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REVIEW: ‘Aliens’ fares badly in review of gameplay

Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 13:02

 

My inner fanboy isn’t particularly happy right now. I essentially have waited most of my life for a true sequel to James Cameron’s 1986 film “Aliens.” The later entries in the film franchise were awful and they were a disservice to the universe that Cameron originally expanded from Ridley Scott. Characters we came to love got killed off for practically no good reason and the exhilarating action sequences and moody atmosphere seemed non-existent. 

So imagine my delight when Gearbox Software announced a few years ago that “Aliens: Colonial Marines” was in development. Finally, something better than the later, lackluster entries in the film series was within my grasp. I could see corporal Hicks and Bishop continue to fight those pesky, acid-blooded creatures.

But alas — this game is fool’s gold.

Sadly, it could have been great. Ample game development cycle? Check. A rich, fully developed universe with loads of potential? Oh yeah. A cool arsenal of weapons including the beloved pulse rifle? I’m grinning ear to ear. Instead, everything just feels so average and even rushed at times. And how come James Horner’s melancholy score is almost completely missing in action?

  Set seventeen weeks after the events of “Aliens,” the game begins with a video log of corporal Hicks describing some of the chaos present on the planet LV-426. He notes all marines dropped off on the planet can safely be considered KIA. The marines on board the USS Sephora have just received a distress call from the USS Sulaco, which is orbiting LV-426, and they begin an investigation.

As it turns out, “xenomorphs” have infested the ship and marines are being used as hosts for the creatures by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. Now, corporal Winter, with the aid of sergeant O’Neal, must fight his way through this mess and make it off the exploding ship. The two marines, with Bishop and others in-tow, manage to get into a drop-ship but they crash land on the surface of LV-426. Now the group must decipher the puzzle and find out why their fellow officers are being sacrificed and what the corporation has in store.

The big problem with “Aliens: Colonial Marines” is it just isn’t much fun to play. The environments are dull and the sound effects lack punch. Thus, the weapons don’t feel very destructive or substantive. Shooting an alien in close quarters should be a blast like in previous games, but instead it just feels labored and perfunctory. Also, the added melee attack removes some of the difficulty most of the other games brought to the table. Blowing away these creatures used to be extremely hard and rewarding. Now, it just feels like yet another “Call of Duty” rip-off.

Adding insult to injury, there are noticeable bugs present in the game. Characters will occasionally pop in out of nowhere and certain obstacles cannot be climbed over or maneuvered around. It may look like you can circle around certain objects looking for ammo and supplies, but sometimes this proves to be an exercise in futility. I tried walking around a crate in one level and got stuck between it and the wall. Regardless of how much visible space there was in that gap — or any gap, really — don’t expect intuitive or simple exploration when it counts most. Problems like these are just inexcusable.

Graphically, the game only fares a bit better. While the environments have some extremely nice lighting and shadow effects, poor looking character models and screen tearing spoil some of the riches. The environments look large and inviting, but the paths you can take are cramped and a bit ugly, negating any genuine visual appeal this game could have had. The graphics engine just doesn’t impress much.

The story in the movie was great. Here, it offers little in originality or surprises. The idea of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation using soldiers as hosts has been done to death in just about all of the “Aliens vs. Predator” games and I’ve grown tired of it. The plot doesn’t help differentiate this game from those superior entries at all. Even the AVP game that came out just a few years ago, also published by Sega, is better and fresher than this mess — and many thought that game was a disappointment, too.

Try as it might, “Aliens: Colonial Marines” apes the strengths the “Alien” universe has without actually doing anything meaningful with them. Digital appearances by Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen are definitely appreciated, but it’s not nearly enough to lift the game above a typical run-of-the-mill shooter.

Skip this game and stick with Monolith’s vastly superior PC game “Aliens vs. Predator 2.” That game came out more than ten years ago and it puts this one to shame, and it can be had for much cheaper to boot.        

 

 

– Sam McConkie is a senior in the technical and professional writing program at USU. He is a keen writer and has been a dedicated gamer for years. Sam can be reached at sambonemcconkie@gmail.com

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