An interactive sequel to a classic sci-fi horror movie takes players back into a war for survival against an iconic extraterrestrial species in Aliens: Colonial Marines (Sega and Gearbox Software, Rated Mature, reviewed for the Xbox 360, $59.99).
Specifically, taking place 17 weeks after the movie’s story, a distress signal sent by Cpl. Dwayne Hicks takes a squad of soldiers aboard the orbiting, seemingly abandoned ship the U.S.S. Sulaco and eventually down to the planet LV-426.
On the surface, the team explores the ill-fated colony Hadley’s Hope as they uncover another massacre in the making and potential threat to humanity.
Of course, that threat is the Alien species, more commonly called the Xenomorph. A player encounters its various incarnations on a gory and occasionally scary quest to find survivors and answers.
So stop right here. That’s sounds pretty cool right?
Now, with a frothing of the mouth equal to one of those gruesome ghoulies second set of choppers sprouting out for the kill, I can attest that this fan’s anticipation was high for the potential of this gaming epic.
Alas, this latest entry to the franchise offers no better story than the substandard selection of Aliens vs. Predators films released over the last decade, mired within a lower-end homage to the shooter genre and supported by graphic design nearly as antiquated as the last days when first Xbox ruled the galaxy.
That might sound harsh, but come on; this iconic franchise deserves an epic rivaling any “Call of Duty” effort.
Still, do I not take great pleasure in exterminating a face hugger as it tries to push its gooey nodule down my throat?
I can also appreciate wielding weapons often familiar to the fan of the film such as a pulse rifle, shotgun, sentry turret or flame thrower, or tools such as the handheld motion tracker or combination welding/cutter torch.
The moments where I fearlessly walk down poorly lit corridors with pockets of steam unleashed, waiting for a creature to pop up or down at me are actually, pretty fun.
Holding off sporadic hordes of creatures while using the auto-targeting, high-caliber smart gun made me smile.
Now, do I want to blaze through firefights early on in the game against a bunch of dunderheaded mercenaries from the Weyland-Yutani Corp.? I offer a resounding, ughhh.
If the game was not eventually tied to one of the most recognized creatures in the history of cinema, players would be bored stiff within 15 minutes of working through some of the deficient mechanics and redundancies.
Despite the mediocrity, a few areas shine, a little.
It’s definitely exciting to go hunting for Xenomorphs and watching these vicious killing machines burst in florescent green goo, especially with help from three other players in a co-operative mode.
Additionally, later in the story, a fan will find some cool moments and concepts tied to and expanding the franchise (reference the mysterious Xenomorph strain called the boilers).
I sort of even appreciated seeing a new version of the android Bishop, voiced by the original Aliens actor Lance Henriksen until but the character’s animations were so lame and Mr. Henriksen dialogue so routine, it was laughable.
However, for the serious gamer, who will rip through the solo campaign alone within six hours or so, he can take some respite diving into multiplayer, versus modes.
Each features taking turns as Marine or Xenomorph squads in mainly five-versus-five action with special attacks or weapons for each and include:
Team Deathmatch — It’s five minutes of chaos with kills translating to points for either Marines or aliens, and the top number taking home the win.
Escape — The Marines need to keep trying to get out of a location by unlocking areas, and the Xenomorphs have to stop them.
Extermination — Destroy underground egg clusters with above-ground explosive devices when soldiers occupy an area for a set amount of time. Of course, the aliens must prevent their offspring from getting fried. The team with the most clusters destroyed wins.
Survival — In my favorite mode, a Marine team must survive as long as possible against a constant attack by Xenomorphs. Teammates can revive a critically injured soldier, but don’t die early or you become an omniscient bystander during the round.
All of the multiplayer modes are certainly slanted to the firepower of the Marines while the Xenomorphs require a much more stealthy hit-and-run strategy to succeed, especially effective indoors.
I did enjoy looking at the various types of Xenomorphs here and the ability to customize the head and body while adding some very potent attacks during the multiplayer rounds.
When looking back at overall game release, the biggest mistake for Sega was releasing this Aliens adventure when Dead Space 3 was still oozing into the brains of players.
I’d give anything for Visceral Games to take a whack at the Alien franchise, just so I could stomp a glistening acid-spitter’s noggin.
So it with a heavy heart, exposed by my recently burst-open chest, that I can’t recommend Aliens: Colonial Marines. Even witnessing the grotesque beauty of the Xenomorph in its various forms is not enough to rescue this shooter.
Parental advice: Hey mom and dad, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), after watching a gantlet of Xenomorphs and soldiers mowed down and decapitated with a pulse rifle, decided to label this game “M” and that stands for mature — adults 17 years and older need only revisit the Alien legacy.
So don’t let your nostalgia for the old “R” rated films rule here as your 12–year-old tries to convince you that “hey, let’s shoot some of those cool Aliens, like the action figures you have on your desk, dad.” The game delivers often, non-stop bloody and gruesome moments with plenty of scenes where humans die in a vicious manner.
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A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications, Joseph Szadkowski has written about popular culture for The Washington Times for the past 17 years. He covers video games, comic books, new media and technology.
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