As Colonial Marines finishes up its DLC, Toby wonders why so many Aliens games have been just terrible.
By Toby McCasker on July 25, 2013 at 11:55 am
The bad name of licensed games became a thing in the ‘90s. True, back in 1982 E.T. almost single-handedly set fire to the entire industry before it was even built, but circa ‘90s there was an unending monsoon of games based on licenses. It was a good era for movies that went boom, I guess. They only went boom in so far as they critically exploded and spattered everyone with poo, though.
The licensed games of this era were so routinely terrible the very notion of anything Hollywood-gamified still sends spasms of loathing down the spines of veteran gamers everywhere. It’s not hard to figure out why: Most of the effort of selling them has already been done via their name alone. “Woohoo, who cares, let’s all do peyote and mash our keyboards.” Bam: Licensed games are the epitome of video games as easy money. Cynicism in a box, and when you open it, Nic Cage comes flying out and gifts you with the same.
Hence we expect nothing, and we (generally) keep getting nothing. Which sucks, because there are so many licenses floating around that would make goddamn awesome sick mad terrific games. One of the most obvious has always been Aliens.
This fact has not gone unnoticed by people who like making money (and to a lesser extent interactive funsies). To date there have been 29 video games released based on the Aliens mythos (with some Predator crossover for good measure). Twenty-freaking-nine. You would think with that kind of strike ratio, at least one of them would have hit it out of Fiorina 161 and obliterated Lance Henriksen before he even arrived.
This is the kind of development malaise we’re really talking about when someone says, “Licensed games suck.” It’s not even anecdotal, it’s a clear and present “lol fantards – or bottom line-feeders, amirite?” We’re kinda letting it happen.
In this context, they haven’t all been worse than that period in history Germany pretends never happened. You would expect not – gaming’s had almost 30 tries at this (maybe more, my counting isn’t great). Alien 3 is my fave movie of all of them and, hey, remember the SNES side-scroller Probe made out of it in ‘93? Maybe not if you were still a fetus at the time, but get an emu and roll it. That game was amazing.
Personal taste aside, almost everyone can agree on Rebellion and Monolith’s early Aliens versus Predator efforts. They are scant proof this can work (please note: proof was not required until gaming got to this license), but by what dark magic did these games, made around the turn of the century, manage to kick ass where a proven dev like Gearbox can still manage to heave an Aliens-shaped borry out in 2013 and call it radical (and saleable)?
Granted their situation was complicated and their mismanagement of it most dire, but Aliens practically writes itself: Pulse rifles are awesome. Aliens spit corrosive backwash. Vasquez has never been mistaken for a man. YOU’RE JUST GRINDING METAL.
Editor’s note: Here is a great piece by fellow games.on.net author David Rayfield on Aliens: Infestation, a poor little Nintendo DS title that was actually the perfect Aliens game… but nobody bought it.