Still a decent shooter that is pulled down by the terrible AI.
You’ve probably read the terrible reviews on A:CM, and they mostly hit the spot. However, my experience with the game is slightly different, and here’s how I look at it. I’m a big fan of the Aliens series, just to note.
The one thing that plunged the game into the icy waters is Colonial Marines’ terrible, terrible AI. The Aliens (Xenomorphs), move and attack in very odd ways, running into your sight. Or in a hilarious turn of events, get stuck in the map’s geometry. On one occasion it got stuck right in between a wall and my AI team mate. Dynamic AI fails in a catastrophic way, and this is one jarring example that modern games shouldn’t have. The Xenos don’t act nor move in the way the films do; you can spot them a mile off and blast them away, nothing like the stalking apex predators they are known for. Throw in human adversaries, and you get Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Finishing the single player, I found glimpses of brilliance this game could have and probably will if Gearbox gets the DLCs right in the near future. The game tries to establish a bond between you and your squad mates, which is sort of a half-way there feeling. You do establish some sort of familiarity with the characters, but they seem to lack personality. Having them run into your line of fire and blocking you, or standing back doing nothing when you need help. It almost seems deliberate and I got real frustrated at their antics. Humour is peppered around, mostly uttered at the wrong time. If only the characters’ background and interaction were flashed out a little more and the AI fixed, this could be a better experience.
Graphically wise, the game tends to look better on my PC. Not the same I could say for the consoles. Visuals look like something out of a 2004 game, but yet it manages to make certain parts look breathtaking at points. The graphical inconsistencies showed the lack of polish, and the first tutorial level looked horrible until later on when the game starts to look better. Interiors are also inconsistent, but the research lab interiors with blue light streaks look quite stunning, and the Hive. They also did a great job on the detail level of the Xenos.
In A: CM, you get to visit places made famous in the Alien universe, from LV-426 to the Space Jockey set piece. You could see their effort in making the levels as close to the movie counterparts as possible. A:CM does bring you on a tour, and did they not disappoint.
The gameplay, with its’ quirks mentioned, is still a worthwhile experience. You do lots of shooting and cutting doors, and more shooting. The iconic Pulse Rifle is in the game, and frankly, that’s the only weapon that is interesting enough, along with the Shotgun and the Smart Gun (which you don’t get to use much). The other weapons were almost non-existent to me. You collect audio logs, dog tags and so-called Legendary Weapons, which are nothing more than skinned variations with some modifications to it, straight off the movies. There’s also weapon upgrades which you can purchase upon ranking up, a typical fare.
The best part of A: CM is the level design, there are numerous (and I mean numerous) nods to the movies, and you can find or re-enact parts of the movies here. The Motion Tracker is an interesting addition, since it allows you to find your objective and the iconic bleeping shows anomalies in the area and I actually found myself using it more than I really need to. Adding human mercenaries is a good mix, but honestly we just want to shoot up some Aliens. There is a sewer level, where you have no weapons and you have to make your way through the Xeno-infested area. You have to avoid a new type of blind-exploding Xenomorph that stalks you throughout. That is what A: CM should have included more in line with the spirit of the franchise.
I’m not sure if Gearbox had the license from the Aliens movie, but if they did the music here is underused. That trademark pulsating clangs are drowned out by your gunfire and squad mates uttering same lines over and over again.
Before I end this review, if you have yet to purchase this game, wait for a price drop or sale. This game reeks of rushed development that had 6 years to get it right and results in a half-assed execution that is different from the demos shown prior to release. This game still has 4 DLCs in line, and if they get them right, Gearbox can still salvage this mess. But I have to admit, I enjoyed my time with the single player campaign.
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