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Aliens: Colonial Marines Review - Game Over, Man

Mike Wehner | 12 Feb 2013 08:00
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When it comes to movie franchises adapted for an interactive audience, the storied Alien series seems like it was built to suit a modern day videogame. You have a bunch of well-equipped interstellar jugheads and a seemingly endless supply of disgusting killing machines for them to take down. A perfect fit, right? Well, sort of. What makes the Alien franchise great for the silver screen is the emotional personal struggle of Ripley, and while the massive firefights are a nice backdrop, putting the carnage front and center - such as in Aliens: Colonial Marines - is not as compelling as you might want to believe.

Colonial Marines takes place after the events of Aliens and before Alien 3, putting you in the shoes of a space marine on a first-person shooter rampage to save your own skin, and perhaps mankind as well. The action takes place both on a military space vessel, as well as familiar locales from LV-426, the colony featured prominently in the Aliens motion picture. In short, your overarching goal is to figure out just what the hell is going on, and exterminate the alien menace.

It's been noted that the game's story is now official canon, and given that it's been a mighty long while since we saw a high-quality interactive Alien experience, all eyes are on Colonial Marines to blow fans away. Unfortunately, the final product suffers from a litany of technical issues, a ho-hum narrative, and gameplay that will leave you almost entirely devoid of any emotional investment.

From start to finish, you play as Corporal Christopher Winter, a blank slate who remains blank for the entire campaign. You're given nothing in the way of a meaningful backstory for Winter, and aside from the fact that he seems to be the only person that can operate doors properly, there's really nothing special about him. This everyman-turned-Marine schtick would be fine as long as the game offered something in the way of a likable supporting cast, but sadly that is not the case.

Winter's fellow soldiers - including his partner for most of the game, Peter O'Neal - are little more than barely-developed hunks of meat, flying around the screen and screaming repetitive battle commands. In dealing with the Xenomorphs, which may very well threaten the entire existence of humanity, the Marines exhibit little in the way of surprise or emotion. It's not until one very special soldier becomes threatened that Winter and his compadre show even a passing interest in the well-being of their fellow warriors.

But these are hard-nosed celestial spartans. Who cares if they have any emotion; it's all about killing aliens, right? Well, some of the time. I won't give away any specifics, but suffice it to say that the Xenomorphs aren't the only species you'll be firing at, as there are human adversaries as well. The first time I was asked to dispatch human foes - and not infected humans or zombies, these are humans with guns - I had to shake my head at the absurdity.

The decision to serve up fellow soldiers as enemies sucks the last bit of fleeting emotional grit right out of the experience. Winter will walk down a hallway, blasting soldiers with his plasma rifle and literally dismembering them with his shotgun, and then appear shocked and disturbed when discovering the mutilated body of an ally. It just simply doesn't work.

What does work, however, are your firearms, and boy do you have a lot of them. As you progress you will unlock a number of high-powered weapons including assault rifles, submachine guns, shotguns, and pistols. There are also bonus attachments and add-ons for each gun which can be purchased using credits gained after leveling up in both the campaign and multiplayer. It adds a good bit of strategy to the otherwise generic blast-everything battle sequences, and ensuring that you have the right loadout is key to staying alive.

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