Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Alien Month: Aliens Colonial Marines (2013) Part 1

Back in 2010, I was at a flea market, looking around, when I came across a few back of issues of Game Informer that were from 2008, after buying them, I glanced over the issues, one of which contained a cover story for Aliens: Colonial Marines.  Keep in mind, this was before the game resurfaced at E3 2011 and at the time, people were unsure as to whether or not Gearbox Software was still working on the game.  Anyhow, as I read the cover story I became very intrigued by this game, as someone who had seen Alien before, and what was being described about the game seemed rather promising.  Then in 2011, the game re-appeared at E3 and everyone, including myself, got excited for the game after seeing the impressive demo that was shown off. 

Finally, the game came out in 2013 and when I saw the reviews for this game, the critical thrashing the game received from critics surprised me.  Then I saw footage of the game, and like everyone else, wondered why there was such a huge contrast between what we were shown back then, and the final product that was released.  Having finally played the game this year, it's safe to say that even now, Aliens: Colonial Marines is still one of the biggest disappointments from the previous console generation.  (Disclaimer: This reviews spoils plot points from the game)

The story is set a few weeks after the events of Alien 3, a platoon of marines stationed on the U.S.S. Sephora is sent out to LV-426 after receiving a distress call from Corporal Hicks.  There, they discover that the Sulaco is now orbiting the planet, even though it was last reported to be orbiting Fury 161, the planet from Alien 3.  A squad of marines gets sent over to the Sulaco to find answers, but they never return.  Captain Cruz, the leader of the platoon, sends Corporal Christopher Winter over to investigate, and he discovers that most of the marines that were sent over have either been killed or cocooned up to serve as hosts.

While rescuing one of the cocooned squad members, Corporal Winter is attacked by a xenomorph, and it turns out that the Sulaco is infested with xenomorphs.  Later, he learns the Weyland-Yutani Corporation was responsible for this.  Eventually, Winter, Cruz, and two other marines named O'Neal and Bella end up on LV-426, and now they must take down the corporation while also finding out the truth as to what really happened to the marines sent to LV-426 in Aliens.

Despite having a promising set-up and a strong opening, the story quickly becomes uninteresting due to a lack of interesting events.  The game tries to keep your interest with a couple of plot twists, but they don't work as the first twist is predictable while the other one is interesting, but the story drops the ball when it comes to an explanation for this particular twist.  Early on, when we first meet Bella, she tells Cruz that a spider-like creature (i.e. a facehugger) was attached to her face, but now the creature is dead.  The problem with this twist is that we know that this character is doomed from the get-go and it doesn't come as a surprise when she eventually dies later in the game.

The other plot twist involves Corporal Winter, Bella, and O'Neal finding out that one of the marines from Aliens has survived and is being held hostage by Weyland-Yutani.  When we do find out who this person is, I initially thought that it was cool seeing this particular character alive, but after this person is rescued, his role in the story is underutilized, and worse, the story doesn't explain how this character managed to survive.

Later on in the game, after this character has been rescued, Corporal Winter asks how the Sulaco managed to get back to LV-426, which he explains, but when Winter asks how he managed to survive, he tells Winter that it's a longer story.  It clearly felt like this plot point was left unexplained, just so it could be actually explained in DLC, which is what happened.  The explanation that is given in the DLC makes sense, but it should have been explained in the game either way.

Finally, the ending for this game is anti-climatic; it has a case of plot convenience when O'Neal inadvertently kills Michael Weyland, the main bad guy of the game, after the surviving character from Aliens forcefully makes O'Neal shoot the gun.  It turns out that Michael Weyland was just an android, but Winter figures that since it was a high-ranking android, there may be some important information stored within his conscience.  The last thing you see is an exterior shot of Weyland's ship and one of the characters saying, "We've got everything," fade to black, and roll credits.  It ends on a deliberate cliffhanger with the hopes that there will be a sequel, but given the negative reception of the game, the odds are very low.

As for the characters, they're okay, but a lot more could have been done with them to make them more interesting.  For example, Captain Cruz has a metal leg, yet we don't know how he lost his original leg and got the replacement, it's just there.  The main protagonist of the game, Corporal Winter, is just your typical everyman-type of soldier, and he's rather uninteresting.

If there's one positive to the game's story, it's that you do revisit a number of important locations from Aliens, and in some cases, you get to see some unexplored areas of these places.  You'll explore the Sulaco and eventually LV-426, as well as the ruins of Hadley's Hope, plus take a brief visit into the Derelict.

Tomorrow, in part two, I'll discuss the gameplay of Aliens: Colonial Marines.

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