Monday, February 18, 2013

Aliens: Colonial Marines

Aliens: Colonial Marines is an FPS game from fan favorite developers Gearbox Software, based on the highly popular Alien franchise. This game has received a lot of backlash since its release, and I'm here to address some of that. Does it really deserve all this negative feedback? Absolutely not. Is the game good? That is a different question and the answer isn't as black and white as the former. But after playing through the story and playing a few games of multiplayer I can honestly say that I had fun. I wasn't blown away, but at the end of the day, shouldn't that be enough? Unfortunately, with a price tag of $60, it really isn't. I'm going to try to keep this as simple as possible. And just point out the main aspects of the game as well as the pros/cons.
  1. The Gameplay:
The gameplay is actually good, as far as the control and mechanics go. The interface is pretty simple and adds to the experience of playing as a Colonial Marine, which is actually the point. There are 2 types of enemies; aliens and humans. Fighting the Aliens is always satisfying and makes you feel like a Colonial Marine, but fighting the humans is tedious, boring and makes you wish you were fighting anything else. There isn't a whole lot to do, because the concept is so simple, so you basically have 2 options: shoot or run. The overall goal of the game is to immerse you in the atmosphere and make you feel like you are in the world of Aliens, so most of the focus was on this, and the developers neglected some important mechanics of video game developing, like pacing. The multiplayer has a fun two round matching system where the players alternate between the standard FPS Marine or a third person Xenomorph, in a very generic matter. Its fun, but it doesn't bring anything that new to the, now staple, multiplayer format. The escape mode is incredibly fun, but I would much rather just play deathmatch. The multiplayer is one of the weaker aspects of the game, and I really enjoy the single player campaign

    2.   The Story

The story is relatively simple, with some ironic retconning. The thing I find the funniest about this game is that it tried to ignore the events of Alien 3 (somewhat) and this story was nothing special to begin with. It goes you are a marine, Weyland-Yutani is experimenting with Xenomorphs (as always) and tries to tie the loose ends (you) and you have to escape. Its really something we have seen before many times. The story for the film Aliens is nothing special, but what elevates it beyond mediocrity is the characters, the visual effects and the overall pacing. There was tension and humanity, whereas here its just an excuse to put you in familiar Aliens sets. So that is a failure of the game, but I don't find it as a complaint, because I'm playing the game because I had a legitimet want to return to Hadley's Hope, not for an interesting and complex story. This game isn't Heavy Rain or LA Noir, what matters is the gameplay, not the progression of the story

    3. Technical Aspects

Here are the actual problems that the game has. There are a lot of rough textures and syncing problems. The story is forgivable considering the development time because not all writers can crank out a script as good as Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, or even Amy Hennig with an extended period of time, but animators can polish graphics. This is very poor and I noticed it immediately and was disappointed greatly. The sound is actually very good though. Its what drives you through the game and carries that "Aliens" feel. It even features some cast members of Aliens that did some pretty good voice work. Overall, the voice acting was good, but some of the dialogue was bad, which I call Episode 1 syndrome, where a good actor has nothing to work with.

Now I realize that I referenced Aliens a lot, but that is the main point of this game. It was made for fans of Aliens. Maybe even at the cost of (ironically) alienating modern gamers. I believe that many people were just mad disappointed that the game took so long and it didn't fully deliver. But it was an Aliens game and felt as such. A good example of something in development for a long time and delivering sub par results is Episode 1. Its not bad because we waited a long time and its a disappointment, its bad because it fails as a cinematic experience. It may not be worth the $60 price tag, but its not worth the critical backlash that it has gotten. The way others have been reviewing this really reminds me of how others reviewed the phantom menace, in that they couldn't agree on what is exactly wrong with it, which leads me to believe that they were just disappointed and in turn are pouting like a little baby and just hate it. I played it as both a fan of the franchise and somebody who is not fond of first person shooters. The bottom line is that the game is entertaining, has fun Easter eggs, and is to Aliens what Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire is to the Star Wars franchise. Its just another chapter in the Alien canon. It has a few technical problems, and yes, for the amount of time it spent being developed, it should have been more polished than this, but its acceptable. From the get go it was almost definitely set up to fail just because it has such an important brand of Science Fiction attached to it, as well as the gearbox name. The perfect analogy is Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull. Its a franchise we care about, we have all kind of wanted to see what it has to offer after all these years, our anticipation was high, but it missed the bar. Its still a decent property, but it has a good deal of flaws. If you look at it under a microscope you will find far too many imperfections that you really didn't need to see, but from a far, its not so bad. But that maybe the problem, is that its average. With such an important title and Gearbox developing it, you can't help but expect more, but after the dust settles, I think people won't care so much. If you can get it for around $30, and you are a fan of Aliens, give it a go, otherwise, there are plenty of cool games coming out later this year

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