Aliens: Colonial Marines – A Work Of Art
Haha, you thought I meant the game, didn’t you? No no no, not at all. From everything I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot by now, the game is absolutely rancid. I was planning to get it, but I’ve called off that idea after seeing so many awful reviews.
But in the midst of all the lambasting, there was a certain review that stood out. Brandon Justice of EGM Now wrote this review, and it is a piece of art. It is absolutely amazing, and I want to go over the thing and show you all the ways it rocks.
Before we start proper though, I’d like to say that there is always the possibility that I am completely off base, and this review should just be taken as is, and is truly mister Justice’s honest opinion.
What I think though, is that this is a masterpiece of deft writing, dodging and restrained opinion. The text doesn’t really match with the score, and it seems like he really wanted to say what he honestly thought. So he snuck in small references to what was actually wrong with the game, but then had to gloss over it because someone had told him to “give it a 9, and write nice things”. It feels like the 9 was decided beforehand, and then the text was written with the intention of justifying that 9 rather than explaining why it had gotten it. The text was meant to fit the score, rather than the score fit the text, if you know what I mean. Of course I have no proof of this, and it’s just a gut feeling, but it’s honestly more interesting and amusing to read it that way.
With that out of the way, let’s get started. The first sentence that raised a flag for me was this one:
Colonial Marines is billed as an official piece of series canon, and I’m happy to report that Gearbox has crafted a world that more than lives up to the hype; it’s dripping with fan service in the form of constant reference, re-creation, and respect for the source material that’s easily the best gaming representation of the franchise to date.
The emphasis is mine. Do people really use dripping to describe something positive? Jarenth and I discussed this a bit, and we felt it was not likely. If anything, I’d say the sentence is dripping with sarcasm, which he’s trying to mask as genuine because of obligation. There is more though:
Of course, staying true to the source wasn’t the only potential stumbling block; all those front-loading, flame-throwing moments needed to be fun, too. And, for the most part, Gearbox knocked it out like a cranky Queen on the wrong side of an airlock. From gunplay to co-op-friendly design, the core mechanics are largely spot-on, but more importantly, the various objectives do an incredible job of mixing it up. You’ll run-and-gun, make daring stands against waves of Xenomorphs, rescue your fellow Marines, find yourself forced to run away like a little weenie, and much more. While the action falls a bit short of the blend of first-person shooter and survival-horror I was hoping for, it’s all fairly well paced—thanks largely to some excellent level design and solid alien AI.
See what I’ve pointed out? This seems like the deft dodging of a man who does not truly believe what he’s writing, has to write it anyway, but adds a few little caveats to make it more palatable to himself. And then the use of the word solid towards the end there. You know what’s also solid? A brick. And I’m fairly certain you don’t want the xenomorphs acting like bricks, but from the footage I’ve seen, that’s certainly the case. How slow they move, how easily they get stuck on things, the awkward model transitions and the way they can hurt when thrown all seem pretty brick-like to me. The very next line holds the next clue:
The visuals are subpar in places, but the overall aesthetic makes creeping through the shadowy, blood-soaked wreckage with a group of Marines a real nail-biter.
He cagily admits to the graphical problems, but then has to quickly gloss over it, to the point where he possibly contradicts himself, as he already admitted the game wasn’t quite “the blend of first-person shooter and survival-horror” (which honestly sounds like code-speak for “this is all action” ) he was hoping for, yet it’s still a real nail-biter? Maybe, maybe. We don’t have to look any further than the next sentence again to find a true masterpiece of snark:
While the core Soldier Xenos should probably figure out that ramming bullets with their face isn’t the best strategy,
Do you see this? Do you understand the brilliance of this? I love this line, even though he again quickly glosses over it in the following sentences. It’s like he couldn’t resist allowing us a glimpse at his true feelings. It seems he couldn’t shake off those urges right away, because at the very end of that paragraph he finishes with:
Sure, you’ve got some definite dents in the hull here—such as the occasionally oblivious squadmate AI, the training-wheel cover system, and the woefully heinous cinematics—but the hits far outweigh the misfires.
Hastily mentioned, but they’re there, even if they’re again dismissed. He follows up with:
The main show offers a 4-player co-op experience that’s a significant step forward from the storytelling in Borderlands
Quite a serious dig at Borderlands there. Perhaps he’s resentful that he has to write this because Gearbox just had to put this game out. I could have sworn there was also a comment somewhere in the review about how they went a bit against established canon, but I can’t find it, so I might be mixing it with one of the other reviews I’ve read. And he ends it with:
- THE GOOD: A modern Alien game that does much more than avoid being total crap.
- THE BAD: AI teammates that seem to forget the alien menace must be obliterated
- THE UGLY: The cutscenes. Love-ya-mean-it, guys, but next time, can ya get Halo 4’s CG squad?
Even in “The good” it seems more like a circumspect way of saying the game has invented new ways of being crap, but maybe that’s me projecting. And then finally ends it with the score of 9.0, and I still insist that this does not fit the text. It’s more like the text was written to try to fit the score. Also, the choice of word “robust” in the summary seems a curious one, as I don’t really understand what he means by it. Maybe I need a dictionary.
I will again state that I could be completely off-base, and this is mister Justice’s honest opinion. He might just be bad at explaining why that game deserves a 9, even if he truly believes it does. I’m hardly an ace reviewer myself, which is partly why I don’t use scores at all. So yeah, I could be wrong. That’s up to you to make up your own mind about.