign.