Just when you thought nothing could possibly come along to surpass the great stinker of 2012 otherwise known as Star Wars Kinect, Gearbox software manage to rise to the occasion and deliver a title that’s possibly about as much fun as having your insides torn apart by a gestating Xenomorph making its bid for freedom.
I’m a massive fan of the Aliens franchise. I own the films god knows how many times on various types of media, I thoroughly enjoyed the Dark Horse comics and while the videogames have always been a little hit or miss, I’ve usually enjoyed them. One of my few childhood memories is spending my summers in the “exciting sea-side town” of Withernsea, which really had nothing going for it save a battered arcade cabinet with the side scrolling shooter based on the second film. I even forgave Alien 3: The Gun for existing on the grounds that any Aliens game is better than no Aliens game…
Then came Aliens: Colonial Marines. After seeing the rather impressive-looking trailer when I went to see Prometheus in the cinema and considering it was from the fine folks that brought the world Borderlands, my excitement levels were high. Pre-orders were placed, friends were cajoled into purchasing it, days off were booked, season passes were purchased and the Mrs. was even gently persuaded to upgrade my pre-order to the collectors edition as a Valentines gift.
Then came that fateful day, February the 12th. My impressive-looking collectors edition turned up and I excitedly put the disc in the drive. Part of me feels that had my Xbox blown up at this point it’d have been for the best. The game starts dreadfully and very quickly gets worse, from the title screen and menu layout, which are basically the same as those in Borderlands 2 except they’re blue, through to the opening mission which saw me attempting to shoot moonwalking Xenomorphs while using an invisible gun.
Things quickly go from pretty abysmal to absolutely dire; the plot is borderline nonsensical, contradictory and features such choice lines of dialogue as “There was a thing on my face, but its dead now, so I’m okay,” (Spoiler: They aren’t okay) through to such amazing delights as this example, so perfectly illustrated by the folks at Penny Arcade:
Just as you start to possibly gain a tiny bit of enjoyment from shooting pensioners dressed up as Xenomorphs in the foot and watching their heads fall off, the game decides that it’d much rather you were having uninspiring battles with an army of identical looking blokes in corridors.
Hoping desperately that co-op saves things you grab a friend and drag them into your campaign. Now you have the added fun of randomly teleporting to each other while the plot falls completely apart as you’re constantly reminded that you’re on your own, despite the fact you’re friend is busy forcing you to teleport the wrong way through the level…
The multiplayer itself offers little relief from the chaotic and bug-ridden mess of the single player and co-operative campaign. While you can now play as an Alien, doing so is akin to some bizarre form of torture as you get shredded apart in seconds by well-armed marines while trying to work out the controls and wall-running abilities of the Alien. Should you get close enough to an enemy to attempt to execute them you’ll probably either fall through the floor or watch in horror as your Alien decides to try to kill the marine by standing very still in front of it and juddering.
A complete lack of dedicated servers or host migration tends to lead to most multiplayer matches being thankfully very short as the host tends to rage quit after getting stuck in a wall or watching helplessly as his Alien decides to take a nap.
I can’t think of a single game in history that has ever been not only so massively disappointing but also so incredibly terrible in almost every respect. Its only redeeming feature was the first piece of post-launch DLC which added a pretty enjoyable Marines vs. AI Aliens survival mode, but as I’m one of maybe twelve people who bought the DLC I’ve only got to play it about five times. The rest of the DLC, including the additional single player campaign is just as much of a mess as the rest of the game, in fact I can’t bring myself to get through the first level of Stasis Interrupted. I no longer care how Hicks isn’t dead, I’m content with the main games’ explanation of “It’s a long story”
Its impossible to mention the horrors of this game without at least a passing mention of the fantastic marketing campaign that seemed to consist of releasing screenshots of and visiting expos with a totally different and much better looking game. Apparently you can polish a turd, by simply hiding it behind a picture of something that isn’t a turd.