11 years in development, Aliens: Colonial Marines is finally available on your console. Wonder what took so damn long! Borderlands’ developers, Gearbox Software, started working on the title back in 2006 even though there had been a game with the same title started in 2001. To call this game somewhat jinxed might be an understatement. Fortunately, the long gestation period hasn't completely destroyed the game’s quality.
By now you've probably read the early reviews about this game. You've probably seen the word generic in most of them. You've probably read that Aliens is just another sci-fi shooter. Although these facts are true, that doesn't make this a bad game. It just means that Aliens is sticking to a formula we've become accustomed to. For some critics that makes this game boring. For me, it makes playing Aliens akin to seeing another comic book movie. Sure, I know what’s going to happen from the start, but it’s the ass-kicking in the middle that has me munching on some popcorn.
Aliens: Colonial Marines takes place in-between the movies Aliens and Alien 3 and follows a group of space marines (remember them?), as they fend off a slew of Xenos and rival space marines. The gameplay presents a mix of early Halo (without so much jumping), Doom 3, and Quake 4. Played in a first-person perspective, Colonial Marines is a run-and-gun style game that doesn't require much, if any, exploration of the levels to proceed. Unlike, say Mass Effect or Borderlands, you won’t need to look in every crevice of a level to find items of value.
Players will need to be nimble with their controllers and fend off not only ground-based Xenos but aliens that run on the ceiling and the walls as well. Although Aliens isn't the first game to do this, the Xenos apply a lot of pressure because they are at a full sprint during their assault. I found some of these sequences to be thrilling and stressful even if they weren't unique to the genre.
Because Aliens is a sci-fi shooter many of the gameplay elements will remind you of great games from your past. If you've played a FPS game in the past 10 years, you should feel right at home with Aliens: Colonial Marines. Just imagine playing one of the earlier Halo games but without the ability to jump 10 feet in the air. You’ll run through levels collecting ammo, looking for armor and health, and dodging generic enemies. Again, Aliens isn't attempting to pave new ground. Instead, this game is a simple popcorn flick presented as a video game. No more, no less.
Unfortunately, because Aliens has been in development for so long, many of the design enhancements that have seeped into newer games are not fully included here. Don’t expect to see the gorgeously rendered weaponry like you've seen in Gears of War. Don’t look for innovative weapons to eliminate crazy-ass aliens. Finally, don’t expect any of the creative enemies from games like Dead Space. Instead, plan on shooting at mindless acid spitters that a toddler could out-think.
Also, for the most part, the graphics aren't up to modern standards. However, they are passable enough to compare with some of the earlier games of this generation. Sitting next to some of the best games seen on the Xbox 360 in 2005 and 2006, Aliens: Colonial Marines is in pretty good standing. I didn't feel cheated by the lesser graphics but would have loved if this game looked a bit closer to the AAA titles I drool over. Just a reminder, this game is not meant to knock Mass Effect 3 off of it’s light bloomed pedestal.
Although the graphics and the gameplay is dated, some of the additional perks that Gearbox included are very modern. There’s four-player co-op; a feature that is always welcomed with open arms. There’s also a leveling system in play so that fans of Borderlands will feel at home with the experience structure even if the graphics in this game could be rendered on an iPad. The added replay value of these features is welcome, even if the main story clocks in under ten hours.
To fans of the Alien stories, I enjoyed the romp down memory lane. I liken the experience to that of hearing a new Foo Fighters song. Sure, every Foo Fighters song sounds the same after a while. But a new track is like visiting with an old high school friend and reminiscing about the stupid crap we did. That’s what Aliens is -- the latest sci-fi shooter that borrows from every game before it but isn't pretending be anything more.
For those of you considering picking up this game, Aliens is not in the same ballpark as heavyweights like Halo or Dead Space. Nevertheless, fans just looking for another visit to Ridley Scott and James Cameron's dark brains should appreciate the overall arc and the many small touches strewn about. Aliens: Colonial Marines is a fully functional FPS title that can be enjoyable. I just turned down my expectations, ran around and shot the hell out of my targets. It definitely reminded me of my time with Quake 4 and Doom; an experience I look back on fondly. Still, for a full retail-priced game, Aliens: Colonial Marines is not up to snuff with the competition.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Aliens: Colonial Marines.