You just crash landed on LV-426 – the most inhospitable planet in the universe…and that’s the good news

A look at Aliens: Colonial Marines thus far

Game: Aliens – Colonial Marines
Developer: Gearbox
Publisher: SEGA/Twentieth Century Fox

More entertaining than: Alien vs. Predator 2: Primal HuntACM

Less Entertaining Than: Left 4 Dead

Pros:
-Solid action experiences
-Seamless controls
-Challenging environments
-Great weapons and upgrades
-Fun co-operative mode and multiplayer capabilities (especially ‘Survivor’ mode)

Cons:
-Outdated graphics
-Occasional temperamental AI
-Many multiplayer features limited to the internet

Rating (out of ten): 7

After quite a long wait, Aliens Colonial Marines has now been released on PC, XBOX 360 and PS3 on the 12th of February 2013.

A First Person Shooter with a single player and co-operative campaign, along with additional multiplayer battles, ACM (Aliens Colonial Marines) picks up 18 weeks after the events of James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’. After the beginning of Alien 3, in which Ellen Ripley, Corporal Hicks and Newt were ejected from the USS Sulaco due to an alien occupation, the ship has mysteriously made its way back over the planet LV-426.

After a distress signal is sent from the craft, a squadron of Colonial Marines are sent to investigate the source of the distress call and evaluate the threat. After the original team sent on board the vessel goes dark, Winter, the character who the player takes control over is sent on board the vessel to find out what is going on.

This however, is by far, no means an ordinary situation. With the horrific Xenomorphic menace running about the ship, the marines find themselves in the middle of an all out war. The Aliens are on one side of the field, and the ruthless Weyland-Yutani Corporation is on the other, the marines being caught in-between these two opposing forces in a fight to the death.

The age old Aliens tag-line was ‘in space, no one can hear you scream’. This may be true for ACM, but the saying could be altered to ‘in space, help is only ever a few hundred billion light years away’ because in this battle, the marines – they are very much on their own.

ACM is an incredibly action oriented game, with your finger more often than not being placed firmly on the trigger as you blast your way through an unrelenting amount of enemy forces.

‘Solider’, the average difficulty setting is a good recommendation, as the game is incredibly challenging. Attacks by both the Weyland Corporation and that of the dreaded aliens are unbelievably potent. A single swipe from an alien can decimate your armour and cut through your health like a knife through butter.

Your health is comprised of three bars, and as long as a bar is not completely decimated it will automatically recharge over time. Health packs are scattered about the maps (albeit very rarely) to once more replenish all the health slots that have disappeared. On top of this you are able to collect armour which can provide you with a limited amount of protection. As long as you are wearing armour though, your health will not be affected.

Ammunition too is located about the maps, and can be found in great packs or in small allotments, with human opponents on occasion dropping either magazines or small pieces of armour to help restore what you have lost.

All the aliens drop is acid, and it is recommended that you do not waltz through this.

In game, you can carry a side arm, grenade and two weapons; a primary and a secondary. Over the course of the game you will unlock more weapons as you ascend to higher ranks, and will even have access to upgrades to further empower your weaponry.

Every time you go up another rank (after killing a lot of bad guys) you are given a single skill point that you can put towards an upgrade. There are several upgrades you can purchase, but only one from every area available to you. This can include scopes; extra rounds in your magazines; an alternate secondary fire on your weapons; a mechanism to reduce the kick back on your guns, etc. Safe to say, these are very beneficial.

There are some pretty amazing weapons in the game as well. You begin with a couple grenades, a regular hand gun, pulse rifle and a pump action shotgun, but will quickly be granted access to the Assault Rifle, which is a real beauty, and Hicks’ shotgun. Along the way, you are able to acquire specialised weapons from the ‘Aliens’ movie to further assist you, these weapons having an additional punch which will efficaciously aid you in combat. As you progress forward furthermore, additional armourments will become accessible.

In game, the controls are seamless, and are very easy to adjust to. Controls respond well to your commands and after a few quick minutes you will have already mastered them, even if the game insists on showering you with an over abundance of tutorials.

Graphically, ACM is nothing special to write home about. The last time Gearbox used the Unreal Engine in one of their products, the end result was Duke Nukem Forever, and we all know how that catastrophe turned out. ACM is nothing like that, but in comparison to recent game titles the likes of Dead Space 3 and Halo 4, the graphics appear outdated and incredibly bland.

Bodies of the dead can fall into the floor and into pieces of the environment, the likes of crates and walls, and on occasion even enemies can partially be hidden inside of them. On occasion I would find an enemy, human and alien, with half of its body stuck inside a sealed door.

The environment is frequently dark to further enrich the themes of the game, which additionally assists in camouflaging the alien menace.

There is one particularly spooky part where you are forced to traverse through darkened sewers without any weapons on your person, where blind aliens, heinously injured from the blast at the end of James Cameron’s film have come to reside. Instead of using their eyes to locate you, they use their sense of hearing, which is unbelievably meticulous. If this is not enough, they randomly walk about the environment, and are prone to stop suddenly, their bodies often blending in with the bodies of their fallen brethren, so you have no way of telling which are alive – and which are dead.

The AI of the aliens is not half bad, and you will often see them running along all surfaces, only to jump at you unexpectedly, causing an unbelievable amount of damage in the process. Up close you are able to push enemies back, and if this is done successfully you will find a good distance between you and them, and when combating aliens you can freely fire without fear of having acid slashing across your body.

The aliens in general will constantly keep you on your toes, and the additional number of varieties will often have you adapting to the particular situation you find yourself in. For instance, large aliens, reminiscent of the Praetorian’s one had to face in the AVP games force you to utilise different weapons in order to bring them down.

Another thing to note is that the Face Huggers are even more annoying than their fully grown brethren. After bursting forth from an egg, these annoying little bastards are often so small they are difficult to see in the environment, and when they pounce you have a limited time to hit the required button to throw the monster off before it injects you with its ‘baby’, all the whilst reducing your health and armour count as you attempt to fight it off.

The human opponents moreover that you face will take cover, throw grenades and attempt to flank you, and their use of turrets will additionally challenge you as you attempt to flank them to bring the weapons systems offline.

Your team however operates a little differently. For one, they are invulnerable to harm (unless the game wants them to die), so you never need to worry about their wellbeing. They will frequently run out into the open and get themselves shot to hell without a care in the world. They will frequently get in your way and on occasion push you out of theirs so you can be shot at by the enemy – very nice of them.

On top of this, your team walk incredibly stiffly, almost as though they have something rammed up their arse, and if that’s not enough, when they aren’t taking pot shots at the enemy, they are dancing with them. On a couple of occasions when going up against Weyland Corporation troops, I noticed my team run right over to them, in which the marines and the Weyland boys began to shuffle awkwardly around each other as though they had no idea whose side they were on or what they were supposed to be doing.

Safe to say they do not often operate like stereotypical marines, and although I have no professional militarised training, I can say with little doubt that I do not believe trained military specialists would rush into an area that had not yet been cleared, or would run into rooms whee potential enemies might reside without any backup. They also wouldn’t run on ahead or stay behind, and inevitably lead you to, on occasion, fighting off a horde of aliens on your lonesome.

However, the unique personality of each team member and the conversations they often instigate will more often than not make you forget about many of the hiccups that occur in game. There’s one moment where a team member asks ‘where do these stairs lead?’ when entering a compound you have never been to before, and another repliers with ‘how are we supposed to know?’

Moving onto the multiplayer features of the game, unless you have an internet connection, you will be limited only to the co-operative play mode. When playing co-operative play, in a local game (split screen, et al), two players can make their way through the campaign, whereas online, up top four players can march on through the game. Online multiplayer battles consist of four unique game modes which includes:
-Extermination: Marines and Xenomorphs clash in battle. The marines try to take out alien egg clusters, and the aliens try to stop them.
-Escape: Marines must escape through Xenomproh infected territory. The fastest team to make their way through wins.
-Survivor: Marines must face wave after wave of aliens until the time limit expires.
-Team Deathmatch: Self explanatory.

In conclusion: Aliens Colonial Marines will satisfy your insatiable appetite for action, violence and an incredible fun military hardware, however, by the end, you will be left with a desire for more.

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