Problems with Aliens: Colonial Marines

So I’ve played a few hours of Colonial Marines and I have to say that the experience (as predicted by many) is underwhelming. It has changed a lot since the original promotion as a 4-player co-op class-based survival game (essentially Left 4 Dead but with aliens and pre-built loadouts). Let’s ignore the changes in direction though, as it has been a few years and even with the best intentions things do change. Let’s instead focus on the problems with the game as-is.

To be completely honest, it’s not a terrible game and it even has some nice setpieces. The story is also a nice tie-in, even given the retcons. Unfortunately, in terms of the actual gameplay, “not terrible” seems to be the highest praise I can summon for it. The major problems (i.e. the ones that immediately come to mind when I describe the game to someone) are as follows.

  • Scripted lighting events (such as the lights failing due to loss of power) apply globally to lighting and thus override your torch as well. Luckily there aren’t any such events with a duration of more than a few seconds, otherwise it would be seriously inconvenient, but it does rather break the immersion.
  • Some pickups (armour, ammo) are placed inside other level objects. I wouldn’t mind so much if this happened to random drops (which it does) because maybe the level assets have an odd hitbox or they skimped on the physics. Here I’m talking about items that have been placed by the level creators. To place them inside other objects, and especially in such a way that prevents, or almost prevents, them being picked up just seems like shoddy work. It’s not like they’re super secret special pickups that required hiding—they’re just your standard basic items. Plus they have a big ol’ indicator hovering over them showing you that they’re there.
  • There’s a scripted sequence wherein one of your squadmates pulls a grenade and detonates it while on the pressurised walkway between the Sephora and the Sulaco. This results, obviously, in loss of pressure and you (being at the entrance to the walkway) almost being sucked out into space. Unfortunately, they couldn’t seem to figure out if this was going to be an interactive sequence or a pre-scripted setpiece. You are in full control of your character right up until the moment of detonation and are free to enter the bridge. Given that you are being pursued off of the Sulaco, your natural instinct is to already be halfway across the bridge. However, when the grenade goes off the game assumes you are still standing at the entrance. This not only means that you survive standing directly on top of the grenade when it goes off, but leads to a very confusing moment of being sucked out onto the bridge towards the place you were already standing. It took me a moment to figure out what had happened and that rather ruined what could have been a very dramatic sequence.
  • Moving on to an end-of-mission cutscene, they seem to have had either two different teams working on the level and the cutscene or they made them at different times with conflicting design documents. The scene is a hanger which you need to fly a dropship out of. Unfortunately the doors are buckling due to the ship blowing up around you and thus will not open. The result is that it’s up to you to fight past waves of enemies to reach the override controls and open up the doors. Let’s ignore the fact that the doors can’t physically open based on how they’re modelled with the buckling. Unfortunately, the cutscene drops the ball completely. The first thing that happens once you’ve hit the overrides and boarded the dropship? Your squad blows the charges they (at some point?) placed on the doors, opening up a hole to fly through. Doesn’t this render everything you did pointless? The intro with the buckled doors matches with the cutscene, but the things you do in between seem to have no connection.
  • Finally, and this is a big one, alien blood does nothing. It doesn’t damage the floors or walls (or even otherwise destructible level assets), it doesn’t hurt you, it doesn’t even degrade your armour. This is a fundamental thing established throughout the novels and movies: if you spray bullets into an alien standing a foot away from you, or stab one at arm’s reach, you are going to have a bad time. In this game you can literally bathe yourself in their blood without any ill effects. If you make an Aliens game with one thing that’s going to consistently break immersion, this is it.

Anyway, that’s my observations thus far. I’m sure I’m going to have more if I get around to completing the game, but I won’t bother typing them up. I’ll just leave this here as my initial observations and a warning as to the quality you’re looking at if you decide you want to play the game.

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