In the latest piece of DLC for the game that no one’s playing, a new campaign is offered to tie up the end of the season pass.
Stasis Interrupted ties in with the movies, telling Corporal Hicks’ tale between Aliens 2 and 3, as the player takes on the role of 3 guys awakened prematurely by their ship, which is off course, destined to intercept the Sulaco.
Hicks was in the original campaign for Colonial Marines, which was a misplaced cameo, since it made no sense, but Stasis Interrupted should offer some insight as to why the hell he’s even still alive.
This is the largest and final part of the Season Pass DLC, which to the developers credit, has been a content packed bunch of minor releases, followed by this fairly major one.
You can download it now, or buy it for the Xbox 360 for 800 Microsoft points – but you probably won’t.
The first story-based DLC, entitled Stasis Interrupted, was outed by 10 new PS3 Trophies, and will introduce new story elements.
PS3Trophies details the requisite achievements, spoilers included. We’re not sure how much the new DLC will cost just yet, or when it’s out, but it should hit all three major systems at some point in the near future.
We recently reported that Sega was being sued over false advertising claims regarding the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines, a claim Sega have come out and called ‘without merit’.
The original complaint is based on the differences between the alleged “actual gameplay” footage from E3, in comparison the disappointing final release, which, allegedly, was pieced together after much of the third party work was thrown out.
“SEGA cannot comment on specifics of ongoing litigation, but we are confident that the lawsuit is without merit and we will defend it vigorously,” Sega commented.
Gearbox made their own comments, vigorously defending the products release, which has been updated substantially since launch: ”Attempting to wring a class action lawsuit out of a demonstration is beyond meritless. We continue to support the game, and will defend the rights of entertainers to share their works-in-progress without fear of frivolous litigation.”
In our original analysis, we said that it’s likely the biggest threat to Sega is in explaining exactly why no accurate promotional materials were produced given the troubled relationship between Gearbox and their third party development deal.
SEGA earlier boasted that Colonial Marines would be the “best looking console version,” but that promise didn’t seem strong enough to keep the port in production.
Speaking to Videogamer, SEGA said that they “can confirm that the Wii U sku of Aliens: Colonial Marines is no longer in development.”
Meanwhile on PC, Aliens: Colonial Marines has had several major updates, including one improving the visuals of the title substantially, with a lot of AI fixes and improvements in Xenomorph animation. Gearbox have earnestly tried to improve the product.
In many people’s eyes, the project is a total write off, but it’s unclear as to whether disappointing Wii U growth is the reason behind SEGA’s cancellation, or whether Nintendo, or Demiurge, even wanted the product to face a second round of press battering.
Want to know what all the fuss is about? Check out our coop let’s play for a peak at the game.
Promotional materials are a pet hate of mine. In fact, I hate the way that publishers market video games so much that I made this video on the subject; a brief albeit vacuum packed exploration into the marketing of games like Men of War and Far Cry 3, the latter of which marketed itself about as honestly as a teenager in centimeters of cheap foundation. What’s behind all that powdery bullshit is often vapid and deeply underwhelming. I don’t say that with any sense of unwarranted speculation – I mean, we looked into this with a razor sharp attention to detail and revolutionary attitude. Stop lying to us, marketers, we all know your products are mediocre. Take that with a pinch of salt, readers. We love gaming – we just don’t love marketing.
The problem with getting excited about anything based on the information provided by those trying to sell it, is that at that moment you’re being sold a concept. What you think you’re seeing is the game – or, an accurate representation of it – but it’s actually just the best possible information about whatever concept they’ve envisioned. It’s a little bit like an oil painter showing you a photograph of what he hopes to paint. The final product won’t have the realism of the photo, and it’ll lack many of the features. It won’t be as sharp, vivid, or richly detailed – and it won’t be as defined. In short, concept images and publisher/developer screenshots will always lack the ‘character’ of the final product, ultimately rendering them useless from a consumer point of view.
That is, unless you keep a clear head about it. Let’s have a quick case and point example. We all know what the PS3 is capable of producing this late into the generation cycle, but The Last of Us just seems so blisteringly beautiful. I mean, look at this concept art:
If you asked, the publisher would of course say “this isn’t indicative of the actual game-play, it’s just a concept art depicting what we’re ultimately trying to achieve with atmosphere, environment, detail, etc,.” The problem is, no one usually asks, and consumers are left to their own devices. The trailer, too, showed an impossibly beautiful, perfectly sharp “in game” animation sequence that, in HD resolutions, seemed too good to be true. They seem too good to be true because they are too good to be true.
Here’s the screenshot of that scene:
Not quite as fancy, is it? The nice thing here is that Naughty Dog have begun to roll out images that actually are indicative of the games final product. We can see the age of the system, and we can see what they’ve done to make the best of it (high facial poly-count, low body poly-count - blurry, watery textures, etc,.) Gearbox - particularly Randy Pitchford – did not.
Neither did Ubisoft with Far Cry 3, though, but nobody seemed to care because, ostensibly, the game made up for it. I won’t go into my problems with the visuals of Far Cry 3 in too much detail, since we’ve already explored it in our video review, but here’s an example. You remember that Panther area in the Far Cry 3 promotional images? No? This one:
The problem is therefore perpetuated by the press, to some degree.
The arrows are pointing towards lighting effects that flat out don’t exist in the game. Is this a screenshot, or a concept? It’s definitely not from in the game itself. Look at the detail on the bow, and the gradient softness of the lighting – how pronounced, sharp, and richly detailed everything is. Well, here’s how it looked on our demo rig with two Nvidia GTX680′s on Ultra. There’s also this and this. I don’t mean to say that Far Cry 3 is a bad looking game, only that it was marketed dishonestly – just as almost every AAA title is.
Now, we can see from these two cases varying degrees of sneaky marketing prowess; whilst both show vague but inaccurate depictions of the game, one releases more honest screenshots (instead of these, and this, and this), whilst the other gets away with pretending it’s something it’s not right up to launch. In fact, Far Cry 3 is a game that, professionally, differed so astonishingly from concept to retail that Eurogamer’s written review doesn’t actually include a single original screenshot of the product.
To put that in perspective, not only do you have a false impression of the games graphical fidelity from the publisher, but you also have it from those who are supposed to analytically dissect the game for the consumer. The problem is therefore perpetuated by the press, to some degree.
The press dilemma isn’t about an inability to properly report – it’s about their inability to report quickly if they want to do it right. Review embargo’s are a long and complicated legal sort-of bureaucracy, where what can be said is crippled by whether or not you want to say it, and when. If a reviewer – and his magazine – wants to report on, or review, a title before it hits the shelves (access to review code), then he needs to follow the terms and conditions set by the publisher. This often means that if you don’t think a title deserves more than X rating, then you can’t publish your work on it. Reviewers therefore have a choice between getting their work out first, or honestly. That’s not to say reviewers or journalists are habitually dishonest, so much as that occasionally ‘compromises’ have to be made, since big releases pay the bills. Because of this, what a product is won’t actually become apparent before you sit down in front of your PC or console, and actually play the thing.
If you’re kind to publishers, publishers will be kind to you.
There’s a plague in the industry at the moment, and it goes something like this: “Hey, let us fly you in for a weekend to play X game with Y team – fully comped. Here’s the press-kit with all the screenshots you need, and the sales-sheet with the information you need for your review.” If you’re kind to publishers, publishers will be kind to you. Magazines will of course not send someone who outright hates a product, or publisher, to review it. They will select the most fitting candidate, and that candidate will be massaged into submission – with everything he needs to perpetuate the myth of what makes product X so special, compared to products Y and Z.
This briefly outlines the problems with the consumers ability to get accurate information, but Aliens: Colonial Marines was blasted by reviewers? Surely that’s honest? Yes, it is – but those reviews did not exist prior to the release of the game, because of reviewer embargo’s (or Sega flat out refusing to offer anyone review code). They tried to hide the state of the game before it was launched, I suspect, which should have had you – as it did me – slightly concerned.
It’s not all about visuals
We all know about Sergei Titov and the War Z Steam fiasco. War Z had listed several features that weren’t in the game post-launch, and their screenshots evenly matched The Last of Us and Far Cry 3 in their deceptive polish. Of course, since the game was bad, people cared a lot more. There’s a whole lot more to it than that, and Hammerpoint Interactive weren’t exactly accommodating with complaints, allegedly out-right banning people from payment gateways for requesting refunds, but the point remains: every publisher to some degree is trying to get away with painting a picture of their product that promotes interest, and maximizes sales. But how far can you talk about prospective features, and at what point is there a tacit agreement to actually include them in release?
Colonial Marines differs to War Z in that it doesn’t list any feature on Steam, post-launch, that isn’t in the game. It has committed a lesser crime. The Colonial Marines problem stems from one simple thing: Gearbox, Sega, and whoever else controlled the project decided to cut the budget, but retain the same price. This, unarguably, is bad consumer ethics.
Back in E3 2012, a demo of Aliens Colonial Marines was released to the press. This was demo footage, not actually hands-on game-play (which is where the lines between accurate and inaccurate become blurry). Watch this excellent comparison between the 2012 demo and the final product from CVG:
This video has had many journalists in #outrage (I’ve given it a hashtag because internet out-rage is sort of trivial). How can scenes work differently in a concept demo released a year earlier? It doesn’t play out the same. It doesn’t look the same. This is outrageous! There seems to be a correlation of sorts between the quality of the market material – as with screenshots talked about above – and the quality of the released product. In this case, however, it’s a video, and not a series of screenshots. Still, regardless of the fact it’s motion and not still imagery, we’re still looking at a concept. An idea to be sold. It’s hype. They want us excited. They want to be able to produce the finished product by ensuring the developmental process can exist at all. If no one is interested in your title, there’s a good change it’ll be canned.
Now, I’m not excusing the vastly visually-inferior product we eventually were lumbered with, but there’s absolutely no logical reason to think that a game – delayed by almost two years – will look the same as a concept tech demo a year earlier, when the gaming climate was different. So why does it look a lot worse?
After almost 2 years of delays, the project ran out of steam.
This late into the generation cycle, no one really cares about an Aliens franchise game. When I say ‘no one cares’ I mean that mass-market demographics aren’t going to go ape shit for a video-game based on an 80′s movie. Yes, I personally love Aliens – and Ridley Scott, for that matter – but not everyone is me. Because of this, and the late development, Sega ostensibly had to harden itself for an expected blow. The hype was burnt out, and all that remained was a long and arduous release window, and a series of TBD’s.
A developer can’t seriously consider implementing groundbreaking new gaming technologies on the dawn of new console announcements. Perhaps two years ago, but it’s unlikely new AI technology – proposed by Pitchford – and enhanced HD graphics and effects, all of which very expensive to make, will really make much of a dent in the years scheduled releases. People are bored of modern military shooters, and people are merely chewing up the last batch of first person shooters before the next generating of gaming launches with new IP’s, and new technology. There quite simply isn’t any ‘new technology’ at this point, and Aliens Colonial Marines could no longer hype itself on features that would ultimately be made redundant by higher budget titles. It was never going to be the prettiest game of the year, and it was never going to be the best. After almost 2 years of delays, the project ran out of steam.
The project was split between Gearbox and Demiurge Studios, and development plodded along, altered to suit its budget. If you don’t know who Demiurge Studios are, they rather underwhelmingly “helped ship over twenty retail titles for PC”. They’re a company who, on their front page, pride themselves on merely allowing games to exist.
I know what you’re thinking right now – Aliens Colonial Marines was the top-seller on Steam for its release week, but that’s not unusual for a long awaited AAA release. What were purchasing decisions made on? The 2012 concept demo? Because, you know, there were trailers - and whilst they’re suspiciously lacking in any coherent game-play, they’re certainly more honest than this, or this.
Why I wasn’t underwhelmed
I went into Aliens Colonial Marines blind. I always go in blind. I hate marketing; I genuinely hate something being sold to me. Give me the information, show me the materials as honestly as you can, and I’ll decide for myself whether or not something is for me. I don’t need £5 packaging on a £6 bottle of wine, and I don’t need some enthusiastic idiot breathing down my neck, massaging me into submission. If you want to secure yourself from disappointment, then wait until something has launched. Only read post-release reviews, and ignore anyone who was invited to play by the publisher or the developer (assuming he wants to be invited back). YouTube is your friend, and whilst professional reviews always come first, they come first at a price. That price is honesty, and we can’t afford to pay it this late into the generation cycle.
The sensation of being underwhelmed or having our minds blown seems to interchangeable
In my review, I said that Colonial Marines was a bare-bones, old-school, back-to-basics shooter with satisfying shooting and enjoyable coop. That’s the analysis I’m sticking with. Visually, it’s dated, ‘cubey’, and clunky. The animations feel a little janky, and the FMV cut-scenes are horrible. That said, it felt authentic, enjoyable, and dynamic. It seemed independent of its hype. To me, it didn’t seem to fall-short of being what it was in 2012, so much as it didn’t event want to try. It was just doing its own thing.
Whilst our let’s play gives you a sizable chuck of what you can expect in the cooperative campaign, I can’t for the life of me understand why someone would want to brush it off as a “Left 4 Dead clone” – which is something someone I won’t name actually did – in a world of unending iterative gaming experiences. Everything is always a clone of X or a rip-off of Y. The sensation of being underwhelmed or having our minds blown seems to interchangeable; one week, what would bore us last week is reported as incredible, and what’s incredible next week is this week ignored, or slammed.
The whole point of this write up is to try to convince you of only one point: Aliens Colonial Marines isn’t necessarily bad because of its aggressive marketing, and it’s not necessarily bad just because the majority of publishers say it is. Knee-jerk reactions aside, I’ve been lied to my entire gaming career, and I’m lied to into my journalistic career. If I got pissed off every time someone in gaming sold me a lie, I’d be an emotional wreck. I’d not be able to play anything at all. Mass media has a tendency to pick and choose its fights. I am no exception. This week I’m defending Aliens: Colonial Marines. I once before defended Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Last week I attacked Dead Space 3 for being a shoddy port, and I’ll probably take issue with some titles in 2013.
In a way, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a victim. It’s an underachiever that, by no means, should you be inclined to love – but it’s not bad just because PR and marketers were being their usual, sneaky, disingenuous selves. I don’t care if you buy it, play it, or bury it – I’m just saying that jumping on the hype band-wagon too enthusiastically, or too naïvely, seems to necessarily take you to hate band-wagon.
2012′s Aliens Colonial Marines demo, unveiled at E3, showed plans for a much more ambitious title – with “advanced AI”, beautiful lighting ambient effects and a sense of entrapment, and more streamlined, dynamic gameplay than what we got. Things didn’t exactly pan out as expected, and the Aliens Colonial Marines game that was released is a much more humble, old-school shooter that, whilst immediately dated, has a solid foundation hidden behind the sense of shady betrayal.
Colonial Marines is a very humble game that has become the victim of incredibly aggressive pre-launch marketing, and the content and fidelity of this Aliens title seems much more indicative of a £19.99 release – especially on PC – than the full AAA price it was given. It’s clear now that incredible effort has been made to hide the actual state of the game from consumers before launch, but the ‘actual state of the game’, when looked at on its own, isn’t all that bad. Aliens Colonial Marines is a functional, bare-bones adventure – but with solid shooting mechanics and a story and theme that make the title actually very immersive, it could have been swallowed much easier if it were only sold on what it is, and not what it’s not.
Colonial Marines was supposed to be a lot of things. It originally included high quality ambient visuals, some advanced Alien and enemy AI technology, much higher resolution assets, more animations and dynamic events, a boss battle with an auto-loader, and squad based commands to issue to friendly AI. It has none of those things. What it does have, is a series of relatively well designed if a little linear on-rails levels, based around the Aliens mythos, with authentic weapons, aliens, themes and content. The story is surprisingly well realized, and when played in single player, completely reminiscent of the moment in Aliens where the marines are sent helplessly into the fray.
There was a risk that, like in AVP (2010), Aliens Colonial Marines could have been a grind fest, merely pointing your gun at weak aliens as they charge at you non stop for 8 hours or so. That isn’t exactly the case, and its one of the games main strengths. The story is split into about three different dilemmas: Colonial Marines uncovering the experiments, and therefore setting themselves up as prey for the aliens, Weyland Industries trying to kill the the marines for discovering the tests, therefore creating two mutually exclusive but equally dangerous enemies, and traversing the unknown terrain in order to try and escape.
Mechanically, the title has a few interesting features – although admittedly everything else is very standard – such as the ability to weld open or close doors, which takes time and requires cover. In coop, this gives you the opportunity to “strategically” defend against the alien swarm, whilst one of you covers the other one. Whilst there is a general tone of competitive strategic gameplay, there’s no actual real strategic mechanics – other than welding. Colonial Marines is 100% carried by the theme of the title. Whilst there are a lot of elements I felt should have been in the release, the aesthetic and authenticity of the lore was strong enough to carry my enjoyment, as I became immersed in the story. I should point out that your susceptibility to immersion will no doubt be dependent on quite a few factors:
The game is bare-bones to the point of old-school. Reminiscent of the Duke Nukem Forever release, Colonial Marines requires nothing more than quick reflexes. Whilst there are cut-scenes in horribly rendered, emulated “cinema style” letterbox, there are in also in-game events acting as exposition to drive the story. It is the dialogue between the marines, along with their weapons and the setting, that aids immersion so successfully. I’m not an overwhelming fan of the Aliens franchise, but exploring a first person shooter from the perspective of the legendary Colonial Marines was still a unique and enjoyable experience, regardless of the quality of the title. However, whilst I freely admit that if this were a new IP, it’d be a questionable release, that isn’t to say it’s enjoyable solely because of the franchises’ name.
The thing is, there’s nothing ultimately wrong with Colonial Marines from within the game. The title has a relatively good dynamic; there are escapes, moments of stealth that are genuinely creepy, solid shooting mechanics, a vast array of authentic weaponry, a decent story (at least, as decent as any other FPS of this generation), and some enjoyable multiplayer components. I didn’t find the title particularly buggy, and whilst my eyes bled when I first got into the game and noted the chunky, cuboid aesthetic of the game-world, I quickly sank into a comfortable retrospective attitude that had me appreciate the simplicity for what it was.
Fighting the Xenomorph’s is largely triumphant, too, and surprisingly balanced. Colonial Maries isn’t a super-easy title, and they break many of the rules modern gamers are tired of. For instance, there’s no regenerative health, you need to look for health packs. This means that to some degree scavenging is once again necessary, and of course going off the beaten track in a world inflicted with Xenomorph’s is going to be a creepy experience. There are also ample opportunities for Xenomorphs to one-shot you, unless you successfully hit a QTE the right way. Whilst QTE raises alarms, it’s unnerving knowing that if an alien gets too close to you, you could be one-shot by missing the right key. Hitting ‘V’ at the right moment will have Cpl. Christopher Winter fire his side-arm through the bottom of a Xeno skull, for example.
Xenomorph’s are dangerous, and spamming the pulse rifle isn’t always the best way out. You can equip up to 3 weapons at a time: two main weapons, and a side arm. You also have an array of grenades or land-mines, only able to equip one type at once. Interestingly enough, you can also use the Weyland Industries PMC weapons, which effectively doubles your arsenal.
Fighting the private military company troops is surprisingly refreshing. You can die in only a few hits, so cover is essential. Because of this, darting and weaving your way through ships are they explode around you, or out-flanking the enemy using the environment to your advantage is genuinely fun. You can shoot their head off with the shotgun (which is a well balanced weapon), or spray with your pulse rifle. There are plenty of explodable items around the maps, and each weapon has an attachment such as a grenade launcher or stun.
I can’t really emphasize enough how surprisingly dynamic the campaign is. Whilst there is of course a shed tonne of running through corridors, gunning down aliens (which is fun because that’s basically what the movie was) there are also missions that have you setting up defenses, escaping from aliens too large for you to handle, using auto loaders, running through an exploding ship to escape pods, creeping through Xenomorphs unarmed, and a host of other thematic objectives. It might not be as pretty (by a little) as a Call of Duty campaign, but I found myself much more immersed and interested because of the heavy authenticity of the lore, and the dynamic of each mission. I’m not saying that this is an innovative title – I’m saying that it’s a step backwards, with strong fundamental mechanics, that simply allows you to play without getting in your way.
Graphically, Colonial Marines is merely functional. There’s nothing wrong with the art, the concepts, or the overall aesthetic – but the fidelity of the assets leaves a lot to be desired. This wasn’t a cheap title on the PC, but it looks like an early release for this generation of consoles. I’m not entirely dismissive, though, because the whole ordeal has a sort of smooth, simplistic tone that you see in modern Valve titles. Sure, we’re missing the dynamic lighting and ambient effects seen in 2012′s demo, but as they say: “graphics don’t make a game.” Whilst that’s true, it’s clearly evident that Gearbox et al decided to cash in on some money-saving ideas, but retain the same AAA price. That’s sure to leave a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth.
It’s easy to forget this is an entirely cooperative experience, but playing it in coop certainly makes it more fun. Everything that’s supposed to be remotely scary loses some edge in coop, and whilst story often becomes negligible and convoluted, Colonial Marines retains its authenticity and clarity. The story is told mostly through dialogue during game-play, or at moments where you’re waiting or watching for an event to happen. Because of this, both parties, even if on Skype, can easily keep track of what’s going on – simplicity is key, and Colonial Marines keeps things simple.
There aren’t any moments, as far as I can tell, that differ when playing cooperatively or in single player, and unlike other recent releases, there isn’t any compromise. In fact, single player and cooperative are startlingly similar. The simpler, more linear level design can of course be attributed to the multiplayer campaign, as in F3AR, so we shouldn’t be overly critical of that with regards to the single player. It’s clear that this title was built for coop, and because of that, it’s well balanced, with a story that’s told with clarity – not too many titles have achieved this, often causing a compromised campaign.
Competitive multiplayer is the usual tacked on ordeal found in AAA titles these days, and the gimmick of playing as a Xenomorph is short-lived if you know you can essentially do the same thing in Natural Selection 2, better. Survival mode is probably the only valuable mode out of the possible 3, which pits Marines against Xeno’s, but the aforementioned indie title offers a similar experience with a lot more bang-for-buck. Net-code is relatively stable, though, as tested from the UK to the Philippines. Deathmatch isn’t something that’s going to change your mind as to whether or not to buy the title, either. The map designs are all derivative of the campaign, and whilst there are several Xeno “classes”, the whole thing feels as thrown together as you probably expect. One problem I found particularly annoying was how buggy the terrain is when playing as a Xenomorph. I found myself getting stuck on some jagged elements of the map, and dying as a consequence, more times than one.
In all, Aliens Colonial Marines embodies the most boring adjective a reviewer could possibly use to describe a game. It’s ‘good’. When I say it’s ‘good’, I’m saying it with a ‘not bad’ face and a slight shrug. The theme and aesthetic make up for a whole lot of mediocre, and whilst as I said the fundamentals for a good shooter are clearly there, and for whatever reason the campaign never actually felt stale as they so often do, I can’t seriously recommend the title to anyone at its price. As a PC gamer, I’m used to companies throwing ugly product at me every year, and I’m not sure if that means Colonial Marines gets away with being ugly – because we’re always talking about degrees of ugliness in ports – or if I’ve become too nihilistic a gamer to expect anything better.
The thing is, the core gameplay is functional and enjoyable, and because I don’t care for hype or promotional materials, I can’t say I feel particularly heart-broken. Every publisher lies about their product to some degree, embellishing the truth about content, and airbrushing lighting, and whilst Sega (or Randy Pitchford) clearly took things too far, that doesn’t necessarily mean Colonial Marines is a bad game because of it. Don’t buy it for single player at £39.99, but do buy it for coop at £19.99.
SEGA’s up and coming first person shooter has had a shaky history thus far with many delays, but it looks like none of them pushed the system specifications outside of the current generation, with a fairly modest rig needed to run the title. Asking for only an AMD 5850 and a 2.3 GHZ Quad Core, the recommended specs indicate an easy to get comfortable gaming experience. What they says about the visuals is nothing that couldn’t already be noted from promotional materials so far.
Operating System: Windows XP SP3
Processor: 2 GHz Intel Dual Core Processor
RAM: 2GB RAM (XP),2GB RAM (Vista)
HD: 20GB free hard disk space
Optical Drive: DVD
Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
Video Card:NVIDIA GeForce 8500/ATI Radeon HD 2600 (256 minimum)
Operating System: Windows XP SP3/Vista/Windows 7
Processor: 2.3 GHz Intel Quad CoreProcessor
RAM: 2GB RAM. HD
20GB free hard disk space
Optical Drive: DVD
Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX560/ATI Radeon HD 5850 (512 minimum)
Aliens: Colonial Marines breaks through your rib-cage February 12 for erry’tin (even the Wii U).