4. There Is a Distinct Lack of Aliens in Aliens
As we saw in the film, the xenomorph is essentially nature's (or the engineers) perfect killing machine. It kills you when it's born; it kills you when it's alive; hell, this badass can kill you when it's dead. While the marines in the Aliens film were able to kill some of the creatures, they were quickly overrun and decimated. Now that being said, why was there the need to shoehorn in another bad guy in the form of Weyland-Yutani forces? And why are they harder to kill than the most evil killing machine in the universe?
I could see a point where they could be useful. They make for great alien cannon fodder and could explain how the Sulaco got back to LV-426. You could have a cutscene showing them getting torn to shreds by the xenomorphs or see evidence of their encounters by having facehugged W-Y guys give bloody birth, or seeing bodies on the floor. Making them harder to kill than the aliens is a bitch slap to the legacy of the monster and takes the focus away from the main character, which should be the aliens!
3. The Glitch Mob
There have been many reviews thus far that complain about the quality of the graphics in Aliens: CM, and it is a valid issue. The visuals in the game are a mixed bag ranging from fair to extremely dated. While the game has been in development for six years, the graphics, particularly of the characters look like they were the first thing done for the game. Are they six years old? I can get past that, though; a game is NOT all about the graphics. The thing is, there are so many graphical glitches, it gets hard to take the game seriously.
In the future according to Aliens, epilepsy must be cured, because there sure are a lot of friggin' strobe lights. Of course, the game tries to replicate that, but often times, particularly when not looking at the light source directly, it just looks like a crazy pallet flash for a second or two. That may not sound like much, but that is the least irritating glitch in the game. Weyland-Yutani must have developed the oscillation overthruster and mounted it on their guns, because they seem to be able to stick their weapons through solid matter and shoot at you, not to mention walk through walls. Shooting an enemy above you can have interesting physical results, as more than once I've witnessed dead aliens dangling from their tails and W-Y soldiers looking like they are attached to the ceiling via gravity boots. Get too far ahead of your teammates and they will just flash into existence right in front of you, Q-Style. Most laughable, while waiting for an elevator, I swear O'Neil was dancing Gangnam Style while waiting for me to catch up.
There are noticeable flaws in the sound design as well. I was forced to turn on subtitles, as the background noise was often louder than the characters talking. As bad ass as it was to hear the sounds of the pulse rifles at first, by the end of the game they were an annoyance at best.
Certain sections of the game had to be reloaded because my crack team of NPC's were stuck behind an object and couldn't figure out how to walk around. It just looks and feels sloppy; certainly not worth spending $60 on.
2. Character (or Lack Thereof) Development
In the opening minutes on board the Sulaco in Aliens (the film, not the game), you, the viewers, get to immediately bond with the Marines. Granted there are a few throwaway characters like Dietrich, Wierzbowski and others, but for the most part you get to know every single one of the characters at least partially. By the time the dying starts, you actually give a shit about a lot of them, and it's apparent on screen that they give a shit about each other. The problem with Aliens: CM is that at no point did I connect with any of the new characters in the slightest.
There are attempts to make us care or relate to the characters. The commanding officer Captain Cruz does his best to sound like he was trained right alongside Apone from the film. Instead he comes off as sounding like a Duke Nukem wannabe in uniform, even sounding like the Duke, though he was not voiced by Jon St. John. When your buddy is frantically searching for his "love" interest, he specifically describes their relationship as being purely sexual. He certainly seems determined to find his frak-buddy, even though he has specifically said he has no emotional attachment to her. Because of this, neither do you, the player.
Sadly, even when Hicks miraculously returns in the closing acts of the game, he is so poorly written and acted (his voiceover seems to have been phoned in by Michael Biehn, netting a paycheck for what seems to have been an hour's work) that I couldn't even care about him. I should have been excited to see him alive and to kick ass by his side, instead he just became random Marine number 36, but at least has a few lines.
One of the important things in the movie was how quickly the bravado was sapped from the marines. Wiseass Hudson was all full of piss and vinegar until he got his first look at a xenomorph, when he quickly became one of the most cowardly in the group. At no point did I feel that the disposable marines in the game ever got their situation, particularly in the beginning. They are in a floating tin can, trapped with a metric shit-ton of aliens who want nothing more than to eat them or face-rape them, and they are still treating the encounter like it was another day on the farm. One of the few moments I actually found myself giving a shit about the characters was when, in my explorations, I found the body of Ultimate Badass Private Hudson, his face contorted in pain as a result of having an alien burst out of his chest. Game over my friend, game over...
1. Captain Obvious and Major Oblivious, Freelance Writers
The people most likely to play Aliens: CM are fans of the Alien films. However, the game seems to have been written for a thirteen year old who snuck downstairs at night to play his dad's game, interested only in its M rating. Almost all tension is removed from the game, because the game loves to spell things out for you in crayon. When you encounter Bella, O'Neil's frak-buddy, she specifically tells you that she woke up gagging on a dead facehugger dick. So for thirteen year old Billy, that means a surprise later in the game (if he didn't get the idea of the chestburster in the beginning). For the rest of us though, it just means another character that is going to die, only by giving birth to a bouncing baby xenomorph.
Conversely, the game has plot holes large enough to fit the Prometheus through. During the briefing, Captain Cruz states that the Sulaco returned to LV-426. When asked by the apparently only intelligent person in the marines why the ship was there instead of Fury 161, she is promptly told to stop asking stupid intelligent questions and to go back in the kitchen and make him some pie. Are you kidding? That Lieutenant should be a fucking General! Sadly, that specific question is never answered, leaving only Lieutenant Reid and the rest of the frakking world to wonder how the ship got there.
The thing that drove me the most nuts with the storytelling came towards the end. When asked how he survived when he was ripped to pieces in the crash on Fury 161, Hicks tells you it's a long story and not another goddamn word about it. TELL THE FUCKING STORY!!!! MAKE ME READ IT IF YOU DON'T WANT TO PAY FOR THE VOICEOVER. HOW THE FUCK WAS HICKS BACK ON LV-426 WHEN HE WAS LAST SEEN WITH PIPES AND SHIT PROTRUDING THROUGH HIS DEAD ASS? FUCK!!!!!!!!! Pardon the momentary lapse of reason; I've had nightmares about this game, and not because the game is frightening.
I really wanted to like this game but I just can't. It's not terrible, but it's also not particularly fun, with the glitches and issues above taking away from that limited amount of fun. When the game got something right, like Smart Gun combat, I felt a smile start to creep up on my face, but it was quickly dashed away, usually by a character opening their mouth or some horrendous glitch that killed any and all suspension of disbelief. Had the game kicked up the suspense, paid more attention to the stars of the game (the aliens), and tried to be more Dead Space and less Call Of Duty, I think they could have had a better product. Of course, some quality control would have helped as well, and there are a ton of indie games these days that feel like they have more production quality and attention to detail than Aliens: CM.
It's tragic really; the ending of the game leaves it open for a sequel, and with it being the highest selling game of the year thus far, it will most likely get one, a sequel which will most likely disappoint more than the original. At the end of the day, Aliens: CM is that kid on YouTube who yells "Look at me!" before falling flat on his face. Now excuse me, I need to go play some Borderlands 2 so I can remember that Gearbox knows how to make a good game.
"My mommy always said there no monsters - no real ones, but there are."
"Yes, there are, aren't they? They're called greedy game developers"