Aliens: Colonial Marines Steam Review

The Aliens movie franchise stems back all the way to 1979. It spawned a 1986 sequel Aliens that gets regarded as one of the best sci-fi horror action movies of all time. Aliens: Colonial Marines is a first person action horror shooter that follows five new marines on Acheron (LV-426) after the Aliens movie. You’ll take the roll of Winters fighting off both Xenomorph aliens and soldiers from Weyland Yutani (‘the Company’) as he goes from the spaceship Sulaco to the planetoid’s surface, through Hadley’s Hope and into the furthest reaches of the alien hive.

The sound design, music and voice acting are high points to the experience. Music that feel straight from the Aliens film if not late 70s space travel movies. You’ll visit scenes straight out of the Aliens movie even if a lot of it was blew up before your arrival. The effects, lighting, fog, sounds and atmosphere blend together to put you in a place that fits the Aliens franchise. The blue planetoid, the white sterile walls of ‘the Company,’ exhaust in the narrow corridors aboard the space ship and even the fog layer over greenish black resin made by the aliens. Luckily the ‘video feed filter’ can get turned off so you can see the game without having a grainy fuzz like in the movie. In cut scenes the game doesn’t have the video feed filter, so why should you?

Chained with you throughout the game are your allies. Sometimes none, sometimes one, and other times five of them. They’ll do their best to kill enemies, but they’re inefficient. Enemies will sometimes walk right by them and head straight for you. The best part about your allies is using them to distract enemy soldiers, so you can flank them. The game makes good use of flanking with cat and mouse maps. But not with the Xenomorphs, they’re usually in hallways or out in the open with them running straight at you. Thankfully, your allies cannot die, since they’re part of the story. When the enemies are dead, they’ll always be ready to show you the way waiting at whatever door you’re supposed to be at next. You can clip right through them, so they’re never in the way.

You have three bars of health in the game. Each bar regenerates unless you’ve lost the bar completely. Then you need med kits that give you full health. Over that you have armor that doesn’t regenerate. You just need to find more armor lying around or from dead soldiers. Heavy soldiers drop full armors, so its easy enough to find it and lose it. Its a good system.

You’ll face off against a variety of different aliens. For the most part they’ll climb on walls and ceilings. Then drop down and run at you or lunge a great distance. They can be deadly up close, but a shotgun blast takes them out. The rifles don’t feel effective at all. There are acid spitters that stay away while spitting from a far. The lurkers are the intelligent ones. They’ll use stealth to attack you. Climb through vents, disappear into the darkness and they take more damage. Then there are the Weyland Yutani soldiers. They can do everything you can do. Flank, hide, reload, shoot and throw a rare grenade your way. They drop random health, ammo and armor.

The bosses are big and need you to outsmart them than just taking more damage. You’ll fight one in a power loader, you’ll outrun one torching all the doors behind you. The bull alien will chase you in circles, letting your allies shoot him in the back. Finally the queen is the most meh battle of them all. So meh I literally could clip through her and speed run the final battle of the game, doing all that was needed of me.

For better or worse, the weapons are straight out of the Aliens movie. There is a variety of shotguns, pulse rifles, assault rifles, pistols, flame throwers and even the smart gun that tracks enemies to shoot. Throwable things like grenades are easily forgotten, because they need to be armed like a weapon and can’t be quick thrown. To make throwables more forgettable is the fact that most weapons have alt fires. Assault rifles have incinerators, pulse rifles have grenade launchers and even those that don’t can be upgraded later. There are a lot of upgrades for each weapon such as scopes, skins, alt fires, clips and so on. They unlock as you rank up from completing ‘challenges.’ These challenges are things like kill 20 enemies with any rifle. Get 5 melee kills in a single ‘mission.’ Headshot 5 enemies with the service pistol. They do switch things up, because otherwise I’d use a shotgun through the entire game. Damage > accuracy.

By the end of the game you’ll have an entire arsenal, complete with weapons found from characters in the movie. Each weapon has its own ammo so if you run empty on one shotgun, the pump handle might still have some shells. Since you have so many weapons, the game makes use of a weapon wheel. Every weapon has its own stats: Damage, accuracy, rate of fire and so on. Shotguns have more damage, but less accuracy. Pulse rifles have less damage, but high rate of fire. The problem is the rate of fire is weak, you can’t just hold it. The gunfire will stop, forcing you to play in controlled bursts. The assault rifle will only shoot two bullets at once. Weapons can get upgraded mostly to increase accuracy, clip size and reload.

The thing to most take into account is the accuracy stat. You need to aim to shoot with any accuracy. Not just that, because of the accuracy stat, you can shoot things head on and they have a chance of going straight through. To prove that, the game has DLC with a firing range. Aim straight on, fire and sometimes things just go through. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it might kill you. Speaking of killing you. There is acid blood, but its never enough to kill you, even standing in it on the highest difficulty. What will really kill you is aliens clipping through you. Becoming you so your gun is outside of them. When you fire it will miss, because the alien has clipped through you. Since they can run faster than you. It caused frequent deaths.

Its not all guns though. There are a few brief moments where you need to use stealth. First unarmed you’ll have to quietly sneak past a new form of blind aliens that explode. Then you’ll have to sneak past lights and sentries that will spot and shoot at you.

Other glitches have been fixed with some patch a year into the game, but even when they were patched I still noticed glitches that had been fixed were still a problem. Nothing game breaking, just noticeable. Things like an alien coming off a wall and getting stuck in the floor. Getting hit by an alien while shooting only to have the gun still shooting. Texture popin was still here and there, mostly when reloading a level from a death. I guess its a way to speed up load times.

The controls are simple for the most part. Aim, shoot, alt-fire, move, look, jump, squat and run. Use the D-pad for flashlight, grenade ready, weapon ready, pistol ready. There’s a whole other button to switch between two weapons even if you can hold a dozen or so. Sometimes it didn’t feel intuitive, but the game lets you bind keys and controls. While there is melee, it felt useless. Most things on soldier difficulty will easily kill you at close range. You also have a motion tracker, but it only feels useful when I was trying to find the location of the next checkpoint. Sure it tells you where enemy movement is, but when you can’t use it and shoot it felt like a handicap. Plus, you hear a sound when you’re in range of a new hostile.

There is multiplayer, but there’s nothing going on at this point without being scheduled. Overall, it was a good experience, even if its not the best first person shooter. While people call it the worst game of all time, it could have been much worse. The end left me with a sour taste. At the end of Star Wars, they blew up the Death Star and that was that. They didn’t start the next movie and end it.

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