Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Aliens: Colonial Marines

Playing Colonial Marines is a bit like having a drunk friend try to explain the experience of Aliens vs Predator 2. In between the poor decision making, annoying asides and assorted bullcrap there is glimpses of something definately worth playing.

Unfortunately, it takes a lot of sifting to find the diamond in this particular bit of rough.

Protip: If your Aliens game features close combat, something
has gone horribly wrong.
Lets start with the games introduction. Thing start allright with the usual Ooh-Rah speech by the resident military tough guy and a distress call by Corporal Hicks from the Aliens film. So in no time you, Cpl. Winter, and a band of plucky marines are sent across to the spaceship Sulaco to see what's wrong.

It's at this point, about 2 minutes into gameplay, that things first fall down. As you walk across an embilical between your ship and the Sulaco things actually start exploding and bodies rain through space. Suddenly, with absolutely no build up, you are in the middle of a Michael Bay movie and things only get more action packed from there.

When you're on the ship there are dead bodies and Alien goop everywhere, along with the obligatory friend who's allready been facehugged. Yet, because everyone is so busy shooting guns and causing explosions, noone even vaugley reacts. While there may be the occasional 'Whats that?' the marines, for the most part seem to take their declining situation in stride.

Their sexy strideSource
 Of course, maybe they're so calm because the Aliens just aren't that scary. No, far from the slink, swift-moving death machines of the films and Rebellions seminal games the Xenomorphs in Colonial Marines are boxy, badly animated and apparently fond of the Michael Jackson moon walk.

They employ all the same tricks of every Aliens game and film ever made but while the slowly speeding beep of the motion tracker preceding a burst vent and black shiny death used to get my pulse racing here it just makes me sigh wearily before despatching the latest in a long line of disposable foes.

Things only get worse when the human enemies appear, while previous entries in the Franchise have made human betrayl a key story point here it's clear that the humans are only there as more active foes then their alien counterparts. More then likely because somebody at Gearbox thought 'People liked Gears of War and that had guns in it' and shoved them in here.

Sadly for that genius the combination of their poorly executed appearance, cliched getup (They're not even Weyland Yutani security...they're a 'PMC' aka that thing every game had two years ago) and bad AI make them even less consequential then the Aliens.

Weyland Yutani: Screw you, that's whySource
As I said, every now and then we get glimpses of the game that might have been. The weapon sounds and occasional snippets of dialogue are captured perfectly and the Pulse Rifle is once more modelled with loving detail.

When the game is allowed to slow down and build tension we get the best sense of what we missed. There are a few moments of genuinely great storytelling and gameplay, mostly focussed around the shady dealings of Weyland Yutani and the fate of LV-421s doomed colonists. There's even a character nod to Vasquez always dies, which is nice.

Overall I could not be more disappointed. I have been looking forward to, and actively promoting, this game for months. I had hoped for a return to the greatness of AvP 1 and 2, what I got was something that very nearly rubs shoulders with the atrocious reboot from a few years ago.

Until next time, Let us say Skål! and drink together..

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