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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.

Total War: Rome 2 on the Horizon?

I rarely post game rumors. However, this one makes too much sense and appears to be backed up with some evidence. Most importantly, it’s about a game I want to play.

With the success of Shogun 2, a Rome sequel seemed inevitable, right? The rumor comes from NeoGAF, where upon a user posted a pic from an upcoming issue of PC Powerplay. (The pic above is from the original.) In fact, the current buzz is that the game will be officially announced July 6-7 at the Rezzed Expo in Brighton. All signs point to this being legit so I’m optimistic.

An updated Rome given the same treatment as Shogun 2 seems like the safe, smart choice for The Creative Assembly and gives the developer a huge canvas upon which to draw.

I’ll close with some of my favorite quotes from Ancient Rome:

“At night there is no such thing as an ugly woman.”

“Anger cannot be dishonest.”

“In wine there is truth.”

“I strive to be brief, and I become obscure.”

“Hey, are those elephants?”

Aliens: Colonial Marines Set for February Release

I’ve heard mixed things about this one based off some press previews. This is a game I want to be good because the setting remains one that I am fascinated with despite the milking of the movie franchise and the way that (almost) every videogame ever made centering on the xenomorphs have turned out.

We’ll now get to find out on February 12th if Gearbox has another Borderlands on its hands or another Duke Nukem. Or maybe another Brothers in Arms…but with Aliens. With all of the delays, one has to wonder…


SEGA® of America, Inc., SEGA® Europe Ltd., Gearbox Software and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products are thrilled to announce that Aliens: Colonial Marines™ will be in stores worldwide on February 12, 2013. As the authentic addition to the ALIENS franchise canon, the game’s stunning visuals and adrenaline pumping action will deliver breathtakingly immersive single, cooperative and competitive multi-player modes. Providing for an innovative asymmetrical competitive multiplayer experience, Aliens: Colonial Marines lets players fight in first person as the ultimate combatants – the United States Colonial Marines, or in third person as the universe’s deadliest killers – the Xenomorphs. Plunging into familiar and new environments from the iconic film franchise, players will have to fight the fear and face the true horrors of the ALIENS universe.

“I am thrilled to announce the definitive launch date for Aliens: Colonial Marines,” said Randy Pitchford, President of Gearbox Software. “Aliens: Colonial Marines is the culmination of a life-time of inspiration from the films and relentless passion and drive from the exceptionally talented development team behind the scenes.”

“We knew this game would be incredible from the moment Gearbox began developing Aliens: Colonial Marines,” said, Gary Knight, Senior Vice President of Marketing for SEGA Europe and SEGA of America. “Now that the title is in its final stretch of development, we can confidently release the exact date that gamers will finally get to experience this blockbuster thrill-ride.”

“SEGA has a proven track record with the ALIENS franchise. ALIENS vs. PREDATOR released by SEGA in 2009 became one of their top-selling titles,” said Gary Rosenfeld, Senior Vice President for New Media for Fox Consumer Products. “We look forward to working with them and bringing an exciting new way for fans to immerse themselves in the ALIENS world.”

In partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products and developed by critically acclaimed studio Gearbox Software, Aliens: Colonial Marines will (ship on February 12th.) bring new levels of bone-chilling suspense and adrenaline-filled action to the renowned franchise. Aliens: Colonial Marines begins with an ostensibly abandoned ship, the U.S.S. Sulaco, recovered in orbit around LV-426. Players lead a group of highly trained United States Colonial Marines as they board the deserted craft to uncover the fate of the crew. They will have to fight to survive unspeakable horrors and their own anxieties as they chase down the truth behind a galaxy-spanning deception that places humanity at the mercy of the most murderous and deadly species in the universe. Aliens: Colonial Marines features authentic environments, such as the surface of LV-426 and Hadley’s Hope, weapons inspired by the film series and is designed to provide an exhilarating and engaging new chapter in the ALIENS universe.

Aliens: Colonial Marines will be available in stores across the globe on February 12, 2013 on PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Windows PC. A release date for the announced Wii U™ version will be revealed at a later time.

Shogun 2 Fall of the Samurai Preview

If you recall, I sort of liked Total War: Shogun 2.

It was one of my favorite games of 2011 and when the expansion was announced I was anxiously awaiting to get back to Honshu. The campaign takes place roughly 300 years after the events of the base game (1864 to be exact) and with that comes all sorts of game changing features and unit types. This is no longer a game of swords and arrows with primitive firearm tech. These guys have cannons.

This is also no longer the battle to become Shogun but rather the Boshin War era. This war was a battle between the Shogunate (Tokugawa) and the Imperial forces. Many clans of the time were none too pleased with the way Japan had basically opened its gates to Western influences (the United States, Great Britain, France) in an attempt to modernize. Those loyal to the Emperor (while not only wanting power) also wanted Japan to kick the westerners out and get back to being somewhat isolationist. So they fought over it and thousands died. There’s a great irony in how that war turned out but that’s a story for another time.

Before I continue let’s get this straight: the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai jumbled a lot of different time periods of western resistance into one two hour movie. Entertaining? Yeah, it was. But it was Hollywood History. One thing though – you will see Gatling guns and other American Civil War technology throughout the game.

I’ve been playing pre-release code for Fall of the Samurai and I’m going to offer up a full review soon but even though some reviews are popping up online I wanted to give a quick rundown of what the expansion is all about before it drops on Friday.

You start out loyal to either the Shogunate or the Emperor and once your clan reaches a certain levels of prestige, a choice must be made: do you stick with your loyalties? Do you switch sides? Or do you say ‘screw the lot of you’ and declare yourself ruler of Japan?

The basic mechanics are typical to a Total War game and you’ll feel right at home with how everything works. The big hook here is that it’s 300 years later and wooden cannons, rifles, huge warships and ironclads are blended in with spearmen and men on horseback with swords. This is the most fascinating part of the expansion — this bizarre melding of ancient and “modern” technology.

Nothing drives this home more than coastal bombardment — artillery in every form in Fall of the Samurai is brutally efficient. You can call in “strikes from the sea” during a land engagement, which is just ridiculously effective even though you are limited in the number of strikes you can call. It’s like calling in the artillery in a World War II game – it’s that deadly. There’s a delay before the death reigns down on the beach but if it hits….it’s game over. In fact the navy is now an absolutely critical part of the campaign – ignore it at your own peril.

One key change from the base game is the flow of time. Each turn is no longer a season – the real Boshin War lasted roughly a year and half so when designing the expansion it’s terribly unrealistic to keep the time zip along as in the base game; this means longer springs and summers to launch campaigns and longer winters to recover from the blood of the campaign months. You’d think this would slow down the pace of the game but in fact the opposite is true. You can get a lot done in the campaign months and it’s a constant stream of attacks and counter attacks.

The other game changer is the railroad. I’m still tinkering with this but once you get your railways rolling (they are crazy expensive to both build – and repair) moving units about the map is a quick, efficient, and deadly.

Even the AI appears improved although I need to spend more time with the game before putting a stamp on it. I was worried about adding to many modern advances because the last time we saw that (Empire) the AI couldn’t handle it too well. So far this is providing a good challenge.

So far my time with the game has been a hell of a lot of fun and has rekindled my love for Shogun 2. We often plow through games at breakneck speed and it’s rewarding to get back to games that we know we enjoy – it’s like gaming comfort food and so far Fall of the Samurai is like eating a bowl of peach cobbler with cannons and Gatling gun alamode.

(And yes, I plan on doing a game diary for this one too.)

Total War Battles: Shogun Screenshots

Sega and The Creative Assembly released some info and screenshots for the upcoming iOS version of Shogun Total War dubbed Total War Battles: Shogun. (Confused?) This entire idea sounds a bit ludicrous but I said the same thing about Snuggie and look how that turned out. In fact, the screens look pretty good and this sounds, on paper, like a neat implementation.It supports 2-player multiplayer on the same tablet and also packs a full 10 hour campaign mode as well. Being a sucker for Shogun Total War I’m going to have to check this out.

PR time and screens ahead:

SEGA of America Inc. and SEGA Europe Ltd. announced that The Creative Assembly one of the largest and fastest-growing development studios in Europe, is expanding even further to explore new platforms in the mobile sphere. The new Total War Digital team is tasked with creating compelling new gaming experiences for handheld devices using the Unity development platform, and bringing the award-winning Total War series to an even wider audience.

Total War Battles is a distinct new direction,” said Rob Bartholomew, Brand Director at The Creative Assembly. “For the last 12 months our Digital team has been extensively prototyping technology and making sense of exactly what a Total War game on mobile would look and feel like.”

Renaud Charpentier, the Lead Designer on the new Total War Digital team, said “This isn’t the traditional Total War you might expect. We are working on a title that is specifically tailored to the play styles and control methods of mobile platforms. We want to deliver a game that plays to the strengths of handheld RTS mechanics, and perfectly adapts to a host of different platforms. We’re developing in Unity to help us achieve stunning visuals, gameplay and audio on all our target devices.”

David Helgason, CEO of Unity Technologies said, “We are incredibly excited to have a great development house such as The Creative Assembly working on Unity. Author once, deploy anywhere is Unity’s mission statement and it’s fantastic to deliver that to such an acclaimed and loved brand.”