Believe me when I say that it took a conscious effort not to title this post something along the lines of “Game Over, Man!”, but that’s a shot so easily taken that even I can’t stoop to it.
Aliens: Colonial Marines, the long-anticipated and widely-panned sequel to Aliens, the Last Best Hope for fans to ignore that Alien3 ever happened. Advertised with tremendous hype, launched with a resounding thud, purchasers later received an apology by way of a massive patch. I think there were also some lawsuits aside and a developer went out of business or something? I don’t pay a lot of attention to industry drama most of the time.
I’m quite the fan of the Alien series, even the later ones (Let us not speak of Requiem), so I was intensely curious about the game despite its reputation – not, you know, curious enough to spend any significant amount of cash on it, but curious enough to drop the two bucks on it during an Amazon sale, install it some months later, and give it a fair chance to succeed or fail as a game. I have, after all, managed to enjoy some games that were objectively awful.
I also figured that, if nothing else, I’d probably get a snarky blog post about it, and In that regard it met expectations.
I can’t compare it to how it was before patch – I’ve heard that it was an ugly mess with terrible enemy AI – but I can talk about how it is now, and it’s not good.
I played for about two hours – first on “Soldier”, which is the Normal difficulty level, and then on “Recruit” which required a restart since you can’t adjust the difficulty on the fly. I had to quit “Soldier” because, well, dying was amazingly annoying. Not only did every death come with its own little “here’s how the alien killed you” sequence, but it meant a long trip back to the last checkpoint. Apparently the developers reacted to complaints that the game-as-released was far too easy by cranking the difficulty up to 11.
I eventually managed to complete the first level, and then I uninstalled it. It wasn’t just the difficulty or the checkpoints or the annoying death sequences, mind you – what finally did it for me was getting a message halfway through yet another replay of the level that I’d leveled up and unlocked the tactical shotgun, at which point a tactical shotgun suddenly appeared in my inventory for use.
This sort of thing has been part and parcel of the multiplayer component of any FPS since, roughly, 2007, but it’s not something I expect to see in the single player campaign. I’d expect to, oh, find a weapons locker and find a tactical shotgun in it, not hear a magical “ding” sound and suddenly realize that I’ve been carrying one in my backpack this whole time. Coupled with the “you died! how about a little time-out before you respawn?” death sequences, it felt like the thing had been designed as a deathmatch game and got nearly to the point of shipping before someone slapped their forehead and realized they’d promised to deliver a story mode as well.
So… I wasted two hours but managed to satisfy my curiosity about the thing. I guess that’s a fair tradeoff.
I’m kind of tempted, now, to find a copy of the Xbox 360 or PS3 version, disconnect the console from the internet and play the game without the balancing patch to find out if it’s any less brutal. I’ll put that on my to-do list for 2019 or so.