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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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