It's clear that Gearbox wanted to achieve some of the tense situations that have become a staple of Aliens. The motion tracker's ping plays a huge part in the gameplay, at anytime you can bring it up and see where the next horde of aliens are coming from. There's a constant ebb and flow of silence followed by the ping of the motion tracker and then the chaotic onslaught. It's fun at first, but eventually just becomes predictable. The early levels of the game feature combat with cookie cutter enemy soldiers - it's uninspired, the character models all look identical, and it's not why I am playing a game with "Aliens" in the title. It isn't until midway through the campaign that Colonial Marines starts to hit its stride with enemies and layout.
Co-Op changes Aliens: Colonial Marines and how you play it. While playing solo I found myself back pedaling quite often, the co-op made combat a more aggressive push. This is aided by a revive mechanic, while in single player you'll die and restart, co-op allows a teammate to revive you, helping the difficulty factor.
It's interesting to see Gearbox's influence in the design of co-op, with the main menu being a party system similar to Borderlands 2. Unfortunately things aren't quite a seamless as we've come to expect. You can only start off at level beginnings, though you can jump into a game in progress. Split-screen is supported though combo co-op is not, and the game features built-in matchmaking as well. It's obvious the game is pushing for people to play co-op and I definitely enjoyed it more while playing it with friends.
All of that said, Aliens: Colonial Marines was littered with technical problems. NPCs would get stuck and fail to make it to a trigger to kick off a required in game event, animations would glitch causing characters to jump around spastically. The enemy AI can be downright laughable. Did IQs drop sharply over the past 5 years? I'd witness NPC marines and aliens battling it out in comical fashion... It didn't even look like they were trying to kill each other, but rather see if their breath was of proper freshness. Graphically, the game is a mixed bag, at times it looks like a five year old game with textures and models that are simply subpar for a game released in 2013. What's worse, on the Xbox 360 texture pop in is rampant and can be really distracting.
I really wanted to like Aliens: Colonial Marines. At times I can see the game I wanted buried beneath what is presented. The game is shockingly short, especially in co-op. It took me less than 5 hours to complete the game, with over half of the missions being played in co-op with random folks online. There's some minor replayability if you want to continue to level up for the game's versus modes, which are actually a pretty fun distraction if that's your cup of tea.
Overall Aliens: Colonial Marines misses the drop ship and falls short of its potential. While the co-op is still a lot of fun, the overall lack of polish and antiquated feel simply bring the game down as a whole. Perhaps the material and technology still isn't quite there to make the Aliens game so many of us have in our heads. Hopefully we won't have to wait another five years to have another chance.
Be sure to check out our Co-Op FAQ for full details of the cooperative experience in Aliens: Colonial Marines.
The Co-Optimus review of Aliens: Colonial Marines is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
The Co-Op Experience: Aliens: Colonial Marines story is fully playable in four player co-op. In co-op mode, each player will assume the persona of a United States Colonial Marine and have a distinct role to play in the completion of every mission.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.