7 – Story (cont’d):
I have to start the negative side on a very basic level. Yes, I know that it’s been done to death at this point, but I see no other way but to take Gearbox’s statements about the story into consideration. And to be fair, there are two things you need to know: First, I didn’t really want a direct sequel to Aliens. I also don’t see any loose ends from the movie that needed attention. I know it’s nitpicky, but if any movie, it is the beginning of Alien³ that needs fixing. Which brings me to the second point, the one about ACM making Alien³ a better movie. I love the third movie and didn’t need the game to make it any better.
Here’s the big BUT: BUT that’s my personal opinion, and I know that I am in the minority here. Also, I admit that the beginning of Alien³ would benefit from an explanation. So, IS it a better sequel to Aliens? DOES it make Alien³ a better movie? No and No. What always irked me was the fact that the story is, for about 90 per cent, not a game changer. Save for the crash of the Sulaco and the very vague final “We’ve got everything”, ACM’s plot doesn’t change anything. By the time we get to the Sulaco, a crapload of stuff had happened that we get not clear explanation for either, what with the whole Xeno infestation that had happened offscreen long before the Sephora arrived. By the end, the Derelict is still there, and don’t get your hopes up for any explanation about its origin (save for an easter egg). What else? Well, we get to see that Hadley’s Hope is pretty messed up after the explosion from Aliens. Surprise! I think the problem lies with the circumstance that LV-426 was too good a setting to pass up, at least fan service-wise. But I think the game would have profited from a new setting, and I hope that LV-426 won’t turn into Aliens’ Battle of Hoth. Yet, it’s that fan service mentality that raises perhaps my biggest gripe, and I think you know what I mean: Retcons.
8 – Story (cont’d):
Like the review on AvPGalaxy.net, I can think of no other reason for bringing Hicks back than a grossly misguided attempt at excessive fan service. It baffles me that no one involved in the writing said: “Look, I see what you’re trying here, but it won’t work.” I see that people were pissed that Hicks was killed off-screen in the third movie. But as official canon, ACM has a responsibility to honor even the red-headed stepchild that is Alien³. It just can’t ignore its plot in blatant disregard. Alien³ happened, whether you like it or not. My personal opinion is this: The Hicks retcon did not make Alien³ a better movie, quite the contrary: It cheapened the emotional impact of it. But the objective reason for rejecting the retcon is simple: It did not work. I don’t know if there’s any scenario where resurrecting Hicks would have made sense, but it’s clearly not the one provided by the game. Hicks’ explanation is too vague and fails to explain the Xeno presence on the Sulaco either. And when characters ask “Why? How?”, we get “That’s a longer story.” If that’s not the rethorical equivalent of a middle finger given by a lazy writer, I don’t know what is.
Aside from the Hicks retcon, there was another one that bothered me, namely the Wey-Yu scientist explanation of the circumstances of a Chestburster gestation. The scientist says that an extraction of the embryo is impossible because it had created a cancerous placenta in the host that would kill it regardless. So how were they able to extract the embryo from Ripley 8 in Alien Resurrection? And how was Doctor Church able to remove the Chestburster from himself in the Labyrinth comics? Admittedly, there are scenarios where both cases could be explained. Ripley 8’s alien genes could have made the placenta obsolete, and Church might have been successful due to the fact that the alien nest where he was impregnated was dying of a sickness, and the embryo may have been too weak to develop the placenta. But considering that Gearbox acted as though they were the biggest Aliens fanboys on the planet, it still left a bitter taste.
There are also some instances of characters acting stupid. Keyes not only wrecks the only dropship remaining on the Sulaco, but also thinks it’s a great idea to blow himself, the flight recorder and the umbilical to pieces when he gives birth to a Chestburster, five minutes after stating the utmost importance of the flight recorder reaching the Sephora. If I didn’t know any better, I would believe that Keyes was brainwashed by the Xenos. I could go on, but I will stop here.
9 – Conclusion:
Being an Alien fan might be the only way to get some enjoyment out of this one and not come to regret the time spent. I had a good time playing through the game and enjoying all the little things, the references, the authentic old and new environments and the superb soundtrack. But it could, and should have been so much more. Say what you will about Prometheus, but even if it failed, it was an ambitious movie that failed. I can’t say the same about ACM, and I had high hopes for it. After Prometheus, I really would have liked to see ACM creating some good press for the franchise. Here’s hoping that the Creative Assembly game will live up to its potential. After all, if there’s anything that defines a fangirl or fanboy, it is the ability, the need to be hopelessly hopeful.