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Critical Reception: Gearbox Software's Aliens: Colonial Marines
Critical Reception: Gearbox Software's  Aliens: Colonial Marines
February 13, 2013 | By Danny Cowan

This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Gearbox Software's sci-fi first-person shooter Aliens: Colonial Marines, which reviewers describe as being "devoid of any redeeming qualities whatsoever." Colonial Marines currently earns a score of 50 out of 100 at

EGM's Brandon Justice scores Aliens: Colonial Marines at 9 out of 10. "Colonial Marines is billed as an official piece of series canon, and I'm happy to report that Gearbox has crafted a world that more than lives up to the hype," he writes. "It's dripping with fan service in the form of constant reference, re-creation, and respect for the source material that's easily the best gaming representation of the franchise to date."

Of course, staying true to the source wasn't the only potential stumbling block," Justice admits. "All those front-loading, flame-throwing moments needed to be fun, too. And, for the most part, Gearbox knocked it out like a cranky Queen on the wrong side of an airlock.

"From gunplay to co-op-friendly design, the core mechanics are largely spot-on, but more importantly, the various objectives do an incredible job of mixing it up. You'll run-and-gun, make daring stands against waves of Xenomorphs, rescue your fellow Marines, find yourself forced to run away like a little weenie, and much more."

Justice is especially impressed with the game's co-op mode. "The main show offers a 4-player co-op experience that's a significant step forward from the storytelling in Borderlands -- which, in my book, makes it a pretty big event for the genre as a whole," he praises. "Add to this the significant multiplayer offerings --and their delivery of Marines-versus-Xeno deathmatch and objective-based modes that populate co-op-style missions with player-controlled enemies -- and you're looking at a genuinely impressive outing."

"All things considered, Colonial Marines is a consistently solid, occasionally spectacular shooter that does more than enough to honor the Alien name," Justice says. "It was going to be a tough task from the onset, but despite a ton of potential pitfalls for the talented team at Gearbox, they've gone a long way toward reminding us that, for folks who love the craft of building great games, the best challenges only seem impossible."

Hollander Cooper at Games Radar gives Colonial Marines 2.5 out of 5 stars. "Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines is like a trip to a natural history museum," he begins. "It's empty and nostalgic, meticulous and dated. More importantly, it's hands-off. Like a museum, Colonial Marines is at its best when you're admiring the view. The moment you attempt to reach out to interact you're met with a barrier, reminding you that you're there to look, not to touch."

Cooper finds that despite its many references to the film franchise, the game falls flat. "Once you've exhausted the glee of exploring the derelict space ship and poking the Space Jockey, you'll find that there's really nothing fun about Colonial Marines," he writes. "During the five-hour long campaign you'll be dragged through a wholly uninteresting story that you're expected to care about through nostalgic pressure alone. You'll be given objectives like 'plant thing on thing' or 'push button in place' as you gun your way from one uninteresting encounter to the next."

The multiplayer also has its share of issues. "Though some of Colonial Marines' 10 chapters feel as though they were made with co-op in mind, others simply aren't optimized for multiple marines; it takes an already precarious situation and outright topples it," Cooper says. "The only time it's preferable to play with others is in the versus modes, which pit player-controlled marines against player-controlled xenomorphs in a number of different game modes."

"Gaming owes a lot to James Cameron's Aliens films, but despite having its DNA present in just about every science fiction game ever made, Aliens has struggled to get a proper one of its own in the past decade," Cooper states. "Aliens: Colonial Marines continues this disappointing trend, making for an experience that's more 'Aliens: Resurrection' than it is 'Aliens.'"

Joystiq's Xav de Matos gives Colonial Marines 1 out of 5 stars. "Despite being blessed with a franchise practically tailor-made for a video game adaptation," he writes, "Aliens: Colonial Marines is devoid of any redeeming qualities whatsoever."

"Aliens: Colonial Marines falls apart almost immediately, taking the established narrative of the Alien films and retroactively altering their events in an attempt to strengthen its own adventure," he continues. "Gearbox's narrative is a poorly constructed patchwork of moments you've already experienced in the films, with locations and action beats that are, in one fell swoop, both inspired and uninspiring. New to the series? Be prepared for confusion, because Aliens: Colonial Marines does little to explain anything of substance."

Combat is especially problematic. "Enemy encounters feature stunningly moronic xenomorphs that show none of the tactical sense seen in the films," de Matos recalls. "There's no tension or challenge to the engagements. The highly intelligent alien race simply leaps or rushes toward the player, exploding in a mist of acidic blood after absorbing enough shots. If any of them fail to combust, they simply fade away."

"Multiplayer has some interesting ideas, but it's marred by an underdeveloped upgrade system and combat that lacks in feedback," de Matos warns. "Aliens feel under-powered online and are so quickly dispatched by humans that the experience isn't fun. Facing off against a single xenomorph should be a harrowing experience, but in Colonial Marines -- whether it's online or off -- it's just another thing to shoot at."

"The marriage of a first-person shooter and the Alien franchise should be a perfect fit, especially from Gearbox, a team rooted in the genre," de Matos concludes. "And yet, the pairing eludes a happy ending once again. Aliens: Colonial Marines isn't disappointing because it couldn't live up to lofty expectations, it's disappointing because it turned out to be such an unfettered disaster."

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Lewis Wakeford
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If the aliens had dropped randomly generated loot I'm sure it would have got tens across the board.

Rob Wright
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It's funny....this game has been blasted as completely irredeemable by the vast majority of critics, and yet somehow the Colonial Marines still manages to get a Metascore of 50, which is obviously awful for the typical 7-10 game review scale but nevertheless it's still the numerical definition of "average." Call me crazy, but if game critics are going hammer a game in their reviews for being an unplayable, messy money-grab, then the numerical score should reflect just how truly (and perhaps, historically) bad this game is.

Justin Benoit
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To be fair the PC version got a lot more flack than the console versions. I see on Metacritic the lowest review the 360 version got was 30, but for the PC version it goes as low as 20. If you were to take the collective reviews of all platforms into one, no doubt it would drop to somewhere between 40-45.

This is on top of the fact that the outlier reviews (the questionable EGM one and the surprisingly honest Guardian one) are probably keeping that propped up by a point or two.

Rob Wright
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Yeah, the Guardian review was...strange. I'm not quite sure how to take that one. On one hand, yes, it was honest. But on the other hand, it read like the reviewer KNEW the game was going to get hammered because he KNEW it wasn't good and already started defending both the game and his own review. I mean, he says as much by calling it "a patchy shooter standing on the shoulders of a giant." And yet it gets 8 out of 10???? Really????? You can admit that you enjoyed the game more than others because you love all things Aliens, but you also have to objectively recognize when a game doesn't live up to TODAY'S standard of game quality, and not some by-gone era "back in the day."

EDIT: damn, I meant to reply to Justin Benoit, my bad

Eric Geer
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Critical Reception:

Might as well have stayed as vaporware.

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Bisse Mayrakoira
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Brandon Justice's review at EGM is an astonishing combination of vagueness and outright lies, topped off by a ridiculous score. If he couldn't be arsed to play the game before putting the review out to fish for page hits, one would think he would have at least set the score to be congruent with the text of the review. But no.