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Aliens: Colonial Marines Review

The dull, unattractive Aliens: Colonial Marines is a functional shooter, but little more.

The Good

  • Online multiplayer offers some fun, anxious moments
  • Interesting stealth level brings some suspense to the single-player campaign.

The Bad

  • Campaign is mostly devoid of tension and challenge
  • Static pace and lack of variety lead to boredom
  • Tacked-on cooperative play completely negates the narrative
  • Dated visuals and assorted bugs.

The Alien franchise deserves better than this. Aliens: Colonial Marines is a disappointing exercise in bland corridor shooting, dragged down by laughable dialogue and cooperative play that makes the game worse than when you adventure on your own. Colonial Marines is unremarkable in every conceivable way: it’s far too easy, generally devoid of tension, and lacking in the variety it so desperately needed. It occasionally lets you peek at the game that could have been, allowing its rare scraps of unsettling atmosphere to seep into your bones. But brief moments of dread and excitement are quickly supplanted by more shrug-worthy shooting and a general aura of “whatever”-ness.

In Colonial Marines, this is the height of excitement.

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“Tepid” isn’t likely what you want from a shooter–nor is it what you look for in an Alien narrative. Easter eggs are there for the fans of the film franchise who want them, but even when the game pays homage to the films that inspired it, the results are lackluster. A gruesome event that remains Alien‘s most well-remembered image is replicated here without a hint of fright or gusto, and Colonial Marines frequently relies on visual and dialogue references to fill in for proper storytelling. (Hey, that guy just mentioned Ripley!)

When relieved of the cumbersome cloak of nostalgia, the story gives you little to hold onto. As Corporal Christopher Winter, you join other marines on a rescue mission to infiltrate the U.S.S. Sulaco, thus initiating your post-Aliens journey through a number of storied areas from the franchise, such as the Sulaco and Hadley’s Hope. Several strained confrontations between key characters temporarily raise the narrative stakes; when anger comes to the forefront, you get a glimpse into the loyalty that bonds the marines. But most of their interactions are characterized by snippets of awful dialogue, such as, “Any thoughts on the exploding chest issue?” and “Woke up gagging on a creature like a spider, but wrapped around my face. It’s dead, sir.” Such lines are delivered without a hint of irony–or any other emotion, for that matter.

Sometimes, acid harms you. Most times, it doesn't.

Sometimes, acid harms you. Most times, it doesn’t.

The awkward storytelling is hardly energized by character models and facial animations so stiff that humans look every bit as synthetic as famed series androids Ash and Bishop. Aliens: Colonial Marines is not a looker. Graphics glitches abound, fire and goo effects are unconvincing, and clumsy visual details–jittery transitions in and out of canned animations, abrupt game-over screens upon death–give the game an air of carelessness. Graphics may not make or break a game, but the success of a game in this universe relies somewhat on the atmosphere, and these flaws can make it difficult to stay immersed. And that doesn’t account for nonvisual bugs, such as scripting errors, and the occasions when you spawn into the game in a nigh-unusable third-person view.

Luckily, moody lighting and some creepy environments help pull you back in, though not consistently. Outdoor exploration is given heft by the sight of burning structures dotting the horizon on LV-426, and dark corridors are lined with shiny slime and gross tendrils, keeping your eyes momentarily averted from the bare textures and poor animations. You move through these places, mostly corridors, shooting down xenomorphs, mercenaries, and little else. There’s mild entertainment here and there, at least during the biggest battles. At one point, you must disconnect several fuel lines as aliens skitter across ceilings and appear along the walls, eager to close in and snatch your life away. An enjoyable rhythm can set in as you fend off waves of gross xenos before making a run for your objective. It’s satisfying to gun down an alien before it makes its way to the ground from a high ledge, and watching xenos explode into gushers of goo has a grotesque appeal.

Bella looks cross. You would be, too, if you appeared in such low-res cutscenes.

Bella looks cross. You would be, too, if you appeared in such low-res cutscenes.

All too often, however, you just walk forward, shoot the aliens and mercs that appear with your bog-standard weapons (assault rifle, shotgun, and so forth), open a door, and do it all again. On the whole, the action lacks any sense of momentum or challenge. Aliens: Colonial Marines is exceptionally easy on normal difficulty; human enemies lack smarts, and alien arrivals aren’t horrifying–just horrifyingly predictable. You’re granted the requisite Alien motion tracker, but it’s wholly unnecessary; you don’t need it to stalk aliens hiding in the shadows, or to avoid xenomorphs on the hunt. Enemies arrive just as you’d expect, and you shoot them.

And that’s Colonial Marines’ biggest problem: enemies come, and you shoot them down easily, again and again. The game is remarkably light on variety. A couple of battles masquerade as boss fights, but they require no strategy and are just as easy and thrill-less as the rest. The four- to five-hour campaign has no thrust to it; it feels the same from beginning to end, and the finale just drops with a thud. And by being so easy and predictable, the game lets down the license. There’s little suspense, nothing to absorb you or spur your curiosity. Colonial Marines is tone-deaf to what makes the Alien franchise what it is–and what makes the best shooters so exciting.

The dull, unattractive Aliens: Colonial Marines is a functional shooter, but little more.

By Kevin VanOrd

Impire Review

The troubled real-time strategy dungeon sim Impire fails to recapture the charms of its inspirations.

The Good

  • Lots of different, cool units to unlock
  • Oddball sense of humor is endearing.

The Bad

  • Interface is a mess
  • Juggling the many tasks thrown in your lap grows frustrating
  • Dungeon making is bland and unfulfilling
  • Stages get repetitive quickly.

Being an evil dungeon lord has its perks. Simpering minions eager to do your bidding are in abundant supply, piles of treasure make great home decor, and you never have to wait too long before a new gaggle of doe-eyed do-gooders come charging into your realm to be gutted and looted. Impire’s strategic dungeon-sim revival channels the spirit of the classic Dungeon Keeper series well enough to wrap you into its diabolical fold for a spell. Micromanaging the inner workings of your subterranean lair gets off to a promising start, but the honeymoon phase quickly fades away once you realize just how inflexible and shallow this haphazard homage really is.

Friends and foes get tangled in the fray.

Friends and foes get tangled in the fray.

Summoned into the service of a wizardly egomaniac bent on wicked world domination, Impire’s demonic but diminutive protagonist begrudgingly gets to work at carving out a nefarious niche in the underworld. From the get-go, Impire sets a goofy tone with cheesy tongue-in-cheek humor and campy story encounters. It puts a lighthearted spin on the fact that you’re tackling missions that include pillaging villages, poisoning innocents, and brutally punishing anyone who gets in your way. Despite some decent voice acting, story vignettes tend to drag on past their welcome, but you bump into some memorably quirky characters along the way to keep things moving along.

Lording over a sprawling underground domain divides your focus between gathering resources above and below the surface, building out your dungeon with unique rooms and winding corridors, and amassing squads of impish warriors to carry out your will. The early emphasis in most missions is on beefing up your infrastructure to support raising an army powerful enough to survive plowing through the rest of the stage. As you gain resources from your toiling workers, slain heroes, and raided settlements, you can construct additional support dwellings to increase your dungeon’s power and functionality.

Each level has a broad range of peripheral achievements to push toward, and spending the skill points earned from meeting these goals lets you cherry-pick which units you can recruit in a given stage. When you’re not tending to the evil homestead, you fend off parties of invading heroes, push deeper into the catacombs to explore, and send your own raiding parties to the surface on resource gathering missions, all of which keeps you pretty busy.

Designing dungeons is sadly dull.

Designing dungeons is sadly dull.

Impire sometimes teeters on the brink of being an enjoyable game, but the ham-fisted implementation of some crucial elements keeps it from hitting any kind of comfortable stride. For starters, dungeon building–one of the most important aspects of the game–is limited and feels far less rewarding than it should. While you’re given a lot of room to dig about in the beginning of each level, there’s not much point to sinking a lot of time into designing anything elaborate. Once you plunk down a new room or corridor, you’re stuck with where you placed it, and the general flow of gameplay does little to reward creativity in how you expand your realm. You’re frequently pushed toward connecting your hallways to preexisting pocketed rooms filled with foes and treasure. Once you’ve grabbed all of those goods, it’s then onward into your foe’s pre-carved domain to explore and battle. The tail end of each stage forces you to inevitably abandon your building efforts and just charge forward to slaughter or be slaughtered. Progressing towards that epic tipping point should be fun, but it’s a process that’s made largely aggravating by lots of minor issues.

Wrestling with the interface is a big part of the problem. The troublesome camera never lets you find a sweet spot to get a good view of your dungeon. Getting in close for an adjustable isometric look at the action doesn’t help when your units always mob together in combat, resulting in a jumbled, chaotic blob that makes targeting enemies and issuing commands a complete mess. The screen feels cramped even when you’re looking at your dungeon from afar, and having to zoom all the way out to a top-down view to trigger the building and summoning menu is a real pain. Transitioning between levels of zoom is finicky too.

The troubled real-time strategy dungeon sim Impire fails to recapture the charms of its inspirations.

By Nathan Meunier

Next-gen must 'blow people away' says Witcher dev

Marcin Iwinski says platforms need to astonish gamers to succeed, calls for greater communication between creators and gamers.

Sony and Microsoft must “blow people away” with their next-generation platforms if the systems are to succeed in a changed games market, according to CD Projekt Red CEO Marcin Iwinski.

Speaking with Edge, Iwinski said not only will the technology itself be important for the PlayStation 4 and rumored Xbox 720, but also the method of delivery, given how iOS and Android devices have “turned it all upside down.”

“I’m really curious what the platform holders will deliver this generation because they really have to surprise and blow people away,” Iwinski said. “The technology is one part, and then there’s the method of delivery–this is the part I’m super-excited about. We have GoG.com and direct relations with consumers there, of course there’s Steam, and I’m really excited to see what will happen on the next-gen consoles, because iOS and Android consoles have completely turned it all upside down.”

Iwinski also claimed that dialogue between creators and gamers will be instrumental to the success of the upcoming platforms. If there is a communication breakdown, game quality could suffer, he argued.

“Here’s the developer, here’s the gamer–they should talk,” Iwinski said. “If there’s a chain of people in the middle that is kind of muffled. The more direct the communication, the better the games are. It’s that simple.”

Iwinski and CD Projekt Red are currently working role-playing games The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for PC, PlayStation 4, and other “high-end” platforms and Cyberpunk 2077, which has been confirmed only for PC thus far.

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By Eddie Makuch, News Editor

Warframe open beta sees over one million players

Sci-fi themed free-to-play shooter achieves milestone after being in open beta for two weeks.

The Darkness II and Star Trek developer Digital Extremes has announced that its free-to-play shooter Warframe has seen over one million players register since the game went into open beta two weeks ago.

The shooter had been in closed beta since October 2012, but Digital Extremes switched to an open beta during the week starting March 18.

Warframe is a sci-fi themed third-person shooter which sees groups of four players work together to dispatch waves of enemy troops. The game recently saw its 7.0 update, where it added new characters, abilities, and levels.

Warframe is currently in open beta on PC and Steam. For more information on the game, check out GameSpot’s previous coverage.

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By Sami Khayat, Work Experience

Spec Ops: The Line dev teases next project

German developer Yager suggests next game won’t be a shooter, says “maybe it’s time to do something different.”

Spec Ops: The Line developer Yager has teased that its next game will not be a shooter. Speaking with Edge, managing director Timo Ullmann said the developer hopes to avoid being billed as an outfit that only makes military shooters, so it is turning its attention to “something different.”

“After five years of working on Spec Ops, maybe it’s time to do something different so you don’t get trapped in that box where we’re just making military shooters,” Ullmann said. “We still have to be commercial–we learned that the hard way–but by being independent we can live creatively and never be labelled or framed as being about a certain thing.”

Ullmann pointed to games like Dishonored and Dragon’s Dogma as those that prove consumers are interested in new ideas. On top of this, he said due to the rise of emerging platforms and business models, the time is right to launch a new franchise.

“We’ve never had more platforms and more business models, so it’s a good time for new IP,” Ullmann said. “After a seven-year console lifecycle, people are longing for something new–gamers and publishers, actually–and that suits us fine.”

Last month, Yager signed a deal with Epic Games to license the Unreal Engine 4 to power a AAA next-generation title. The Berlin, Germany-based Yager is the first European independent studio to license the technology.

This new game will be unveiled in the coming months, but job listings at the studio hint that the game may feature microtransactions and cross-platform play. A desirable candidate for a “monetization designer” will have “in-depth knowledge of cross-platform games and microtransaction based business models.”

In addition, this person will “seek out and incorporate feedback from the team, QA, and playtesters throughout the production in order to maximize monetization whilst minimizing negative impact on game experience.”

Additional job listings seek developers with experience on real-time strategy and role-playing games, as well as first-person action titles.

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By Eddie Makuch, News Editor

StarCraft: Ghost has never been officially cancelled

When asked if long-dormant StarCraft spin-off might ever be released, Blizzard says “maybe.”

Long-dormant third-person adventure spin-off StarCraft: Ghost has never been formally cancelled, Blizzard has reiterated.

Diablo III senior designer Matthew Burger has clarified the status of StarCraft: Ghost to Official PlayStation Magazine UK. When asked if the game was still in active development, Burger said “it’s on hold. It has never been cancelled.”

When asked if StarCraft: Ghost might one day be released, Burger said “maybe.”

StarCraft: Ghost was one of Blizzard’s first attempts to break into console gaming at the turn of the century. The spin-off was announced for Xbox, PlayStation 2, and GameCube in 2002, with development duties handed to Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified developer nStigate Games (nee Nihilistic Software). Development changed hands in 2004 to Swingin’ Ape Studios, which was bought by Blizzard in 2005. StarCraft: Ghost was then put on hold in 2006.

StarCraft: Ghost’s protagonist, Nova, has appeared in both Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty and Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm.

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By Martin Gaston, News Editor

Firefall goes open beta this July

Closed beta updates planned for May and July to wrap up game’s major milestones.

In a few months, the currently-in-closed-beta sci-fi shooter Firefall will finally be playable for the public.

Now the public can go jetpack-floating in a future Copacabana this July.

Now the public can go jetpack-floating in a future Copacabana this July.

Red 5 Studios announced via a press release that the open beta for the game will start on July 9 this year. Furthermore, the studio is planning on launching two more updates to the closed beta on May and July that focuses on wrapping up the game’s major milestones.

The updates include city power levels where players receive rewards by increasing a city’s power level through missions, melding exploration where increasing city power levels let players explore new areas previously covered by melding energy storms, Chosen instances, and updated crafting and battleframe progression.

Players who want to access the closed beta immediately can still do so via the game’s Founders Pack program. More information can be found here.

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By Jonathan Toyad, Associate Editor

Company of Heroes 2 Theatre of War mode detailed

WWII RTS to feature a series of single-player and co-op missions to bridge the gap between single-player and multiplayer.

Company of Heroes 2 developer Relic Entertainment has unveiled the upcoming WWII RTS’ Theater of War mode.

Theater of War is a string of single-player and co-op missions, each themed around a particular battle across the game’s Eastern Front setting. Missions take place in a particular year of the war, and will feature units and abilities that reflect the mood and setting of the conflict at the time.

Company of Heroes 2′s Theater of War mode will ship with a series of 18 missions set in 1941. More missions will be added as downloadable content, including the mini-campaign offered to customers who preorder the game.

SEGA says the missions will include “solo challenges where players are pitted against overwhelming odds, AI battles against an enemy commander with a unique play style, and co-operative scenarios for fans to enjoy with their friends”

While the game will feature its own single-player campaign and multiplayer modes, game director Quinn Duffy said Theatre of War will act as a bridge and help “to introduce traditionally solo players to the online elements of the game.”

Relic Entertainment recently said that a third game in its Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War series was a “strong possibility” for the developer.

Company of Heroes 2 will be released for PC on June 25. For more information, check out GameSpot’s previous coverage.

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By Martin Gaston, News Editor

DayZ creator taking two months off to climb Mt. Everest

Dean Hall spending sabbatical in Nepal climbing world’s tallest mountain, promises development on standalone zombie game won’t be affected.

DayZ creator Dean Hall is taking his skills to new heights. The developer explained on his blog today (via Kotaku) that he is taking a two-month sabbatical to climb Mt. Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.

Hall after the Puja ceremony, where flour is smeared on climbers' faces as a symbol that they may live to an old age.

Hall after the Puja ceremony, where flour is smeared on climbers’ faces as a symbol that they may live to an old age.

Fans may be upset over Hall taking time off as the DayZ standalone game is still not released, but he explained that his team of developers at Bohemia Interactive are more than capable of getting the job done while he is away.

“I realize some people are upset at my departure from the project for two months to climb Mt. Everest, but hopefully from this you can see the large team Bohemia have assembled behind the development that are continuing to innovate and develop DayZ Standalone in the direction of the game we all want,” Hall wrote.

“This is going to take as long as it needs to, we want to release our initial alpha under the architecture it needs to avoid hacking and security issues–this is the only remaining task stopping us from releasing the alpha,” he added. “But while this task is being completed, we can continue with other activities.”

Hall penned his blog post today from the Mt. Everest base camp at an elevation of 5,400 meters. Tomorrow, he will head to the Khumbu Icefall to train on fixed lines and ladders as he prepares for his ascent to the peak.

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By Eddie Makuch, News Editor

Neverwinter open beta starts April 30

Free-to-play MMO to open to all players at the end of the month; Founders can try out professions system beginning April 12.

An open beta for free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game Neverwinter will begin April 30, Perfect World Entertainment and Cryptic Studios announced today.

Cryptic and Perfect World have big ambitions for Neverwinter, saying the game is “proof that Western free-to-play games, when built from the ground up, can compete with even the biggest boxed subscription titles.”

Not all gamers will need to wait until April 30 to jump into Neverwinter. A fourth closed beta period will begin April 12, allowing Founders to try out the game’s professions: Leadership, Mailsmithing, Platesmithing, and Leatherworking.

This weekend beta period will last 60 hours.

Gamers can still become Founders by prepurchasing the game at Neverwinter’s website. Those who buy the $60 Guardian of Neverwinter Pack or $200 Hero Of The North Founder’s Pack are guaranteed access to all closed beta period.

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By Eddie Makuch, News Editor