Aliens: Colonial Marines- Yes, It’s That Bad

 Aliens Colonial Marines

 

A copy of Gearbox’s (?) Aliens: Colonial Marines arrived at stately Barnes Manor yesterday.  I just had to load it up and give it the same chance I give every other game, despite the fact that it’s received absolutely scathing reviews from every publication except a 9.0 from an EGM reviewer that apparently either has no taste or really is one of those infamous, paid-off journalists. Before we get rolling, let me go ahead and state quite clearly that I am an Aliens fan. When I was four, I had the legendary Kenner Alien toy. When I was 11 years old, I saw Aliens in the theater and as soon as I got home I took my list of favorite movies off the door of my room, crossed off Big Trouble in Little China, and wrote “Aliens” in the #1 spot. So let’s head off those “well, he must not be a fan of the property” claims at the pass.

A few minutes in, and an Aliens fan might be willing to issue a few passes. It’s the pulse rifle.  It sounds right. So does the motion tracker. You board the Sulaco, and there’s that aweome dropship. But the creep of crappiness can’t be thwarted. Within ten minutes, you realize that you are playing a very, very bad game. Everything looks ugly as hell. Set designs are cluttered, muddy, and actually kind of difficult to see. The screen tears constantly (on the 360), and I actually found myself wondering if they used the models and animation from the Aliens versus Predator game on the Atari Jaguar. The Xenos are just sad to look at. At one point, one fell out of the ceiling and then ran behind a desk while my squadmate shot at the desk. Remember when that happened in the movies? How about when a marine walked up behind a Xeno just standing there and pretty much tapped it on the shoulder?

The gameplay is barely a consideration- better shooters were designed in the mid-1990s. Earn a new weapon, and it magically appears in your Bag of Holding. Lose your armor bar, and your chest plate pops off. Press and hold X to do a bunch of stuff. I honestly do not believe that at any time anyone playtested this game, and I seriously doubt anyone involved in making this game, whoever they are, actually took the time to vet it before submitting  the final code. If they did, they need to be fired immediately and never allowed to work in the games business again.

No pulling punches. The game is an AAA debacle of the highest order, a strata reserved for over-promised, under-delivered games like Duke Nukem (another great Gearbox production) and Daikatana. Yes, I went there. It’s a shameful, sloppy, and intentionally mis-marketed piece of $60 junk that will satisfy no one apart from those unable to discern characteristics of quality or craftsmanship in the consumer products they purchase.

Playing through the first part of the game, I was struck persistently and consistently with the impression that I was playing a game developed over the course of a couple of weeks by garage programmers in a developing country, working with a budget of a twelve pack of Mountain Dew and a wholesale club bag of tortilla chips between them. Yet the brand names “Sega” and “Gearbox” are clearly all over the product.

You don’t have to do much research on the Internet to run into some conflicting reports about this game’s parentage. There are suggestions that Gearbox didn’t design large parts of the game, despite the fact that it is branded as such (presumably to rope in the Borderlands set) and Randy Pitchford has spent the last two years out of the half-decade that it’s been development stumping for it. Timegate Studios, who did the Section 8 games, is co-billed in the start-up screens, and anonymous folks purporting to be Gearbox employees are claiming that it’s as much a Timegate game as a Gearbox one. But then a Sega rep made a plain statement that it’s all Gearbox. Someone is lying to you, the consumer.

Yesterday, reports at Eurogamer and even on IGN have started turning up that the early demos, screenshots, and previews of the game are nothing like the finished product.   You can hunt those out and make your own decision on that. But you see the one up top there? The game looks nothing like that. From whhat I’ve seen, Sega, Gearbox, and/or Timegate should be held accountable for fraudulently marketing this game with visuals and even gameplay elements that are substantially downgraded in the retail product. IGN and all of the big ad sites are responsible too, issuing preview after preview, gushing with “this is gonna be great!” enthusiasm to lure you, the consumer into preorders. Within the next couple of weeks, IGN and other such outlets will move on to helping the corporations hype their next big steaming pile, pretending like it all never happened. Disgusting.

It blows my mind that any of the parties involved with making and marketing this game thought they could get away with it. They had to know that this game is garbage. It’s pretty evident that it was rushed to market and carelessly pressed to master with tons of bugs, virtually zero polish, and assets that were not as advertised. Oh, but wait. Massive day one patch. All better, right?

No, because nothing can fix this game at this point and the bad news for Aliens fans aside from the fact that these mountebanks squandered the license is that all of the potential for this to be THE Aliens game is now gone. It’s depressing. Because when you’ve got that pulse rifle and the game’s sickly-looking, hard-to-actually-see Xenos clamber toward you and you hear that sound, you hear what might have been. When you flip up the useless motion detector and hear that distinctive ping, you hear what we SHOULD have gotten from this game. At least they sampled the sounds right.

I almost hate to have written this piece because this game needs to be buried in the desert next to those E.T. cartridges. It really is that bad- and this is coming from the guy that gave Brink a glowing review even though it was released in such a rough state. At least that game had some innovative ideas, frequently compelling gameplay, and a sense that it was made by people that actually give a shit about their product.

Funny to see golden boy developer Gearbox falling so hard on this, another Duke Nukem-class disaster- it’s pretty clear that there’s an A-team and a B-team there. Only one of which works on Borderlands.  But hell, for all we know at this stage, a Gearbox employee never touched the code.

At the end of the day, it’s just another bad game. It’ll be mocked and laughed at for a while, then forgotten. Cast off into the Gamestop discount bin with an unceremonious $2.99 sticker on it. Word of advice- at that point, don’t buy the $30 season pass. But what won’t go away is what this game represents- bad development, bad design, and dishonest marketing at the highest levels of the industry. The people involved with making this game and putting it on our shelves, and then asking for our money for it, know exactly what it is that they shipped. They know this is not a game up to standards. This is not a product anyone would stand by. They’re relying on you being too stupid to realize that you’re a sucker before it’s too late and your only recourse is a $12 trade-in credit if you act, like, by Saturday.

I don’t have a cute Aliens quote to go with all of this. Doesn’t deserve it.

12 Responses to “Aliens: Colonial Marines- Yes, It’s That Bad”

  1. Dorkmaster Flek February 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    I find it utterly ironic that this game came out right after we just heard a presentation about how demos kill your sales, so you shouldn’t have demos. This is exactly why you should have demos. Although apparently in this case, the demo was far better than the final product. So I guess the moral of the story is never buy a game until after it’s out and reviews are in.

    • Brandon February 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

      The demo in that video was the E3 2011 demo, of which I was one of the first participants so even if they had released a gameplay demo, it would have killed their sales because it would be a demo of the buggy mess they released to retail.

    • Michael Barnes February 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

      It really shows how the “drive to preorder” strategy works. When they started saying “no, really guys- we’re actually shipping the game this time” and they started talking about how the game was an ersatz sequel to Aliens, showing off all of these guided “journalist” demos and screenshots, the goal was to get the consumer to preorder. That’s a sale before reviews, before first-hand experience, before word of mouth. It’s a way- more pernicious than embargo dates- to head off public opinion before word gets out that you’ve laid an egg.

      It also shows how sites like IGN and the other ad revenue-driven joints are complicit, with their “preview” pieces where they get all excited and get YOU all excited about a game that’s a year out or whatever.

      Release date comes, you pick up your game, and then…who knows. It’s up in the air. Sure, you can cancel, but when you’ve already spent the money a lot of times you’re inclined to just go on through with it to get that new game that looks cool.

      A public demo of ACTUAL CODE would have ENDED this game, and that’s what should have happened. As it stands, the demo they used to market the game to journalists was apparently different than the final product, and that constitutes fraudulent advertising.

      But you know what, I bet between preorders, Aliens fans who feel that there must be something there, people that think they’re all high and mighty because they’re Going to Decide for Themselves, and casually uninformed consumers this game will probably sell OK. It’s _sad_ that it will likely sell well, it shouldn’t be sold at all.

  2. LGscoundrel February 14, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    It just blows me away that this game has a season pass. That they believe someone would rack their investment in this mess up to nintey dollars is one of the vilest insults from a game maker to the paying customer in a year packed with them.

  3. drmcscott February 14, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    I cant think of any “product” in the entertainment medium that has blatantly lied in the way this game has.

    You see a trailer for a fantastic new film starring your favourite actor (say) George Clooney, the poster has his face all over it and its set in the world of rock marzipan and looks jolly exciting. The film’s finally released. The critic’s have an review embargo (for SOME strange reason)and cant give you the heads up. You finally get to see it in the cinema because the flashy ads made it look great its about rock marzipan! Clooney isn’t in the film. He has been replaced with a canary with a small wig made to look like Clooney’s hair AND the films about a box factory. Oh and it smells. No-one is happy and your pretty sure the canary was faking it.

    If that really happened… someone’s getting sued.. or fired… or being set on fire.

    I’ve seen “sexed up” still photographs from the odd game.. I’ve seen bullshit reviewers take a bung, but those are pretty obvious to the savvy (jaded) consumer… I’ve never seen this before.

    Will Gearbox get away with fraud?

    • Helios February 15, 2013 at 1:14 am #

      I think of a couple right off hand (WarZ, Mass Effect 3, Diablo 3, things that rhyme with “E”). As for fraud, it’s real grey area. Randy Pitchford’s name though can grace the snake oil salesman hall of fame with Sergey Titov, Jay Wilson & Casey Hudson.

      What will be interesting though is if SEGA sees it as fraud. According the rumors on /r/LV426, GBX essentially took on the contract, outsourced A:CM to TimeGate, got a contract extension (i.e. got more money from SEGA) and spent 5 out 9 months using TimeGate’s department to polish Borderlands 2. Yikes !

      • drmcscott February 15, 2013 at 6:48 am #

        Bloody hell… I forgot about WarZ…. maybe those Zynga rip-off games too (the one in the tower…. I forget).

        I’d agree gaming fraud is a grey area but Colonial Marines is luminous of the yellow variety!

  4. timzania February 15, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    The fact that the game sucked, everyone knew it, and Gearbox supposedly didn’t even develop it didn’t stop them from throwing a fancy release party and inviting the media.

    http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainment/nightlife/headlines/20130211-party-pics-aliens-among-us-at-gearbox-software-s-launch-party-at-the-granada-theater.ece

    • OminousFog February 15, 2013 at 10:22 am #

      Dear god… that is so awkward. How many of these people do you think have even the slightest clue as to how bad their product is? It’s like they’re attending a gala on the Titanic moments before it hit the iceberg.

      • Brandon February 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

        Am I supposed to know who the people in those pictures are? Good Lord, I’m more out of touch than I thought.

  5. Prodigal Player February 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    File this one under “Sick of your excuses.”

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