I am a big fan of the Alien franchise. One of my most treasured possessions is a glossy coffee table publication of the design work of Ridley Scott’s Alien. With the 1986 follow-up, Aliens, director James Cameron gave a masterclass in building on an established franchise whilst simultaneously changing genres. Aliens is one of the few Hollywood sequels which arguably held the law of diminishing quality at bay.
Sadly, this law returned in force with every subsequent film, and although Fincher’s Alien³ was passable, it added little. The less said about everything that followed the better (aside from Danny Glover’s sighting of an alien skull in the Predator II trophy room, marking the canonical – but ultimately lacklustre – collision of two of the greatest monsters in cinema history).
Given all of the narrative missteps and awkward handling of the post-Cameron Aliens franchise, it made sense to return to that era to deliver a great gaming experience utilising today’s technology. Aliens: Colonial Marines was positioned to deliver the perfect combination of tension and action wrapped up in a gung ho car-crash as sci-fi technology is once again beaten into a desperate race for survival by pure natural aggression.
Sadly, the critical reception suggests that Gearbox/SEGA have missed this mark by some margin. Aliens: Colonial Marines has been almost universally mauled by critics for terrible AI, dated graphics, pedestrian level design and a host of other sins. At time of writing, A:CM’s Metacritic score is a woeful 43 out of 100, based on 28 reviews from across the industry.
I’m terribly disappointed to the point where I don’t want to sully my fondness for the franchise with what is considered to be a canonical addition to the Cameron-era Aliens universe. However, due to an unfortunate miscommunication, my father has already purchased a copy, eager to relive past terrors we shared in Aliens vs. Predator. I feel obliged to join him, but resentful of the requirement to pay premium price for what could be an offence to sci-fi lore I hold dear.
There a rumblings that a sizable patch is being planned to rectify some of the criticisms, perhaps we should wait for a less frustrating experience. Maybe then we can salvage something from the wreckage.
I’ll give them seventeen days.