The lights are on
Alright, I want to start off by saying I think GI was WAY too harsh with this game. It is by no means a 4/10. With that said do I think it is a truly great game? No. I am among the many who have been waiting for this game for five years since it's debut in Game Informer's March 2008 issue and I am among the many who have been let down by this game. I think because this game had a significant amount of hype for nearly half a decade reviewers are rating it much more severely than it deserves.
Now with that said let me tell you what I think.
Aliens: Colonial Marines' biggest problem BY FAR is the campaign. I'll be completely honest, the campaign is lackluster and leaves something to be desired. I think the biggest mistake they made when developing this campaign was designing it to be a solo experience with optional co-op. Before this game was released the single biggest thing they were advertising was the co-op and teamwork. If you reference the 2008 Aliens: CM issue of GI then the majority of the article is talking about this squad based co-operative experience that we never got to see. Originally, the developers planned on having an AI squad with the player with which the player could issue orders to provide a much more cohesive and tactical experience as well as drop-in drop-out co-op, however this was dropped later in development. What they are left with is a Call of Duty wanna-be campaign with a terrible plot line. This is not only uninteresting and stale, but it goes completely against the spirit of the Aliens movie. Those of us who have seen the movie are familiar with the way the colonial marines operate. Throughout the film the marines are always working as a team, carefully coordinating attacks and setting up well thought out defenses. In the game the player is left with this run-and-gun attitude that is completely contradictory to the colonial marines of the movie. Had the developers approached the game with more of a Left 4 Dead cooperative feel then that would have solved half of the problems right there. Instead, players who wish to play the co-op campaign are thrust into a game where all tactics and strategy are thrown out the door and any communication is limited to "Hey, can someone revive me?" As a result the co-op campaign devolves into four players running through the levels with guns blazing, mowing down anything that moves. This may sound cool and maybe for some other game it would be, but for this one it just isn't.
As far as story goes, the campaign starts out pretty well with some mysteries about the Sulaco and how it somehow returned to LV-426 as well as the ever present mystery of the xenomorphs. However the story quickly turns into some sort of pathetic pseudo love story upon reaching the surface of the planet.
The AI isn't great, I will agree with the GI review in that the player's AI squad mate is a complete fool. When he does shoot his gun does very little damage however I often found him standing around during combat and even running off into side rooms upon entering combat. Needless to say he was a moron. Now the Alien AI I don't think was as bad as the article claims. There was a day one patch so that may have helped but regardless this is a first person shooter, not a survival horror. Granted some dynamic AI that could sneak around and plan ambushes in some of the quieter parts rather than just busting in and charging would make for a much more anxiety inducing experience akin to the movie.
The graphics are mediocre however I'm not going to harp on that too much. They definitely could, and should, be a lot better however they're not game breaking. The sounds are very well done with the pulse rifle, motion sensor, and aliens sounding exactly like the film.
Now so far it may sound like I think this is the worst game ever, but things begin to look up with the multiplayer.
The multiplayer has four game modes, Team Deathmatch, Exterminate, Escape, and Survivor. Every game, regardless of mode, has two rounds. One team is the marines and the others are the xenos (aliens) and the teams switch between rounds. Team Deathmatch is a basic 5v5 game mode where teams compete for kills to win. In Exterminate, the marine team must try to destroy as many egg clusters as possible by standing in a zone for a certain amount of time. There are two zones active at a time and while the marines are trying to essentially capture these zones the aliens are trying to stop them. Escape is a mode that is a lot like Left 4 Dead's multiplayer in that the marine team must get from point A to B, completing certain objectives along the way (opening doors, sealing doors, activating elevators, etc.) while the aliens try to stop them. Survivor is an attack and defend mode that leaves the marines with a 20 second head start to set up a defense and try to survive the aliens for six minutes. Team Deathmatch and Exterminate are of a much faster pace than Escape and Survivor. In Escape and Survivor the marines don't have any respawns, however they start with full armor and get knocked down requiring a revive before bleeding out. Despite Team Deathmatch and Exterminate being fairly standard game modes, due to the teams being marines vs aliens the gameplay takes a unique spin from most other shooters. The aliens are often forced to rely on stealth and surprise attacks to win whereas sticking together in groups and having situational awareness are essential for the marines. With the Escape and Survivor modes, the tactical gameplay that is absent from the campaign really comes to fruition. With no respawns, communication and planning are essential in order to achieve victory. Add the intelligence of human controlled aliens as enemies and these two modes make for a thrilling, yet nerve racking experience. Add a decent progression system with dozens of weapon unlocks and even more appearance unlocks and the multiplayer becomes a force to be reckoned with.
The multiplayer isn't without it's problems though. There are several bugs present for both marines and aliens however these will no doubt be fixed through coming patches and even the bugs that do occasionally appear are not game breaking. The alien gameplay can, at times, be very difficult and takes some getting used to but once players get a grasp on how to use them the aliens are as deadly as their hollywood counterparts.
There is a season pass available currently for DLC with I believe four DLC packs planned (I may be wrong on that) so you can expect some more maps for multiplayer, possibly some more game modes, and hopefully (though, honestly, not too likely) a dedicated co-op campaign. One thing I would really like to see added is a horde mode. The survivor mode is very fun but I believe a classic horde mode where four players must defend against endless waves of AI alien enemies would fit perfectly in this game.
In conclusion, Aliens: Colonial Marines' campaign is a lackluster Call of Duty wanna-be in a game that should be promoting squad based tactical gameplay. The multiplayer, however, offers a glimmer of hope with unique marine vs alien gameplay as well as noteworthy game modes such as escape and survivor that fill the tactical void left by the campaign.