Though my tongue is planted firmly in cheek as I describe Gearbox's development schedule, Aliens: Colonial Marines showcases the monstrous pendulum that swings between the quality of the products released by the Texas studio. Whatever magic Gearbox pours into the Borderlands series, it isn't to be found here, and despite being blessed with a franchise practically tailor-made for a video game adaptation, Aliens: Colonial Marines is devoid of any redeeming qualities whatsoever.
Aliens: Colonial Marines falls apart almost immediately, taking the established narrative of the Alien films and retroactively altering their events in an attempt to strengthen its own adventure. Using the laziest of approaches – bringing back the dead – the rewrite may have been intended to give some importance to the new group of grunts pitted against the xenomorphs, but it serves no purpose. Gearbox's narrative is a poorly constructed patchwork of moments you've already experienced in the films, with locations and action beats that are, in one fell swoop, both inspired and uninspiring. New to the series? Be prepared for confusion, because Aliens: Colonial Marines does little to explain anything of substance.
Enemy encounters feature stunningly moronic xenomorphs that show none of the tactical sense seen in the films. There's no tension or challenge to the engagements. The highly intelligent alien race simply leaps or rushes toward the player, exploding in a mist of acidic blood after absorbing enough shots. If any of them fail to combust, they simply fade away. Aliens: Colonial Marines also throws human adversaries your way, and they have a little more sense, but those battles will only leave you wishing more attention was paid to making the aliens the most devastating foe in the game.
Multiplayer has some interesting ideas, but it's marred by an underdeveloped upgrade system and combat that lacks in feedback. Aliens feel under-powered online and are so quickly dispatched by humans that the experience isn't fun. Facing off against a single xenomorph should be a harrowing experience, but in Colonial Marines – whether it's online or off – it's just another thing to shoot at.
Co-op is a tacked-on experience, too, allowing for four players to complete the campaign. In my experience, it was more fun to poke jokes at the game's strangest moments – like aliens hiding behind cover or getting stuck on scenery – than it was to actually play. Alone or with friends, there are a number of bugs too. For example, I was once tasked with disabling an automated turret, which failed to appear until after I'd already walked through where it was supposed to be.
The marriage of a first-person shooter and the Alien franchise should be a perfect fit, especially from Gearbox, a team rooted in the genre. And yet, the pairing eludes a happy ending once again. Aliens: Colonial Marines isn't disappointing because it couldn't live up to lofty expectations, it's disappointing because it turned out to be such an unfettered disaster.
This review is based on review code of the PC version of Aliens: Colonial Marines, provided by Sega.
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