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March 3, 2013
Aliens: Colonial Marines - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
11/2/2013SegaSegaGearbox Software
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Aliens: Colonial Marines doesn't impress visually.
Beyond Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones, I would think that Alien is probably my favourite film franchise of all time, with James Cameron's Aliens one of my all-time favourite films. When it comes to video games, anything based on the sci-fi classic generates a lot of interest, both in myself and millions of other gamers. In some ways this is quite strange as the films are more about "dramatic horror" then all-out action. Still, Aliens: Colonial Marines is yet another game set to get your trigger-finger working overtime.

Despite the fanfare from Sega about having Bradley Thompson and David Weddle (who wrote episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Battlestar Galactica) writing this game, the story really is paper thin, with the story pushed via in-game events rather than impressive cut-scenes. Taking place 17 weeks after the events in James Cameron's Aliens this game sees a squad of soldiers, including Cpl. Christopher Winter who you control searching the U.S.S. Sulaco for answers to what happened. It's not too long though before their search takes them to the planet below and Hadley's Hope on LV-426.

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At least the weapons are superbly recreated.
When I wrote my preview of Aliens: Colonial Marines I stated that "One thing is certain. Development of Aliens: Colonial Marines has not been rushed." Indeed, it has taken six years from the game being announced by Sega for the title to hit the shelves. Apparently development hadn't even commenced when it was announced, but even after several release dates delays were frequent. Still, with Gearbox Software (Brothers In Arms and Borderlands franchises) steering the game there was little chance of a dud - or so we thought.

In fact, what we have just played through is a campaign mode only 6 hours long, with little real storyline, the wrong enemies, lacking any real sense of danger and with gameplay that would have felt fresh a decade ago. Let's break this down...

Six hours for a campaign is criminal. We have issues with that game length in any full-priced game, but even Call of Duty packs in relentless action and jaw-dropping set pieces to lessen the impact and offer incentive to replay the title. In Aliens: Colonial Marines you simply plod from one room to the next clearing enemies and then moving on. Wait, there's a bit more then that. You'll need to toggle switches at times, defend someone performing a mundane task or battle the Alien Queen in what must one of the most disappointing final boss battles ever put in a video game - it's simply run around, hit five switches and that's it.

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Bullshit! Graphics don't look this nice in the game - nor do that many aliens swarm you!
In terms of storyline, well you've seen it all above really - there isn't much to this, it adds little to the Alien mythology, although it is nice to explore the areas seen in James Cameron's film and there is really only one surprise in the latter part of the game. Still, why they needed scriptwriters I just don't know and that leads us to the next point... when I play an Alien game I actually want to fight xenomorphs (aliens), not Weyland security forces. Why the hell would you determine that humans are better enemies then aliens that you base the franchise on. If I want to shoot humans I'll go to Call of Duty, Half-Life or any other of a long list of proven games. What idiot made this call?

There really isn't much sense of danger in the game either. Perhaps we're becoming accustomed to games such as Mass Effect where characters can, and do, die which then alters the storyline somewhat. Not here, and with ample ammunition and armor littered around everywhere you'll have no trouble dispatching enemies.

The biggest issue though is the gameplay which feels dated from the very start. This is a FPS, sure, but it just never innovates with standard primary and secondary weapons on offer, a flashlight, the ability to open doors and toggle switches, and little else. Early in the game you are shown the welding torch which can be used to cut open or seal doors - the problem is that it is almost never used through the campaign mode, and you can't cut open any of the dozens of doors you pass, nor weld shut those you've just gone through. What's the point?

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This closer to in-game multiplayer visuals.
In terms of weapons, the game has everything you would expect - Pulse Rifle, Assault Rifle, Shotguns, Flame Thrower and the very powerful Smart Gun. Even these though are unbalanced or inaccurate. The Flame Thrower should have the aliens running away, and especially when on fire, but in this game they just stand around going "ohhh campfire". Well not really, but you get the point. Throughout the campaign you will also be able to find six classic weapons from the feature film. If you just want to plough through the game the best option is the overpowered shotgun which, with one or two blasts, will take out most xenomorphs. Each of these weapons can be customised with new, and often more powerful, parts as you progress through the game.

No doubt trying to get you to explore as much of the levels as possible the developers have scattered around some audio logs and dog tags to listen to and collect. These audio logs are probably the highlight of the film in terms of storyline, but they are often hidden away and a couple of hours in you won't even bother looking for them. Perhaps the highlight of this game is walking into a room only to see Weyland soldiers attacking, or being attacked by, aliens.

Finally we come to what could be a saving grace for this release - the multiplayer. Well, it's not perfect but without a doubt we had more fun in the multiplayer modes then the campaign. The game actually allows 12-players to compete online in four different game modes which include Death Match, Extermination, Escape (which was our favourite) set across five different maps (Adrift, Excavation, Last Hope, Origin and The Hive). Admittedly the multiplayer in this game is pretty entertaining and any upgrades you've obtained in the main campaign will carry over into this component. Still, the multiplayer isn't a patch on other big FPS's but it adds value and longevity.

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The Smart Gun is fun, but overpowered.
So let's move to the most contentious issue about this release, and we're sure that you, like us, have been reading a lot of new stories about visuals in this game - it's certainly evident that Sega's promotional screenshots and videos released over the last year really aren't representative of the final product. Sure, other publishers touch up screenshots at times, but never to the extent where the finished product looks vastly inferior to the "demo" screens and video released in mid-2012. The finished product lacks fog (which actually added atmosphere in this game), much of the dynamic lighting, and seen a drop in texture detail and number of objects in the game world. Could it be it's because we're playing the PS3 game? That's what we thought, but after playing the PC game with everything maxed out - no, the PC release is no better.

So what happened? Who knows. Well Gearbox Software, Sega and TimeGate probably do but it's clear that this is one of the worst implementations of Unreal Engine 3 (with new renderer dubbed Red Ring) we've seen for quite some time - probably since Duke Nukem Forever (another Gearbox Software release - although that used an earlier Unreal Engine). On a positive side the developers have recreated the LV-246 colony and U.S.S. Sulaco with plenty of attention to detail to the film. Yes Newt's bed is there, as is the heater, the Facehuggers in the labs, and so on... Sadly though the animation can be rough, character models lacking detail, and the frame rate choppy. While it has it's moments - probably mostly in the cut-scenes - this certainly isn't what we expect from the PS3 this late in the systems life, hell, even around launch time this would have disappointed.

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ARGH! I hate to say it, but this game disappoints.
There is, though, one area where the developers got this game right, mostly... mostly (see what I did there using Newt's classic line?). That is the audio with music that ties in directly with the feature films, sound effects which are taken straight from the movie including the weapons (the Pulse Rifle is an instantly recognisable sound anywhere) and the ping from the motion tracker. Dialogue sees the return of many of the films actors including Michael Biehn (as Corporal Dwayne Hicks), Mark Rolston (as Drake) and Al Matthews (Sergeant Apone) while Lance Henriksen is also in the film as Bishop - albeit a different one. Surround sound channels are given a decent workout which assists in locating people or enemies.

When looking at audio negatives there was the odd occasion when the audio dropped out at certain moments, but these weren't frequent enough to annoy excessively while some of the dialogue scripting was a below par for a film such as this with some one-liners that simply fall flat. Finally the shotgun should make a booming sound, but it's actually rather flat for some reason.

In all my years playing, and reviewing, video games few have come along and disappointed as much as Aliens: Colonial Marines. Sure, there are a few redeeming features and some moments of fun, however these are vastly outweighed by glitches and disappointments. Whoever developed the majority of this game - Gearbox Software or TimeGate depending who you listen to - should be ashamed. Unlike Duke Nukem Forever which Gearbox picked up at the tail end of development, publisher Sega and developers Gearbox and TimeGate have been working on this game for six years now - it looks more like six months (and indeed recent reports actually point to nine months of heavy development). For such a massively popular license this is a monumental disappointment and a rental at best.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSThe Colony looks straight from the film, but so many graphical disappointments.
SOUNDCertainly the best aspect of this game is the audio - great music, classic Aliens screams and weapons. Some glitches though and dialogue is often poorly scripted.
GAMEPLAYHo-Hum. This feels like a shooter from a decade ago. Despite the often perfect recreation of the Sulaco and colony on LV-426, it just isn't fun to play. Oh, I also want to shoot aliens - not humans!
VALUE6-hour campaign, no replay value and despite some fun, there are only 5 maps and 4 modes in multiplayer. Should be a $30 downloadable game.
OVERALLDespite desperately wanting to love this game, as I do the films, it's simply too flawed, too short and too disappointing to recommend. A rental at best.

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