I already reviewed Colonial Marines wayback when, but I recently replayed the main campaign to try out the TemplarGFX overhaul. I completed the campaign in three sessions, I think, and a lot went through my mind while doing so. Enough to spark the idea of writing a small retrospective now that Alien Isolation has washed out the sour taste of this game from our collective mouths and a few years have passed. This won‘t follow the usual essay structure; rather, I‘ll write down my stray thoughts as they come in and order them in chronological fashion when possible.
Oh, one last thing I feel necessary to point out, given the subject matter: This will not be a rant. Of course, I will voice my own problems with the game. But everyone expecting to see the poison flow will be disappointed… largely. I mean, where‘s the fun in doing what has been done so often already? So, let‘s see if the years have left the game in a different place than at launch. Here we go!
-As I said above, I originally wanted to play the game with the TemplarGFX overhaul mod. I really liked what I saw, too. However, the game crashed as soon as I reached the cargo tram rails, so I was forced to go vanilla again.
-People who know me also know I‘m a film score nut. So here goes a shoutout to Kevin Riepl‘s great music. It‘s actually the only component that got through the shitstorm unscathed, and rightfully so. I particularly love that it uses the main theme from Alien, further establishing the cue as the central musical identity of the saga.
-To get this out of the way, I just address this now with the first offender in that regard: The graphics‘ shortcomings still baffle me as soon as I see the hoky facial animation. AvP 2010 did those and pretty much everything else better three years earlier. I know that Gearbox toned down the visuals to make the game run on consoles. But AvP 2010 was also released for consoles, so I have difficulties accepting this as an explanation.
-A major thing I actually love about ACM is the arsenal and the whole customization mechanics that come with it. Once you‘ve unlocked a fair amount of stuff, you‘re able to adapt your weapons for any given situation on the fly. Yeah, kudos for the „on the fly“ part; someone less committed to the concept may have restricted that to checkpoints or something.
-Okay, the realization of the Sulaco‘s interior is just great. The continuity nerd in me just wished there had been more consistency with the Aliens Infestation version. On the other hand, both contradict the Colonial Marines Technical Manual, which depicts the ship as featuring rather few places actually accessible by humans, so what the heck…
-When I fought the PMCs, I remembered Noah Caldwell-Gervais, a guy on YouTube, describing them as looking like „après-ski DJs“. Pretty apt description, I must say. BTW, check out Noah‘s videos, they‘re great!
-One thing I can say about the TemplarGFX overhaul is that the quicktime events with a facehugger were now brutal.
-Yay, I finally found the Easter Egg!
-The huge sphere-like structures in Engineering reminded me of the APOLLO sphere from Isolation.
-As I play through the game, I cannot help but wonder what could have been and what landed on the cutting room floor. Alien Isolation, a game much more fully realized than ACM, has a vast well-documented amount of stuff that didn‘t make it into the game and would have blown it up to JRPG proportions. On the other hand, information of content cut from ACM is curiously scarce, what with the trailers showing so much stuff that was left out of the final game.
-The Raven…pretty intriguing! We still have no definite idea what kind of Xeno it is, but cool stuff nonetheless.
-My favorite bit of bad dialogue has to be Winter‘s and O‘Neal‘s conversation about the Boilers. It‘s like listening to the ramblings of two dudebros. I paraphrase (may not be 100% accurate): „Dude, did you see that?“ „Ya, totally, bro! It‘s wicked, man!“ „Right?!? The generator went WROOOM! And then the Aliens went, like, KABLAAM!“ „So AWESOME!“ „Ya, totally.“
-Seeing Hudson‘s corpse reminded me of when I suggested making him the surviving marine from the Sulaco. Contrary to Hicks there‘s an actual chance that he survived, and introducing him earlier and making him seriously unhinged might have given off a nice Dead Space vibe. Not the worst source of inspiration, guys.
-Yeah, the main cast is rather bland, but I think that they did themselves a favor by limiting the story around you, O‘Neal, Bella, Reid and Cruz. This way, everyone got to do something and was an integral part of the plot. Cameron really did a magic thing by making a whole squad memorable, and here, the writers were humble enough not to try the same thing and fail.
-The section with the enemy Cheyennes scouting the area is cool stuff! Why not make it so that there is an actual risk of being discovered and shot at? Time constraints? Were sections like these originally more fleshed-out, like the Crusher escape from the trailers, and retroactively dumbed down when time for playtesting ran out?
-The existence of the Crusher and the Spitter bothers me. I can‘t really see their place in the hive. It‘s something more akin to the Tyranids from Warhammer 40k.
-In the lab section with the captured Xenos, take a look at the drone opposite the Crusher cage. It actually has a skull that closely resembles the Raven.
-Teehee, I love the audio logs of the foreman. Sounds like George Carlin was revived and put into Wey-Yu‘s employ. The last one is my favourite, which basically goes: „You greedy bastards do all kinds of wrong here, but I earned a lot of money, so bye!“
-I still can‘t wrap my head around the whole cancerous placenta thing; this is a major incision (see what I did there?) into existing canon. I first thought you can easily shoot this one down by bringing up Church and Ripley 8, but both of them happened under special circumstances. Ripley 8 was an Alien/human hybrid and thus may have been able to just absorb the placenta. Church was impregnated by a hive suffering from a terminal disease, so that may have killed the cancer along with the Chestburster. Hm, still not feeling it, though.
-The queen reveal still kicks all kinds of ass. Again, a pity that the scripted events of her lashing out from the cage do you no actual harm.
-Nope, the derelict is still way too large on the inside to match the outside. Seriously, it‘s like the damn TARDIS in there. Still an atmospheric highlight.
-Another cool moment: The cargo lifter with the Queen building flying overhead.
-Fun fact: Stay long enough at the departing FTL ship, and you‘ll see that only the side facing you was actually modeled.
-Oh, what is it with you and messing up Queen battles? First, the underwhelming boss fight in AvP 2010 and now this? You had a perfectly fine killer Queen model, why not use it?
-Regarding the ending: Yeah, it‘s pretty lame sequel bait. However, the implied story about Colonial Marines taking up the fight against Weyland-Yutani has potential. Come to think of it, Cruz‘ marines weren’t the only ones vowing to take down the Company; Brackett did the same at the end of River of Pain. Those people teaming up for their mission might be rather cool.
-I already said that I love the whole weapon customization thing. Likewise, the challenges really motivated me to replay levels. However, around level 26, I hit a brick wall with the challenges: Two were connected to the multiplayer modes, which are completely abandoned by now. None of my friends own the game, so there go those rewards. I get the purpose of multiplayer challenges, but keep them out of my singleplayer! The third is a ridiculously hard „kill 10 enemies in a single campaign level“ challenge, which resets every time you die, even if you passed a checkpoint. Not cool.
So, this concludes my little retrospective of the main campaign from Aliens Colonial Marines. After being relentlessly hunted all over Sevastopol, it was a rather cathartic experience to unload a Pulse Rifle on some bugs. This marked the third time I played through the campaign, I think, and I won’t rule out another playthrough in the future. It wasn’t a blast, but I enjoyed myself. I think I made my peace with the game. Or I am a sucker for punishment. Take your pick.