Colonial Marines is good storytelling but average gameplay for Alien franchise


An educated risk goes into creating a game that is an extension of a beloved film classic. Fans of the franchise will set their expectations high. Throw in some plot diversions and get too loose with the story line and the angry emails will pile up. To many fans of the Aliens movie saga, the developers at Sega and Gear Box are treading on fairly sacred ground with Aliens: Colonial Marines.

The story follows the events in the movie Aliens and U.S. Marine Corporal Winter is sent to investigate the status of the USS Sulaco. Although the story tends to drag, there is a definite attempt to stay true to the original plot. There are a few Easter eggs to keep movie fans locked into the plot. An overheard conversation referring to Sigourney Weaver's movie character Ripley is one example.

Even dividing the Xenomorphs into different classes feels as though they fit in with the movie plot. Each comes with its own skills, attacks, and exoskeleton. Some can't stomach much more than two bullets and others will laugh off a pretty good headshot. Lurkers are the sneaky Petes of the Xenos. They stalk you quietly and strike with a timely blow. Spitters are range shooters that launch acid balls from their goo-oozing pie holes. Crushers are the massive baddies. There are others but you'll want to meet them for yourself.

Combat is hit-and-miss, which will be a problem with gamers. Because of the stealthy nature of the movie, the developers make you spend a fair amount of time simply walking around in a creepy spaceship, readying yourself for the looming threat that the musical score has assured you is around the next corner. It rarely materializes. Once you do get to taste some action, the blasting of the Xenos tends to be satisfying, especially when you dust them in mid-air or knock them from a lofty perch or wall.

The game takes a major dive in the graphics and audio. Although the voice-over acting isn't bad, the dialogue is often ponderous. The artificial intelligence allies often state the obvious and rarely offer useful advice when you find yourself stuck. The visuals were equally problematic. There were glitches where objects flash in and out of existence. A recently killed Xeno suddenly appears when you take one step forward and then disappears again when you take a step back.

Most distracting was the lack of emotion on the characters' faces. Even when the commander is bellowing a rage-filled tirade, his face looks as though he is standing in line at the DMV. I'm also fairly certain that they all suffer from a severe case of lock-jaw. Their lips move with every word and phrase but their jaws remain clenched as though wired shut.

The game picks up in the multiplayer mode. Because of the lack of intelligence among the aliens, it is common for all incoming aliens to bypass vulnerable AI companions in favor of a much livelier you. So even if you're tasked with holding back the fray so your buddy can cut open a door, the incoming wave of Xenomorphs will walk right past the computer soldiers and focus all their attention on you. This is greatly diminished in the multiplayer where added targets will bite into your popularity, but in a good way.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of the game for both movie fans and gamers is the choice to play as a U.S. Marine or to suit up as one of the five classes of Xenomorphs. I'm sure there are a couple of players who would like to play as a human soldier but I'm guessing most will want to spit acid and leap from walls and ceilings with deadly accuracy.

Colonial Marines is a good addition for the Alien franchise but falls short of being a fantastic gaming experience. As a side story to the events in the movie the game does a pretty good job of continuing the plot, but it is lackluster and dated.

Contact Tom Fisher at