When people think of GearBox, they think of Borderlands 2. They also might think of Duke Nukem Forever. A game that GearBox took over for the now defunct 3D Realms in an effort to finally finish it after 10 years of development. DNF wasn’t liked by gaming critics who found it to be graphically dull and unengaging. Duke had lost his luster and was something modern gamers could do without.
This seems to be the story with Aliens Colonial Marines. Critics gripe about the game, the graphics, the way the AI works, how the game isn’t scary enough, all these bugs, that the game can be beat in under 5 hours without killing anything, and the list goes on and on. I don’t know what gamers were expecting the game to be like. The development history shows this game was pushed back and pushed back and handed off to one developer to the next. Sega needed to publish this. Gamers were hungry for another Aliens game. This one with its drop in-drop out 4 player co-op seemed to fit the bill nicely. From the multiplayer I played at PAX, it was Aliens vs the Marines, Gearbox staff vs. Journalists. I had a great time, and the multiplayer forced people to work together. I saw some potential in the game, which at the time looked really good.
Aliens: Colonial Marines has a lot of references to the movies and it takes place after Aliens 2. Nothing is creepier than being in an abandoned spaceship with the radar going off because something is in the ducts! The first few hours are playable. I enjoyed the weapons, the light RPG elements, which include upgrading your soldier's gear, and the banter between my PC controlled teammates. The game wasn’t very difficult and the enemy AI isn’t the greatest, nor are your teammates -- they keep getting stuck and I had to track them down. The graphics are muddy and might remind you of something from earlier this generation. I think even on a PC with everything cranked up the graphics would still look dull. My other biggest gripe about the game is how linear it is. I wanted to explore but I was confined to certain areas. The game also reminds me of a bad version of Doom 3.
In order to experience everything the game has to offer, this weekend a few buddies and I fired up the co-op. Did this make playing Colonial Marines better? We saw more bugs, but we did have fun pointing out the references and complaining about what the game did wrong concerning the Alien's franchise. The game is playable with people you know and it is better than playing it alone with bad AI teammates.
There are a few games from this generation that are significantly worse than Aliens Colonial Marines. Rogue Warrior is a terrible game, Vampire Rain is a nearly unplayable, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor for Kinect was garbage, and there are a few others that make the cut. I think Aliens is flawed but it at least deserves a 5-6 out of 10 because the game is playable and has a few redeeming qualities. If you are a fan of the movies and other games in the series, you owe the game a rental at least. I am sure in a few months it will hit the $20 price point.