10 Thoughts On… Aliens: Colonial Marines (PC)

Aliens_Colonial_Marines_CoverSo Aliens: Colonial Marines hit the shelves Tuesday and while I’ve gotten a good hands on with the single-player, I haven’t had a good dose of the multiplayer as there’s no access, so I thought why not go for a Ten Thoughts hit and drop a review on you later in the week.  To say I’ve been anticipating this game is an understatement, and while I’d been anticipating it, I’d been dreading a few things I’d heard, but so far the game has put me at ease, well relatively speaking anyway. Bear in mind I have the Steam version of the game, so I’m PC all the way on this. These may not all apply to the console version.

1. This is not Borderlands with the Colonial Marines added into the background.  While there are a few RPG elements like leveling up and finding rare weapons and even the SHiFT code system, the game functions more like a traditional shooter in that you’re looking for weapons for ammo, armor for protection that won’t last long, and possibly health if your Marine has taken too much of an ass-kicking.  This is definitely more of the Aliens experience and that is a very good thing for fans of the second film and the series.  There are a few things that fans of Borderlands will love, like co-op during the campaign and a few of the multiplayer modes, but this is definitely not the same game with a different paint job and that’s very much ok.

2013-02-11_000132. The game developers were definitely fans of the film going so far as to leave lots of neat Easter eggs around, some obvious like a certain android’s lower half laying on the dropship hangar floor, and the subtle, like an out of the way room containing another character’s customized shotgun.  They’ve gone so far as to get the original designers from the film of the Sulaco and Hadley’s Hope sets involved in fleshing out the other areas of the ship and places we didn’t see so that when you go from the hangar of the ship to say one of the sleep chambers it looks and feels like it did in the film and all flows together.  They even resisted the urge to unnecessarily update computer consoles, using the 80s computer styling for many of the consoles with some of Prometheus‘ thin screen tech showing elsewhere and it works because you can believe a heavy tech to be used by a Marine going out in combat and the thinner flimsier tech to be somewhere safe, or rather that wouldn’t normally be a combat zone.  In this case it might not even be military issue.

3. If Alien was the haunted house in space with the creature as the ghost hunting down the crew, Aliens was the zombie flick, with hordes of enemies continually coming at you, only they were much smarter, quicker and deadlier and would come at you from anywhere.  They definitely take this idea and run with it.  A single alien will try and move around to either get behind you or take you from the side, rarely coming at you from the front unless it’s with a group of other aliens trying to bumrush you.  Even then it’s more like one from the front and a few from the side.  While the creatures themselves are an issue, another plot rears its ugly head as Weyland-Yutani or some other meg-corp has more designs on the creatures as well. Think back to Alien 3 and Ripley with the baby Queen and all that fun stuff.  While this is supposed to be a sequel to Aliens there are definite tie-ins to the third film as well that you can especially see in the first mission segment as you search through the seemingly abandoned but infested Sulaco. 

2013-02-11_000364. Customization of your weapons and characters, well in the multiplayer, fits within the realm of the films setting as well as the level design.  There are some neat options to unlock as far as vanity looks go and yes you can even change out the ‘headgear’ and paint job on your xenomorph as well reminding me very much of the line of Aliens action figures that came out in the 90s with a variety of xenomorphs that popped out of different critters that had very different looks, abilities and builds which fits in nicely with the ones in the game.  Yes there is a female variant of the marine for multiplayer, decked out in similar armor to what Vasquez wore in the film and while the female Marine doesn’t get as many options, lacking as many heads or even a helmet option, it is nice to see the female option present considering the entire Alien franchise is built around strong women leads, including all 4 films, Prometheus and even a little bit into the ensemble mess of the two Alien versus Predator films.

5. While I love side stories that expand a bit on the world or series I like to visit, I do have to admit I still have some misgivings about where the game seems to be heading.  I got to my review copy a bit late, so I haven’t gotten into it as much as I’d like, but from my recollection Hadley’s Hope and the Atmospheric Processor were going to be turned into ‘a cloud of vapor the size of Nebraska’ which would most likely include the Space Jockey’s crash site as well depending on how far away it was.  I’m guessing they’re going with Bishop over-exaggerating the situation as well as the size and power of the explosion considering how much is intact and what’s left of Hadley’s Hope there seems to be after the first few opening missions.

6. The Alien series has always had this running theme of no matter how much you seem to be in control, or how much you’ve thought things through, anything that can go wrong will go wrong and from the moment you step off the ship your Marine in the campaign is assigned to that little rule is in full effect.  Some of this stuff is painfully obvious to anyone who’s seen any of the films or any action movie ever to be honest, but some of it is still fun to watch nonetheless.  Like the Marine you cut down from the webbing who just woke up in a room full of empty alien eggs and other dead hanging marines with holes in their chest or the marine who just woke up with a spider-like creature laying on the floor nearby.  The other theme is that humanity will always screw itself and other members of its species over. I’d bear that in mind as you play.
7. Running on the PC has been smooth. Textures have limited pop in as in I’ve noticed it once. I’m running on full settings and the lighting and levels look fantastic. Controls on both my gaming keyboard and moue have been just as smooth as using the 360 controller I ended up opting for just so I could sit back and play. For being a first-person shooter it’s very nice to feel just as comfortable playing in twitch mode as it is laid back on my couch with a controller. That’s not something that’s very easy to accomplish and so far it’s been working well.

8. While I think the inclusion of a human enemy into the main campaign is going to turn some people off, I think overall so far it not only adds a different dynamic to shake things up, especially when they both take the field, but it also adds to what could have been a grind of level after level to give us something of a story. What I’m hoping is that the human enemies don’t end up like Cerberus in Mass Effect 3 and basically dominating the whole game story wise leaving little time for the actual xenomorphs to take the spotlight which would be a real shame.

9. Aliens has a very specific sound set to the film, from the xenomorphs to the weapons and vehicles and even the musical score. While the score of the game leans far too much towards Alien: Resurrection than Aliens, some of those cues do pop up from time to time in the game. The weapons sound dead on and it’s a fantastically familiar thrill to hear it popping away at the bad guys. The warrior aliens sound like they do from the film, but the facehugger’s have a peculiar little noise to them that almost makes them sound like a puppy which is both disturbing and kind of kills the whole silent spider-crab-grab-your-face thing they had going previously. Voice actor’s do a decent enough job and so far I like the group they’ve got but we’ll have to see how that holds up as the game progresses.

10. Is this a great successor? I think that’s going to be on everyone’s mind as they play this. There’s been a few games over the years that most have hailed as just about perfect for the franchise. While I don’t think this is exactly perfect just yet, everything I’ve experienced from the pulse rifle and tossing an alien off of me to nail them with a shotgun and jumping in a power loader for even just a little bit has me jonesing to play more. I had to break of to get dinner and write this up otherwise I’d be playing it right now. Will that love affair continue? I guess that depends on how well the multiplayer modes work out. A good customization for your multiplayer loadout and look does not make the multiplayer experience. Hell that’s what kept me playing Mass Effect 3 for a whole year was a really well done multiplayer component and let’s face it Gearbox have a decent track record with that. Something to bear in mind.



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