‘Aliens: Colonial Marines’ Review

Published 2 years ago by

Aliens Colonial Marines Review

After many delays and several press events, Aliens: Colonial Marines finally hit store shelves this past Tuesday. Undoubtedly, gamers have already seen many of the gameplay videos out there (check out our first impressions and first 20 minutes video), there are still parts of Aliens: Colonial Marines that are worth looking at from a micro perspective, to find out where exactly it all went wrong.

From the very first frame, Aliens: Colonial Marines sets itself up to be a disappointment. Rough textures, stilted dialogue that comes off as independent sound bytes, and poor animation and lip-synching plague any cut scene, which makes every story beat or plot set-up wholly distracting. Colonial Marines’ story is designed to be a post-Aliens narrative, but it’s really just a retread of iconic locations from that James Cameron film.

As Corporal Winters, players will start first on the vacant Sulaco, trying to piece together what happened to the ship’s original crew (i.e. Ripley, Hicks, Bishop, etc…). Of course, what the player finds is a cornucopia of xenomorphs trying to eviscerate them at every turn. The game also features some Weyland Yutani soldiers, who are merely around to provide a different enemy type.

Aliens Colonial Marines Review - Main Characters

There’s something to do with studying the xenomorphs, and there are some portions that tie into the Aliens storyline, but ultimately the connective tissue is thin, and the story arc itself is trite. Don’t go in expecting some sort of grand revelation, or any explanation as to what happened between Aliens and Alien 3, it’s simply not there.

Whether it’s battling the WY soldiers or the xenomorphs, Colonial Marines is a standard, by-the-numbers FPS experience. There are a handful of weapons at the player’s disposal, including a few special one-off weapons (like a flamethrower and an auto-targeting LMG). However, players will find that the assault rifle as primary and shotgun as secondary loadout works just fine.

To be honest, it really doesn’t matter what weapon the player uses, because the AI is just plain dumb. The human enemies alternate between running around aimlessly and ducking behind cover without any sense of self-preservation; and the xenomorphs endlessly charge the player, turning themselves into instant shotgun fodder. There are a few enemy types within each category (like xenomorphs that spit acid and Weyland Yutani heavy types), but it’s all just one big shooting gallery.  It gets even worse for teammate AI, who can be actually killing enemies one second and then shooting at a wall the next. Yes, I actually caught my teammates shooting at absolutely nothing more than a couple times.

Aliens Colonial Marines Review - Gameplay

Early on, gamers will discover that Colonial Marines isn’t all that challenging, and what it offers as far as shooters are concerned is a less-than-mediocre experience. Haphazardly shooting various enemies without contextual feedback or mindlessly pressing buttons is not fun, it’s actually really boring. The final boss fight, for example, requires the player run around and push buttons.

There are spots that are difficult, but that’s not by design, it’s almost by accident. The game liberally scatters health packs and armor throughout its levels, but oftentimes it’s hard to predict how much damage the player is taking. At the same time, there are enemies that will spawn out of nowhere — sometimes behind the player — or trap them in a corner and waste them easily. Dying wouldn’t be much of a nuisance either, but the game’s checkpoint system is terrible — leaving long stretches between enemy encounters. There’s nothing more demoralizing than getting through a 5-minute sequence, taking out dozens of enemies, only to die and have to start all over again. It’s a small gripe, but the lack of convenient checkpoints is a real misstep.

There’s also a specific section in the game where player is stripped of their weapons and asked to stealthily make their way through the sewers. It breaks up the monotony of what is a very rote experience, but the sequence itself can be boiled down to first person walking. Scattered throughout the level are xenomorphs that react to sound, and to avoid them all the player must do is walk slowly. Some might call it unique, but it comes across as filler.

Aliens Colonial Marines Review - HUD

All in all, though, the shooting is passable — players aim down the barrel, fire, and the enemies take damage. So it’s hard to be too negative about a sub-par FPS when, at the very least, it functions. On the other hand, the game’s presentation is a complete disaster. Beyond just the outdated and rough-around-the-edges visuals and sound, the game’s animations and level design are extremely poor. Oftentimes it’s hard to discern xenomorphs from the background, especially the very small facehuggers. As well, the various xenomorphs look fine from a design standpoint, but their movement and attack animations are far too ugly not to be pointed out.

Once the 6-hour single player campaign has reached its conclusion — which includes several battles with the xenomorph queen — players can take the experience online for any of the game’s multiplayer modes. The modes themselves are riffs on standard team deathmatch, cooperative, or objective-based modes, but it’s the opportunity to play as a xenomorph that is the real draw here. Unfortunately the lack of balance between the marine players and the xenomorphs can lead to some seriously one-sided matches.

Xenomorphs have the inherent ability to sense enemies through walls, and the marines have the added bonus of the motion tracker, which, on the surface, should have balanced the two options. Unfortunately the gameplay balancing only extended that far, leaving the marines much stronger than the xenomorphs if they simply back in a corner and hunker down with their squad. So, while playing as the xenomorphs is unique and fun, it won’t lead to too many victories. But props to the developers for creating a multiplayer experience that makes the best use of the Aliens IP, even if few gamers will come back to it after the first week.

Aliens Colonial Marines Review - Multiplayer

For a game that was in development for this long, Aliens: Colonial Marines redefines the term disappointment. Its rough visuals, awful animations, and generic combat turn what might have been a mediocre shooter into a terrible one. To be fair the game is not unplayable, it’s buggy animation and random moments where enemies disappear into thin air are not a hindrance to campaign progression, but why someone would want to progress past the first hour is a mystery.

What’s worse is that this is a game that leverages a beloved sci-fi property to suck as many $60 purchases out of fans as it can. The Aliens faithful have already shown their willingness to jump head first into anything that loosely connects to the franchise, so in that regard the existence of Colonial Marines feels exploitative. While it’s hard to know just who to blame (main developer Gearbox Software claims much of the campaign was outsourced to TimeGate), Aliens should have been much better, but the fact that it’s this bad just makes the game an embarrassment.

Have you had a chance to check out Aliens: Colonial Marines? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Aliens: Colonial Marines is out now for the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Game Rant was provided the Xbox 360 version for this review.

Follow me on Twitter @ANTaormina

Our Rating:

1 out of 5

TAGS: Aliens: Colonial Marines, Gearbox Software, PC, PS3, TimeGate Studios, Xbox 360

  • IcemanHill

    ouch….so glad i didnt pre-order this…its the curse of making video games after movies. i don’t there is a single movie related video game out there that is any good, too bad i was hoping they put a little extra effort into this one and learned from games like Dead Space, Call of Duty, Halo…to make an enjoyable experience

    • COREY_1993

      i dont think you have played many movie games then… there are goods ones. The amazing spiderman, spiderman 2, king king and other. unlike those games this had years of dedvelopment so there is no excuse… this game was a waste of time.

      • doc

        Riddick:Escape from Butcher Bay was awesome.

    • Tratz

      While the track record of many games based on movie properties is spotty at best, there have been a few that actually weren’t too bad. The aforementioned Spider-man games were pretty well done, the Wolverine game based on the first solo movie was good, Star Wars has had several great games over the years (yes, there’s been some stinkers too), and Captain America was surprisingly decent. And, actually, the LOTR: Return of the King was pretty great too.

  • Wraith2021

    “Oftentimes it’s hard to discern xenomorphs from the background”

    This statement made me laugh. Tell me have you even seen Aliens? Of course they are hard to discern from the background, that is how they blend in, and Facehuggers are no different.

    Also if you had actually listened, you would have learned that the game is set after Alien 3, brought back from the prison planet by Wayland-Yutani, thus the story fits just fine as a sequel.

    • Lanzer301

      ^^^ This. Really, GR?? The aliens are supposed to be hard to see. Although a lot of what you’ve said here is true (the AI and graphical/audio issues aren’t even up for debate, they suck), I think a big problem with this review is that you’re looking at it like Halo or CoD, when it’s a different kind of enemy in a different kind of setting. You’re supposed to feel baffled and unsure of where the aliens are, that’s kind of the whole fun of the franchise. Aliens spawning behind you actually kinda makes sense.

      • http://gamerant.com Anthony Taormina

        There’s a difference between an enemy being hard to differentiate because of a shadow and being trapped in a mess of poorly rendered polygons. Just look at Dead Space 3, it might be hard to find an enemy in the dimly lit environments, but when you’re looking right at one, you know it.

        As far as comparing the game to COD or Halo that’s just putting words in my mouth. No comparisons were made. Colonial Marines is a broken game on so many levels.

        • Dante

          I don’t buy it Anthony, clearly you are an outlier in this magnificent game’s plethora of positive reviews…


          Good review…don’t let people who love “Aliens no matter what” get to you. This game is a mess and you let the people know. I appreciate that; the two above were going to buy this game and consider it genius no matter what you said.

  • MmmmmDonuts

    What the heck happened to Alien vs Predator? Could they not make a game that had a great storyline like that? I mean really, and they couldn’t even improve the gameplay? Skipping this one

  • fanofgames

    I enjoyed the game. Although there are deffs certain mechanics of the game that suck. The a.i are completely useless on any difficulty lower then ultimate badass, there still useless on that difficulty but they do more damage and theres no hud so it makes it alittle better. The third person view for aliens suck. And they should of added a 4 person coop versus a kajillion aliens but they didnt lol.a bit of a dissapointment yeah.

    • http://twitter.com/antaormina Anthony Taormina

      I still don’t get how not having a HUD makes a game better.

      • fanofgames

        IMO its harder without the hud because you dont know how much health or armor you have.

  • jwalka

    this, just like the new duke nukem is a game only die hard fans will like, since they’ll be the ones to overlook all the flaws in favour of shooting aliens in iconic areas from the movies.

    those crying about how ‘gearbox had a whole lifetime to make the game’ dont know what happened behind the scenes and should stop acting like a little b**ch b/c in this industry things change very quickly and very drastically. sure they could have at least checked the game after they out sourced most of the game to like 6 other studios, but it their defense, they had to work on borderlands 1 + 2 and duke nukem all within a few years.

    they might have been over their heads in starting so many projects all within a few years spam, but one cant blame them for taking the opportunity for wanting to work with such iconic franchises no ?

    • Dante

      So your defense of their outsourcing such an “iconic franchise” is that they just had too much to do?

      LOL, that is rich.

      Perhaps then prioritizing would have helped…or maybe just less greed.

      • jwalka

        think about it junkie, they’ve had borderlands 1 + 2 to work on plus they had to polish and do the best they could with that mess called duke nukem forever. imo it’s not greed it’s just poor management and a little amateurish (or maybe the where above their heads thinking they could juggle everything?)

  • ShinMejia

    So is it as bad or worse than HomeFront?

    • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes


      • ShinMejia

        No way! I thought Homefront was a huge letdown, a PS2 looking game on the PS3, Marines can’t be any worse than that, right?

  • Cyberghost

    Hoping finally this game would be above average, I was disappointed. The game would of been a very good game 10 years ago, but it’s not 2003, it’s 2013. . What a waste of money. Whomever is to blame, should be hit with a big stick for putting this $29 game for $60. Garbage.

  • Coop

    I hope they improve the wii u version after all the bad reviews, the least they can do is give one console a decent version

  • diaz_mma

    This is definitely not a “terrible” game. The graphics are okay, but not terrible. Some set pieces struggle with frame rate, and mechanics could absolutely be improved, but I could say that about nearly every other current gen game.

    If you play video games for graphics only, skip this game. If you play for your own fun and imaginative experience, then you will enjoy this game. Lots of action, a true Aliens feel, and a unique multiplayer mode.

    7.5/10 — would get a high 8 if the graphics were more solid….

    • http://www.ligori-online.nl ligori

      I totally agree diaz mma. For a FPS shooter of today it def lacks a lot of originality but it was fun and it’s not all about the graphic. To me it was being in Aliens ( part 2 ). Especially the music… 60 dollars is too much but it’s fun!!!

  • Aidan Gibson

    I don’t know why people have been so hard on this game. Most of you have completely ignored every single good quality it and just decided to point out every flaw instead. I am true long time fan of the Alien franchise and I’m completely satisfied with this game. Just up the difficulty to ultimate badass and you can fully immerse yourself into this game if you would just try to overlook the flaws. As I was playing I felt connected to the well thought out atmosphere they made for the game and I barely noticed the minor stuff that every one has been complaining about. I don’t know what you people expected from this game but I loved it. All of you are entitled to your own opinion and if you outright don’t like this game at all then its your choice. However I feel that colonial marines has been treated with a degree of hostility that it doesn’t entirely deserve.

  • Daniel

    Long time fan of the franchise, at least the first 2 films anyway, 3 had some good and the rest were a joke including avp movies… but the game was disappointing in some ways. Story in campaign mode was not compelling at all. Characters and situations from level to level were unremarkable. It was just business as usual redundant landscapes shoot em up instead of a chilling survival tale. Alien and Aliens was eerie, creepy… was hoping for same from campaign but not this time. Was hoping as were many of us probably were that this would finally be the one that got it right. In all honesty the AVP2 pc game developed by Monolith in 2001 campaign was way better. I know different time and different graphics but bare bones AVP2 game was better but then Sega does seem to make a good deal of mediocre games. Multi player can be clumsy at times especially when playing as Alien. Could have done alot with this concept, going back to discover the aftermath of the first team after receiving Hicks distress call but just failed to deliver. Wanted more of that and not a chapter or two wasted on saving Bella and the over actor O’Neal’s tirades, didn’t care what happened to them. Again very unremarkable. Anyone else wonder how there is still any part of Hadley’s Hope left in tact at all? In 19 minutes this area is going to be a cloud of vapor the size of Nebraska – Blast radius of 30 kilometers equal to about 40 megatons! Any avid fan remembers details – Take a look at Hicks bio in multi player Marine Load outs – Says “Hicks fired a point blank shotgun blast at an assaulting Xenomorph, and the resulting acid splash burned his face and armor” They are of course referring to Hicks and Ripley escaping in the elevator after newt is taken, well sorry Sega/Gearbox, but you got it wrong. Hicks in fact fired with his beloved Pulse Rifle. I recognized that immediately upon reading it and just had to point it out, especially after Randy Pitchford – president of gearbox proclaimed to be a big fan of Aliens during his intro of the upcoming game in the E3 walkthrough… just saying.

  • allman

    I honestly don’t know what you people bad mouthing the game expect. For Goodness sake it is a games are meant to have some fun and get away from reality for a while.if
    If you want a combat experience completely beleiveable and tied to complete reality, here isa suggestion. Get off your duffs join a branch of the armed forces, and
    Fight for your country. There you will get a completely realistic idea of what combat really is.

    Unfottunately, most of you would rather sit in front of your game consoles, and pc,s and bitch.

    This may seem a little tough, and it comes from a 65 year old gamer. I am probibly an old foggy to you
    You young whipper snippers who think you know every thing, but i can,t do anything about that.

    I play games to get away from every day rwality and loose my self in a alternate reality for awhile.

    Think about it.

  • ShinMejia

    Well I gave it a rent and I liked it. It wasn’t the best FPS but it was fun, and if you’re a fan of Alien, Aliens & Alien 3, then you’ll appriciate the story and the events mentioned, if all you play is CoD or Halo, then you’ll pick the game apart and cry about everything. My biggest complaint would have to be the Queen battle at the end of the game though, overall I’d say 3 out of 5.