Heads up, because this is more of a “getting something off my chest” (as opposed to “out of my chest” lol; yes I made a chestburster joke, laugh dammit laugh!) type of thing, since the thing I’m about to talk about is something that’s been around for a while, yet is also still talked about by other people. In fact it was actually one of Jim Sterling’s recent Jimquisition videos on YouTube that kinda inspired me to talk about it, and I think it’s time that I just talk about it. What is it I’m referring to, you may ask? Well, look at the title. Anyway, I’m gonna talk about Aliens: Colonial Marines. And since “review” is in the title, here’s my rating of the game, just to get that out of the way:
I’d be more fair, but given how some game companies over the years try to pull off the same kind of crap that went on with CM and even at worse extents, like the recent Star Wars: Battlefront from what I heard, I’m gonna follow Ben Yahtzee’s example and judge it for what it represents as well as the actual material itself, because for all gaming companies out there that want to pull these shenanigans, not everyone is gonna like it and it won’t be forgotten, and it becomes an example of not only how NOT to do a licensed game, but how to do a game in general, and it won’t be tolerated anymore. So yeah, two years and I’m still pissed about it.
The story begins back around 2006. Sega had acquired the license to the Alien franchise to make video games out of it. There were two titles initially announced: an RPG to be developed by Obsidian Entertainment (known for KOTOR II and South Park: Stick of Truth) which ended up getting cancelled and leaving a sense of what could have been as well as why it got canned at all, and a first-person shooter to be developed by Gearbox Software (known for Brothers in Arms series and Borderlands series). When I first heard about it and saw all the images for it, I was excited. The first two Alien films count among some of my favorite movies and I always wanted to have a video game experience reminiscent of Aliens. A lot of sci-fi first-person shooter games wouldn’t exist if not for Aliens, and while there were a bunch of Alien games out there, it didn’t seem like they captured the essence of what made it great for so many people (though in comparison to CM, I think that one recent Aliens arcade game has a better feel to it than CM itself)
Not too long after the announcement there were images and probably a sneak peek trailer to preview the game. Originally, it was going to be released around 2008-2009, but then nothing happened. Gearbox said that the game was still being made, but in the meantime they were working on the Borderlands games and also the notoriously long-in development and bad Duke Nukem Forever (arguably that wasn’t ENTIRELY their fault, but it’s not like they made it any better). Sega had also announced that there was going to be a new Aliens vs. Predator game before CM came out, leading people to fear the worst and believe that CM was cancelled or delayed even more than it was going to be.
Then came the trailer.
At E3 and PAX, Gearbox unveiled a new trailer for CM. My interest in the game was reinforced more than ever. It looked so beautiful. The visuals were nice, the xenomorphs had “sophisticated AI” as Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford put it, the gameplay looked spot-on, and it seemed like this was the Aliens experience everyone wanted to have in a video game. But nothing is what it seems and that certainly was the case in regards to that trailer and how the final product never even came close to what was shown and promised to everyone. The demo and presentation were so scripted and fake, it might as well have been done like a Carlos Mencia performance.
And here’s where the personal bit comes in for me. See, everyone has their own specific beef with Aliens: Colonial Marines. Whether it’s cause they were a megafan of the franchise, wanted a good game out of it, or something else, I had reasons similar to those and then my own specific reason. The game had come out on February 12, 2013, which was the day after my own birthday, my 21st even. That may sound petty for some, but honestly, given the game and its track record, I think anyone’s beef with it is automatically justified.
Like so many other people suckered into pre-ordering the game, I thought I was going to get something good, never thinking that just because there’s pre-orders for a game that not a lot has been revealed about and pre-order culture is already damaged enough, doesn’t mean it’ll end up being good. I thought to myself that maybe this would be an extra nice birthday present to myself. I rushed over to the store to pick up my copy, bought the friggin COLLECTOR’S EDITION which was ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS (only good thing to come out of that were some of the collectibles within it like the statue), and I played it. Looking back, it wasn’t a pretty notable experience. In fact, it was pretty boring and lackluster. I played the game and went through it in a breeze, which was baffling. And after seeing and hearing all the reviews for the game, I had to take a closer look, and I realized they were right. Here’s what the problems were:
-The graphics didn’t look “next-gen” but more like last-gen as if the game was made several years ago, not looking anything like it did at the demonstration.
-Enemy and ally AI were broken and stupid, running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Allies were more like cardboard cutouts than their own characters, cliched as Hell, and in gameplay they were stupid and might as well been firing water pistols when “helping”, not to mention getting in the way when you’re trying to move around. Heck, the main character you play as isn’t all that great because not much is revealed about him. Xenomorphs would dissolve when getting killed in the game rather than stay around like in the demo or even the human enemies. Worse yet, the xenomorphs weren’t even fought a lot in the game itself, but most of the time was spent on fighting humans. This would’ve been an interesting thing, something like in Half-Life where you fight humans sent in to contain the incident and destroy all traces of evidence including survivors, at about halfway or three quarters through, but nope, they were put in almost immediately after the game starts, as if this was Call of Duty but with an Aliens paint job.
-The story was lazy and tried to expand on certain elements regarding what happened after Alien 3, but didn’t do it very well. There was some fan service, like going through the Sulaco interiors and explore LV-426, including the Space Jockey ship (if you’re expecting Prometheus connections like rumors led some people to believe, then don’t) In fact, Hicks, who was believed to be dead, was actually alive. While I was excited to see that happen considering he was one of my favorite characters in the movie and Michael Biehn is an awesome actor, Hicks was pretty much worthless and Biehn’s delivery was just mediocre, as if the material given to him wasn’t great and he tried his best to make do with what he had, which ended up not being very good anyway (Biehn himself said the game wasn’t a very good experience for him, and that’s something). Lance Henriksen was also in the game as a new version of Bishop, but it felt like something to be expected as well as the appearance of an “evil” Bishop working for Weyland-Yutani.
-And probably one of the worst offenses this game could make to Alien fans was that they revealed what happened to Hudson, who after being cocky near the beginning of the film, losing his confidence and nearly his sanity after his initial encounter with the xenomorphs, and then facing his fear and taking down as many of them as possible before being taken away and leaving people wondering if he died right then and there or taken to a nest to get impregnated by a facehugger. At one point in the game you’re wondering through a sewer level or something, you find a marine strung up on a wall with a hole in his chest, most likely caused by a chestburster, and it turns out to be Hudson. If Michael Biehn was able to return as Hicks, why not also Bill Paxton as Hudson? In fact, one of the missions in the game was to save a fellow marine from an alien inside her, and there’s this race against time to get her to a facility , but ends up being pointless since the facility doesn’t have the capability to get it out of her for some bullshit reason and she dies anyway. This would’ve been better suited if it was Hudson that was being helped, like he was the one getting rescued from Weyland-Yutani scientists experimenting and torturing him like they did Hicks, only he was impregnated and it’s a race against time to save a fan-favorite character, and then you get to fight alongside him and have a great Aliens experience. But nope, that didn’t happen and it was an opportunity utterly wasted.
-Gameplay was a joke. There was an HUD, unlike the demo shown which didn’t have an HUD and that the game was reportedly not going to have one on purpose in order to provide the player with instinct and tension, but that didn’t happen. There were a lot of weapons, including special movie weapons, but the weapon selection menu was weird and off-putting, and oftentimes I was wondering how did I get all these weapons. Some weapons would come and go, like the smart gun and flamethrower, which felt like being cheated out of something good. Using the motion tracker was mostly contextual, with prompts in the game saying when to use it, rather than just using it anytime you damn well please and roleplay because it’s friggin ALIENS and you’re supposed to feel like you’re not alone, wonder what is out there, how it’ll approach you and how you’ll approach it, despite being filled with fear and dread, but nope, that doesn’t happen
– “Boss battles” were a joke too. There was a giant Alien that can be fought with a power-loader, but the controls were all wonky and nothing like the epic fight between Ripley and the queen. Speaking of the queen, all that has to be done to defeat her at the end of the game is just press a button and she falls out of a ship.
-Not only was this game approved by 20th Century Fox as canon, but it also tried to set up some new kind of story for a war between the Colonial Marines and Weyland-Yutani, of which thankfully that never happened.
-The only good things to say about the game were the sound design and the environments, which not only felt like being in Aliens, but also expanding on it too, but not very much. There was also an interesting stealth section where all weapons are gone and a xenomorph is chasing you, something that was greatly expanded on and released to good reception with Alien: Isolation.
-If you’re wondering what I think about multiplayer, then don’t. I’m not much of a multiplayer guy, so really I can’t say much regarding this game’s multiplayer, and I don’t think others have either considering from what I’ve heard that not a lot of people are doing it.
And so the game would get gutted by almost every critic out there and become labelled as one of the worst games ever made. Granted, my experience with the game at the time didn’t have much technical problems like crashing and stuff, but the bugs and other stuff were very apparent among me and others who played it. There was even a season pass for it, even though it had no justification in doing so, but some videos I’ve seen of the “Stasis Interrupted” (that’d make an interesting sci-fi parody of Girl Interrupted, wouldn’t it? lol) DLC looked okay and showed some inkling of what people were promised for the original game, not to mention an interesting way of showing how Hicks survived instead of some offhand explanation. The thing of it is, the game felt like it was rushed instead of being in development for six years. In fact, the game was actually outsourced to other developers like TimeGate Studios( who after this game was released, filed for bankruptcy and got shut down; way to go, Gearbox!), and others. Rumors still persist to this day that the money Gearbox took from Sega that was supposed to go toward the game actually went to Gearbox’s own ventures like the Borderlands series. Randy Pitchford tried to defend himself, Gearbox, and the friggin game, only talking to people who had anything positive to say about it and block people who talked negatively or even ask questions regarding the game.
Then came the lawsuit. Or maybe lawsuits. I’m not sure. I’m not surprised any lawsuits came about during all this.
Lawsuits were filed against Gearbox and Sega for falsified advertisement on a product that wasn’t anything like what was demonstrated. Gearbox managed to weasel out of it, so Sega had to pay for everything. And that’s where it all leads to. Recently, Randy Pitchford was interviewed and even went on social media and proclaimed how happy he was to wiggle out of the legal crap, still defending his and his company’s actions, when after years of bullshit he should really just admit he done and fucked up. At least Sega tried to make up for what happened, though they still use false advertising on the game’s Steam page. On the other hand, they did release Alien: Isolation to make up for it too, which while I haven’t played too much of it, it’s gotten pretty good reception and I hope there’s some kind of followup.
In the end, though, the only thing that matters I guess is moving forward. However, that proves to be difficult when stuff like this is still happening, and even worse when people have the balls to defend it despite others calling them out on their lies and other bullshit they try to pull. I don’t hate Gearbox or Sega for this, I really don’t, but I hate the way they went about this whole thing, and if Sega can nut up and admit their wrongdoing, then so can Gearbox if they ever find their balls. Some people tell me to let it go, but when Gearbox is still being defensive about it and never admitting defeat, I won’t let it go. If Angry Joe, Jim Sterling, and other critics won’t let it go, then neither will I. As far as I’m concerned, it’s never “game over, man, game over”.