Friday 23 September 2016

Dark Game Revisit – Should you go back to Aliens: Colonial Marines?

Dark Game Revisit – Should you go back to Aliens: Colonial Marines?

Written By Casey Douglass

Aliens: Colonial Marines Logo

I am more than happy to be alive in a time where I can say that the last Alien/s game, Alien: Isolation, was a corker. The blend of sneaking around trying to avoid a prowling xenomorph and the filmic atmosphere made it one of the most intense gaming experiences I’ve ever had. This was also no doubt due to the love I already had of the films/graphic novels/books etc. If I delve back further however, memory butts up against another game: Aliens: Colonial Marines, one that was greeted on launch with a gnashing of teeth and a whipping of wagging fingers that almost mimicked the movements of the black shiny predators that the game featured. People felt that the game’s graphics compared badly to the pre-launch trailer, there were doubts about the narrative, and the game was just viewed as pretty shonky. I remember seeing one YouTuber show that you could run through one part of the game without actually needing to attack anything, even though you were clearly meant to be fighting for your life! It was with all this rattling around in my head that I decided to give the PC version of the game another go, having previously played a few hours and called bullshit on it many years ago.

Aliens: Colonial Marines Screenshot
No, he's not bursting into song.

The first few hours were again, a period in which I found myself tempted to give up. While the game has likely been patched since I last played it, the A.I is still a pain in the arse at times, and the number of times all of the attacking xenos seemed to have a hard-on only for me, ignoring my teammates, got a little annoying. I also experienced a few frustrations with the save game check-pointing, a few instances occurred where I died and had to replay 5-10 mins of the game to get back to where I had died again, one including an unskippable character dialogue exchange. I’m not sure if this is a relic of when the game was released (2013) and modern games are a little better at that kind of thing, or if it was pretty bad in comparison to other games even back then. All I know is it annoyed me more than a few times.

Aliens: Colonial Marines Screenshot
Give us a kiss beautiful!

Graphically, the game is serviceable. Dark corners and dripping vents all look suitably menacing, and the xenos rushing at you certainly tickle that “Holy shit we are fucked!” feeling. Until they get in your face and you see that the textures and animation is, once again, simply serviceable. Audio wise, things fair a little better, the screeches of the creatures and pips of your motion tracker increasing the tension and foreshadowing more confrontation in a pleasing, horror-like way.

I found the gun-play to feel a little disconnected though. The weapons feel like they have little “heft”, your gun seeming to float about easily in front of you, click to kill, click to kill, click to kill. I can’t fault the variety of weapons though, from pulse rifles and grenades to more legendary weapons like Hicks’ shotgun, the player certainly has options when it comes to death dealing. Weapons can also be improved via a ranking upgrade system, letting you add new types of sight or extra capabilities like an under-slung shotgun or grenade launcher. Ranks are in both single and multiplayer, but I didn’t try the latter as I just wasn't interested. 

Aliens: Colonial Marines Screenshot
A costly trip and looming death. I like this pic.

I came back to Aliens: Colonial Marines because I’m going through a period where I really don’t know what games I feel like playing. After finding that I didn’t enjoy replaying Alien: Isolation once I knew how it ended, I was left with a xeno-void that had me looking back at this game. It was with this in mind that I gave it another go, and I have to say that it did scratch that xenomorph itch. Whether the narrative sits well with the main story of the films and other media or not, it was enjoyable enough in a pulpy way. While the combat was lacking, it was still satisfying mowing down waves of insect-like death with shotguns and pulse rifle blasts, and the environment was truly threatening and interesting to negotiate at times.

Aliens: Colonial Marines Screenshot
A xeno queen misbehaving in a steam filled room. Sounds like a new porn category.

Looking back on Aliens: Colonial Marines, it is still sad to think how it might have been better, but viewed as a guilty pleasure when you just want to visit that hostile universe again, it does the job. It did for me at least. If you have it sitting in your game library and have only played a short distance into it, maybe think about giving it another go at some point.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia page for Aliens: Colonial Marines. At the bottom there are tens of articles referenced that go into all the hoo-ha it caused when it was released.

Aliens: Colonial Marines Images © Copyright SEGA