gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

If you’re a PC gamer from the glory days you’ll remember the likes of Aliens vs Predator fondly ( or if you want to go back to the SNES days you’ll remember a laughable but playable side-scrolling beat-em-up ). The games aren’t coloured by your nostalgia, they really were good. Back before Aliens was “resurrected”, and the franchise-fusing idea behind the games became a couple of missable films, the series was given the justice it deserved. In games that not only played out the struggle between Alien and Marine, but mixed the Predator in for good measure, there was almost never a dull moment.

Fast forward to today, after over a decade of supposed progress and you would be expect the likes of Aliens: Colonial Marines to be the perfect horror game, rife with deviously intelligent alien enemies and tense with a thick air of suspense. Sadly, you’d be wrong.

To put it bluntly, Colonial Marines will most likely join Alien Resurrection on my list-of-things-I-refuse-to-acknowledge-even-exist. The first 5 or 10 minutes are filled with suspense and a nostalgic tour of a slightly poorly realised scene from the ending of Aliens ( didn’t Bishops legs get blown out of the airlock? ). They are also rife with gratuitous “hey, look! I’m an Alien game” moments. An excruciatingly long sequence showing off the Pulse rifle ( the most annoying sounding gun in any game, ever ) kicks off the campaign, and you’ll soon be lamenting its godawful noise as you stand pumping round after round into waves of uninspiring, dense, Alien cannon-fodder.

As of shooting dumb-as-rocks Aliens wasn’t dull enough, you’ll be given a little variety in the guise of Weyland Yutani Mercenaries, who are almost certainly dumber than the Aliens. Naturally for a game where AI is focussed more on the Artificial and less on the Intelligence, your fellow AI marines round off the stupid, but fortunately you can’t accidentally kill them as your impotent weapons will have no effect on friendlies whatsoever. If including mercenaries isn’t enough to demonstrate that even the developers thought the alien-killing-mainstay wasn’t entertaining enough, then I don’t know what is!

Aliens do little more than charge at you, and mercenaries do little more than hide behind scenery that offers less cover than your average cardboard box, allowing you to shoot them in the legs while they crouch and do nothing. Facehuggers offer some entertainment, but ultimately little more than a spontaneous, unwanted QTE.

Mercenaries also have a habit of falling down and pretending to die, but then springing back into action, I swear this behaviour even fooled my AI comrades! Similarly it’s often difficult to know when Aliens are dead, as they seem to fling themselves onto your gun and are overjoyed to demonstrate just how little relationship your bullet strikes and their explodey-heads have in common.

As is the fashion these days, the whole game is saddled with an achievement system, weapon unlocks, weapon upgrades and other useless crap that seems only to serve as a brief distraction from the mediocre gameplay. Stopping to upgrade your weapons will bring the game to an abrupt halt for both players in co-op ( my preferred way to play ), so you’ll quickly tire of doing so. This is curious as switching through all unlocked weapons can be done in real-time, and you’ll likely want to flip to the assault rifle to save your ears from the endless cacophony of pulse rifle bursts. Any sense of ammo conservation or suspense from being caught with your pants down and nothing but a pistol is mitigated by the literal tons of ammo occupying the quiet bits between firefights.

To round off the me-too shooter feel of Colonial Marines there are, of course, exploding barrels and the most challenging thing you’ll have to do in the game involves not walking directly towards a sentry gun.

Colonial Marines is a pointless linear corridor shooter with a cameo appearance of a few Xenomorphs presumably to capitalise on the fact people might have heard the word “Aliens” in the last 5 years or so and be intrigued. It only feels like an Alien game in the briefest of moments, but for the rest of the time seems hell bent on bashing you repeatedly over the head with franchise cliches and film references in a desperate attempt to remind you that it’s not just any old game.

After having a pulse rifle practically rammed up your nose, you’ll be breaking out the motion detector in the first couple of minutes and encountering waves of suicidal aliens not soon after. Couple this with an extremely early but ultimately dull go in a power loader, plus a hurried introduction to sentry guns… except, shock horror, they’re shooting you… and you’re going to feel somewhat dazed from all the beatings ’round the head you’re taking from the franchises obvious stick.

Ultimately I can find few good words to lend to this title and will likely not force myself to endure the campaign again. I think I’d enjoy multiplayer for a little while, but with the likes of Natural Selection 2 rocking the PC arena, I think I’ve had my fill of Alien vs Marine combat. Also, I’m too cheap to pay for Gold again.

Unless you’re absolutely dying to wade, knee-deep in alien corpses and ammo through claustrophobic corridors, give it a miss.


Wednesday, February 13th, 2013, Xbox 360.