Anger, disappointment and outrage are just a few words that can be associated with the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines.
After grabbing people’s attention with a very strong E3 demonstration, gamers eagerly awaited its release. It looked and sounded promising and, with a story approved by 20th Century Fox, it had fans of the Alien franchise foaming at the mouth. Gamers were keen to once again take on the Xenomorphs after they were left wanting with Rebellion’s 2010 update to Aliens vs Predator.
On its eventual release, Aliens: Colonial Marines set the Internet ablaze… sadly for all the wrong reasons. Poor graphics, terrible AI, things that were shown in previews had been completely removed; the list of issues seemed endless. The virtual mob had awoken, pitchforks at the ready and legal action was pursued.
As all this was happening around me, I was playing through the game. I had picked it up a couple of days after release and I knew the outlook was bleak, but I was determined to keep an open mind and play it through without letting the angry mob sway my opinion. As I did so, I picked up on a few things I thought could have been better (the graphics mainly, they seemed dated for a 2013 release) but angry mob be damned I enjoyed every single minute of that game.
As a huge fan of the Alien franchise, it was hard not to be impressed by the massive amount of fan service included in the game world, from the weapon sounds to the little details taken from the film. Walking around the environment and spotting a sentry gun left by the previous marines from the film was a really cool moment. Realising that the gun’s ammo display in the game matched with a scene only shown during the Director’s Cut sent my fan meter into orgasmic mode.
Bugs and glitches that seemed to plague others never seemed to affect me. Not once did an AI companion block my path, nor did an enemy Xeno fail to attack me. I just couldn’t relate to all the people who were tearing shreds off the game for being broken. I did find the default difficulty setting rather easy, as a result the campaign came across as fairly short. The graphics were not pretty and did look dated and some aspects of the story line left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. OK, a very bitter taste.
However, for its faults I thought the game was fun. I finished it, I put it back on the shelf and there it has remained, until two days ago.
I had just watched Aliens, eager for more Xenomorph action (and to justify spending £37.99 on it) I decided to play A:CM once more. This time, things would be different. I am no longer surrounded by an angry mob telling me whats wrong with the game, I’m well aware of its faults by now. But I also wanted to play it differently, to take my time and look for more bits of fan service. I wanted to see if the negative hype had swayed the way I played it originally.
So, fresh from viewing the world of LV426 in movie form, I set the difficulty up to ‘nightmare’ switched off the lights and began my journey. This time, I made my way through the levels slowly and methodically, making use of the motion tracker whenever I moved and with the film still fresh in my mind, scoured the world for every link to the film that I could find.
This time, the game was a totally different beast altogether. The suspense was there, the music set the perfect tone. The motion tracker finally served a purpose, with its famous *beep* noise echoing through my headset, it was hard not to feel tense when you caught something moving. The levels featuring human enemies became a welcome break after treading so carefully in previous missions. It was hard to believe the game could change so much just by simply changing how I played it. Yes, I had to role play ever so slightly, I had to overlook the dated graphics, but if the core of the game is fun then is that really so hard to do?
In the end Aliens: Colonial Marines is an FPS. A very simple FPS. You walk through simple maps, shoot things and trigger events that will happen every time you play through that particular part. What sets it apart from other titles is the tools it gives you, courtesy of the Alien franchise. The motion tracker, the iconic weaponry, a fantastic music score and the incredible attention to detail from the film.
Now the mob has more or less dispersed in regards to A:CM, I believe people should go back and play it, forget about what they heard or what was promised, and maybe the film first to refresh the mind. Only then can people really appreciate what has been included in the game’s map design. Make use of things like the motion tracker and have the music volume up high, and take their time playing through it. Doing these things changes the frame of mind, allowing the player to experience a small glimpse of what could have been a truly great game. Instead of the average shooter they have in front of them.
I chose the word average carefully. Its not a bad game – it’s not great – but its not bad.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is an average shooter. While graphical problems and certain bugs or glitches may be more apparent than in other games, if you slow down the pace and soak up the atmosphere, they can soon be overlooked. Allow yourself to break the chains of expectation and just enjoy what you’re offered.
A simple, atmospheric shooter that allows you to shoot things with a pulse rifle. As an Aliens fan, I don’t need much more.