Sunday, 31 March 2013

PC Game Review: Aliens: Colonial Marines

Platform: PC (Steam)
Released: 2013
Genre: First Person Shooter
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: Sega
Buy on Steam

"In space, no one can hear you curse."

I consider myself a pretty huge fan of Alien. Not just the first two movies but I can even say I find qualities about Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection that I like (the latter being Winona Ryder and I know how much everyone hated her in that movie but I thought she did great). Of course when it comes to games, I've always wanted a true Alien game. We've gotten plenty from the Aliens vs Predator franchise but never has there been a true Aliens game. That is until Gearbox announced they were working on what would essentially be the first true Aliens shooter and even a sequel to the hit movies Aliens and Alien 3. Seeing all of this I couldn't help but feeling the hype. I looked at what they showed us, what was told and I wanted to believe so badly that this game was going to be great. I wanted it to be the best sci-fi horror FPS out there, I think we all did. And that was the impression I got from the demo footage. I pre-ordered the collector's edition and paid about 90$ for it, placing my trust in these guys that they could make a game worth the price. In short... they didn't. However while others have been trashing this game, I still found some things about it I liked. But let's get the negative things out of the way first.

You'll most frequently find yourself dying from acid burn as the armor even at 100% capacity can't take it...
The most obvious flaw about ACM is the broken AI. Ranging from tolerable to outright frustrating, I frequently found my team mates standing right in front of their enemy just firing away and getting killed and most of the time they were utterly useless, or even just firing blindly at cover like a retard when an enemy was hiding. Playing this game offline is an experience in bad AI unlike most games I've played lately and even with the latest patch there are still glaring issues with it. The aliens themselves aren't even that frightening, most of the time they act completely like bugs even if the movies prove they have the capacity of independent thought. They are stronger in numbers since that allows them to confuse you and get the better of you. Facing one of them they usually go down in a few shots, which needless to say is the most disappointing aspect about this game. If you at ALL expect a sci-fi horror game, you're going to be majorly disappointed. This game is balls out sci-fi action all the way, even more so than the Aliens movie which was pretty action-focused to begin with. The levels are pretty much all about fighting hordes of aliens and surviving and there's barely any real horror to it. The aliens also can easily get very cheap kills on you due to the bad programming and I died a LOT due to either just getting acid on me or being meleed by an alien. It felt cheap and like I died because of the game and not because it was my own fault. This is obviously a huge issue that is hard to play around and avoiding getting close to the aliens is a must, or just balls out melee'ing them before they get the chance to do the same to you. In co-op most of these issues are further exacerbated by lag issues that causes the timing to get screwed and my co-op partners frequently died because of simply not being able to defend themselves against essentially teleporting xenos.

"I've got a bad feeling about this."
The story isn't exactly great either, but it does the job and offers a few new interesting twists on the Aliens universe. It has you going back to locations from the first two movies while the Weyland Yutani corporation tries to screw you over by sending mercenary soldiers after you. This is another criticism I commonly find about the game, most people comparing this to "making the game like Call of Duty" however I actually like the mercenary soldiers. They definitely do a good job making Weyland Yutani a far more threatening force than in the movies, and the mercenary forces are far more powerful than the aliens in this game and offer most of the competition you'll find since some of them carry heavy weaponry and unlike the aliens, don't jump around or teleport as much, instead using cover and trying to outsmart you. It's an interesting concept, of course hampered by the bad AI, but something I enjoyed nonetheless as I feel the game would have been boring just fighting xenomorphs. I was very happy to see some roles return from the movie, such as Michael Biehn reprising his role as Hicks (he was my favourite non-Ripley character from the movie), and Lance Henriksen as Bishop. The other characters aren't as interesting sadly and most of them feel a bit like cookie cutter stereotypes. The lack of roleplaying also is a bit of an issue. You're essentially tied to the role of Winter throughout the single player campaign whether you play co-op or not and there is no option to choose which marine you want to play and you're basically just given one. And the ending is definitely a bit disappointing and leaving me with a bit of an empty feeling.

"They mostly cum at night... mostly..."
However all of the levels are done with a great deal of atmosphere, at one point you have to sneak around without weapons and this part actually got me quite immersed and felt scary as hell. And several times I just admired the locations and set pieces in the game, especially the space jockey and the derelict, which was probably my favourite level. The Giger-esque design is as timeless and alien as ever and it felt just like being inside the movie. The graphics have also been really improved by the latest patch and the lighting is really good. The weapons are also really good, all of them feeling part of the universe. Firing the pulse rifle the first time and hearing that modulated sound I had a small fangasm, I must admit and the guns all feel great to fire. And while you are limited to carrying a primary and secondary weapon as well as a sidearm, you can access a weapon menu wheel any time to switch out your gear in-game so you technically have constant access to all in-game weapons which I love. Other shooters should take note of this function! I also love the increased variety in xenomorphs, having not only the drones but also spitters, tanks and even a reprise from a new alien queen... The sound design is spot on with the xenos sounding exactly like they did in the movies, and as mentioned the pulse rifle sound is as classic as ever in this game and all of the weapons have very good sounds, especially the FWOOOSH of the flamethrower. Music is very close to how it was in the movies and adds a ton to the already thick atmosphere and I really loved it.

Oh crap...
The versus multiplayer is where the game shines. Taking away the bad spawning and unbalanced teams from AVP 2010, ACM offers a few interesting game modes and all of them feel fun to play. You can also here customize your character with skins and loadouts and thank god, I was able to play a female marine in this mode and customize her as much as I wanted. This is easily my favourite part of the game. If I want to blast some aliens with my friends, I just play some TDM in ACM and it works well. I have few complaints about this mode altogether and I think they did a great job with it. The xenos might feel a bit weird to play at first, especially if you're used to the controls from AVP, but I got used to them pretty quickly. The best thing of course about versus is that the AI is basically non existant since everyone are human players and it makes the aliens feel way more natural.

No thanks, not into Facerape, vagina-face.
With the latest patch, this game oozes atmosphere like alien drool. Lighting is great, and the locations from the movies are recreated and still manage to feel fresh and different. The only criticism are the character models who definitely look a bit flat and under-developed at times. For a game from 2013, this is really below the standard but it's tolerable.
SOUND: 10/10
Nothing bad to say about it. Everything is really true to the essence of the movies, from the xeno noises to the weapon sounds to the music.
This is where the game lacks the most. Everything is hampered by terrible AI, co-op lag issues, and just the fact the game feels both too easy and too hard at the same time and feels really unbalanced because of the many cheap deaths you experience. In multiplayer most of these issues are fairly non-existant though, which is the only saving grace.

I really want to recommend this game but for full price I can't. If you find it at around 10-30$ I'd say buy it if you're an alien fan. If not, you're probably better off staying away from this game as the terrible broken AI really ruins the overall experience. But there are still a lot of things in here to like if you're a fan of Alien and Aliens, and the multiplayer is something I enjoy about it. Overall the game is not bad, but it's not good either and falls just above average for me.

- Alyxx