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The xenomorph dropped off the rooftop above as the steam venting from the broken pipe obscured Joker’s vision. He was reloading at the time, sprinting away from the other bullet riddled, acid leaking messes that he’d managed to barely fend off with sustained fire from the pulse rifle he carried. He heard the ‘thunk’ of its talons as they touched on the metal flooring, but he could not see it, and knew he was doomed – when there was a sudden, blast of sustained fire somewhere behind him, precise and accurate, and the xeno reared up out of the steam with a shriek, not of pain but of rage that it had failed to rip its victim limb from limb, holes blasted through its weird, elongated head as it collapsed in a heap.
The motion sensor was quiet, then, as Nemesis stepped through the gas, gun over his shoulder, armour acid-burned, his expression, as always, a mixture of smug arsehole and amicability. “You’re welcome!” He barked at his friend, then, set off into the darkness, trying to escape the compromised starship.
So then. You bought Aliens: Colonial Marines, didn’t you? I know some of you did. Own up. There is no shame here, no judgements. We are all brought together by our pain, born of our hope, and made all that more terrible when we now know it was a hope misguided.
The reviews speak the truth. It’s not a good game. It’s not even mediocre, most of the time. It descends into outright bad all too often. And let’s not get started on the sheer awfulness of the graphical downgrade the game got somewhere along the line. It’s bad. We all know this – at least, now we do.
But some of us saw the Green Man Gaming deal. Some of us had hope. Some of us believed. And regardless of commentary made of how foolish such a silly thing is, it happens. So now, some of us have a game we don’t really want to play, and would rather forget. Fair enough.
But surely, I say, there must be some way to enjoy this game… right?
I’ll admit, I started playing before I saw the reviews. Before I saw the reviews, the game wasn’t good – but I wasn’t exactly hating it. I was playing it out of a sense of blind nostalgia I guess. But I was doing something else- I was playing it co-op, with voice chat, with a friend.
And we had decided to play it in character.
The corridors were dark, and cramped. Looking around the ruined base of Hadley’s hope, Nemesis wondered how the hell it had survived the blast – as well as thinking how in the hell they were supposed to hold it. Using the motion sensor to track their path, leaving nothing to chance, Joker stood at his side with shotgun raised – for close encounters, he’d said, but with the way the blood of the damn things sprayed everywhere, it was more like playing Russian roulette – then came that now familiar hiss, the rasp of claws and iron hard skin scraping over metal, and it all started again, the howls and shrieks as they opened up and turned the walls to slag as they dissolved the onrushing horde.
“Real nice party, ain’t it!” He shouted to his buddy over the din. Joker ran out of ammunition on the shotgun, and threw it at the nearest enemy bouncing it off a shiny black head, before pulling out the sidearm. “Ah, shaddup!”
Adopting corny midwest American accents (we’re both pretty damn good at it, but I tend to have a bit southern drawl to my words) we became Corporal ‘Joker’ Watt and Private ‘Nemesis’ Maloney (what a stretch!) and proceeded to play this game as a pair of badass marines in a badass crew of badassitude.
Lines from the film made their way into the game swiftly – “I don’t know dude, I just work here,” and “Want some? Here’s some! Oh you too, **** you!!” making their presence felt. And we made some new ones too. Joker was a grizzled, no nonsense veteran with a powerfully cynical sense of humour about things. Nemesis was… well, he was an arsehole. Making horrible commentary about certain characters impending doom, and ridiculing the efforts of others who did a poor job – effin’ rookies, etc. When the human enemies turned up, they were dismissed as ‘greenhorn weekend warriors’ who couldn’t stand up to a concentrated flank manoeuvre. Which sounded much, much nicer than ‘horrible A.I who couldn’t identify a threat even if it kicked them in the ass yelling “surprise!!”‘ I played him as that guy who, in every horror or action movie, is a jerk and the audience waits for them to die. JOKE’S ON YOU, I’M GONNA SURVIVE THIS, HAHA PLOT TWIST.
And you know what? We had fun. It was a stretch at times, but there was fun. And it was had. We were both astonished at this. And then proceeded to ham it up to the tune of eleven.
O’Neal gave the pair a narrow eyed look, as they jumped up and down on a particularly obtuse xenomorph which had deigned to appear out of nowhere on the pair, most unexpectedly considering their normal tactic to charge in a convenient straight line right into gunfire.
“So why are you guys giving yourself call signs? Ain’t that for the airforce rather than the pukes?”
Nemesis gave him a grin, while Joker kicked the xeno one last time, his boots melting away, but caring not one bit in the face of his furious revenge. “It’s cause we’re cool, O’Neal. Cool names for cool guys. I’m sure you can get your head around that.”
O’Neal was nonplussed. “What about me? What name you going to give me?” Nemesis chuckled. “Buddy, you’ve got a smartgun, and you can’t hit a goddamn thing. Sorry man – but you are not cool. You get nothing.”
One thing we were united in was hanging piles of excrement upon our team mates. Some might call this typical military behaviour. In our case, it was because we were jerks. But it was okay, because those guys sucked. I mean, a guy with a smartgun – mo’ liek smartFUN. At least, it’s supposed to be. I held down that trigger with a roar of glee at a couple of points and I carpeted the world in corpses. But O’Neal was there for sound effects. He didn’t contribute a damn. But at least he was better than the others, particularly one character who, from the get go, we looked at and said, ‘yep, dead.’ Guess what? We were right. In some cases, I was a ghastly individual. But with such cardboard cutout characters, it wasn’t like we were hurting real people. Not even things that vaguely resembled real people! So, all was well.
“Oh, that does it. Can we go home now?” Joker said disgustedly as the acid flew overhead, eating into stone and metal. “Spitting. I mean, come on. Really?”
“Shut up and shoot the damn things!” Nemesis snapped, shooting, and dancing between the sizzling bolts. Joker sighed, theatrically, and opened up from behind cover, which was already dissolving around him. “At least they’re not the size of a tank!” He shouted back as he sent one shrieking black form falling into the abyss.
The most peculiar thing about inhabiting these characters we had made, however, came from the fact that it allowed us, however lightly, to completely overlook the glaring continuity and canonical errors that were made.
The new types of alien in the game are there for one reason, and one reason only – to put in a half assed effort at making up for the fact that they A.I for the xenomorphs was, sometime between E3 and this, neutered. Where we should have been fighting superfast, flexible, agile death machines, we were killing heaps of them. I wanted, nay, needed there to be one hit tail impalement kills, I wanted co-op not to be an option but a necessity, where one player screamed out distance and quantity of target on radar while others tried to cover all the angles. I wanted fear. And I didn’t get it.
But the character did.
Thinking at it from his perspective, from this nublet of a marine with no external universe knowledge, or knowledge of the xeno’s practically at all, made the changes somehow possible to swallow. Somehow. The inexplicable variations of the xeno’s were still inexplicable – they were there, but the marines not only didn’t know how they got there, they didn’t even care how they got there. They were just trying to survive! Nothing else really mattered. So while we debated and questioned and wondered what the hell was going on as longtime fans of the Xeno that were watching our favourite monster AGAIN being butchered by a dumbass crew with money and either no passion or simply misdirected idiocy, our in-game personas couldn’t give two hoots as long as they made it out alive.
It was stupid. It was simple. And it was hilariously good fun. We put real fear in our voices, in our shouts, our ‘Oo-rah’s', our battle cries. We were kicking tail and having a good time. Was it worth the price of admission? Probably not. Was it the Aliens game we deserved, or even the one we’d been told we would get? HELL NO. But was it possible, just a little, to still have fun with it? We found that it was.
So if you’re one of the suckers who found yourself with this game — throw on your helmets, stick that chin out and get yourself a crew cut. Play the game not as yourself, not as an observer, but as a part of a crew of ultimate badasses, with friends. Share the pain. If you don’t fall over laughing at how bad you are in in the first five minutes, stick with it – and you might be surprised at the results.
Oh, but one last thing. Don’t buy it, if you haven’t already. This is strictly for the poor suckers like me, who ‘did’ buy it because they trusted in a lie. This is to help those poor buggers who got it, and are stuck with it. But just to be clear — if you haven’t got it yet, this game doesn’t deserve your money. They would have to have made the game they promised and previewed, to get that.