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Aliens

Co-op and horror don't work together in Dead Space 3

Feb 18 // Taylor Stein
With the admittance of co-op functionality within the horror genre, it begs the question, is it possible to produce an authentic fear-driven experience while playing a game with two players? How scary can a dark room, narrow hallway, or eerie mansion be when you've got a geared-up teammate watching your back? Many of the recent horror titles such as Resident Evil 6, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and Dead Space 3 have embraced the action-driven narrative, but adding co-op might just tip the scale in determining whether we're left with a true horror game or just another third-person-shooter. Let's take a trip down memory lane to explore how the videogames of old, the grandmasters of horror, were able to convey terror in the simplest of ways.The titles that put the horror genre on the map, Resident Evil and Silent Hill just to name a few, carved a unique space within the videogame gamut. Without the use of high-def visuals or stellar controls, the early horror installments were able to successfully embody the atmosphere of trepidation. Fear was derived from the fact that the odds were not often in your favor. Fighting a deformed nightmare monster with a baseball bat almost always ended in getting your ass kicked. Run out of bullets? Kiss your sweet life goodbye.Survival was the overarching sentiment, not guns-a-blazing battle. With a combination of fixed camera angles, few health packs, invulnerable enemies and ineffective weaponry, terror tactics of the past were brought to fruition by making the player as vulnerable as possible. It wasn't about how many necromorphs or zombies you could kill, rather, how you could get from point A to point B without running into a giant monster that would instantly reduce you to a bloody pile of mush. Nowadays, it seems like people just like to shoot stuff. Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski shared similar concerns about the fate of the horror genre in his blog. Within the current gaming market, Bleszinski predicts that horror games will be unable to flourish; instead, he points to indie and PC titles as the next step for the genre. He states, "When we’re fully digital we’ll see more true horror games coming back. Look at Amnesia and Slenderman on PC."Action is one potential strike against the effectiveness of in-game apprehension, strike two and possibly the icing on the cake, is co-op. Gun battles and explosions are welcomed inclusions to any shooter, but it's arguably difficult to maintain the same level of nail-biting suspense or edge-of-your-seat anxiety when you're equipped with weapons galore and a buddy who is ready to lay any ferocious creatures to waste. Dead Space 3 is the most recent title to deviate from its single-player, nightmare entrenched roots. With a friend, players are able to explore the frozen wasteland of Tau Volantis and the decrepit remnants of derelict space vessels together. While two heads are definitely better than one, two guns make all the difference. Taking on a horde of necromorphs with an added set of autonomous weaponry highlights each room as a tactician's dream. Quelling waves of resistance is as easy as positioning your character relative to your squad mate to cover all avenues of attack. If an enemy unsuspectingly emerges from an overhead air duct, my partner has my back. While tag team monster annihilation is amazingly entertaining, the last thing I would describe the experience as, is frightful.The shift within the genre from perseverance to action, from defense to offense, was one that reflected the popularization of shooters within the gaming landscape. Horror developers are forced to adapt, and what we are left with, is an attempt to maintain the same level of suspense captured during the golden age of scary gaming, while providing room for the mechanics that represent the current trends within the mainstream industry. The reality is, the vision of crafting an insanely scary experience is often lost when combined with multiplayer features, over-the-top action, and shooting elements. The good news is, Dead Space 3 allows players to complete the campaign alone OR with a friend, so thrill-seekers have the option of pursuing the story in the scariest way possible. Unfortunately, minus a few jumps here and there, I haven't found the two-player gameplay to be the least bit intimidating on a horror level. The co-op functionality enhances the playability of the game by welcoming a shared experience between two players, yet it adds nothing to make the title more suspenseful or daring besides adding a bit of character back story via co-op side missions.  This is not a discussion about whether Dead Space 3 is a good or bad game, even though I quite enjoyed it personally. It's not a debate about which genre is better, action or horror. This article serves to ask a simple question, does combining action with the comforting appeal of 2-player support create an authentic horror experience?What is your impression of the complicated relationship between co-op and horror? If you played Dead Space 3 with a friend, did you find the game to be as nerve-wracking as the previous installments? Sound off in the comments below.
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Action plus co-op is fun, but scary? I'm not so sure
The room is dark, cold, and unusually calm. The once bare walkways are now riddled with blood and severed limbs. In the distance, a faint hum can be heard echoing throughout the metal encampment. Its repetition is a solid rem...

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Jimquisition: Previewed, Preordered, Prescrewed


Jimquisition happens every Monday!
Feb 18
// Jim Sterling
Preorder culture expects gamers to trust developers more than ever, but how does that work when they inspire so little faith? The "take cash now, provide content later" tactic is currently serving companies well, but with re...
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Torture yourself with Obsidian's Aliens: Crucible footage


Video of the game SEGA canned so we could have Colonial Marines
Feb 18
// Jim Sterling
If ever a video was more perfectly timed to scorch a fanbase's soul, it's this one. In the fallout of the Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle, demo footage of Obsidian's cancelled Aliens role-playing game, Aliens: Crucible, has...
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Randy Pitchford doesn't like being called a liar


Gearbox CEO breaks radio silence after Colonial Marines launch
Feb 15
// Jim Sterling
Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford raised his head above cover today, making a few indirect Tweets regarding the controversial Aliens: Colonial Marines launch. While he didn't provide an explanation or an apology, he did make it cle...
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Aliens: Colonial Marines not canceled for Wii U


Publisher confirms the shame is still coming
Feb 15
// Jim Sterling
In the fallout of the Aliens: Colonial Marines controversy, fact and fiction are difficult to separate. SEGA has, at least, put paid to one of the not-so-true suggestions, denying rumors that the Wii U version has b...
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Aliens: Colonial Marines 360 save wipe bug


Do not clear your cache if you want to keep your saves
Feb 15
// Jim Sterling
Oh, Aliens: Colonial Marines could really use some bad press? Sure, why not? It's been such a long time since we heard anything negative about it. Try this one on for size -- players are reporting that Xbox 360 save files are...
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Aliens: Colonial Marines mods add better lighting


Once again, a modder does a developer's job
Feb 15
// Jim Sterling
As usual, unpaid PC gamers have stepped up to the plate and finished what clearly inadequate developers started, adding improvements to the critically mauled Aliens: Colonial Marines. These enhancements add DirectX 10 feature...

Gearbox lied about Aliens: From E3 demo to retail product

Feb 14 // Allistair Pinsof
At E3 2011, Randy Pitchford and Gearbox showed off Aliens: Colonial Marines in a closed theater. Droves of game journalists, GameStop managers, and their kids, that they always manage to somehow sneak into the show, came to see the off-hands demo; the one which Pitchford repeatedly told press and industry was "real live gameplay" featuring "sophisticated artificial intelligence." Jim Sterling, Chris Carter, and I all heard the same thing, even though we were in different presentations (and representing different publications at the time). "Gearbox called it a 'vertical slice' showcasing the gameplay sequences that'd appear throughout the campaign. Only trouble is, none of the gameplay shown ever happens, and we were never told it was just conceptual," Jim stated, in a recent internal email chain on the above subject. "I played the entire campaign waiting for things shown in the walkthrough and got none of them. The only gameplay retained is one siege room, and even that plays out 95% differently." When screens from the previous demo are compared to the finish product, the lack of environmental detail, dated lighting effects, and linear-to-a-fault gameplay become apparent. Games shown at E3 don't suddenly look worse as development continues. Like early trailers for Hollywood blockbusters, graphics and gameplay in early game demos get repeatedly touched-up and expanded for release. What exactly happened to the lighting effects? [embed]244966:46951:0[/embed] As far fetched as it may seem, we can't rule out the possibility that this was some advanced demo, showing off a much improved engine and game sections, that was scrapped in favor of a much weaker engine and gameplay. The more likely truth is that Pitchford sold a mock-up (or as developers call it, a "target render") as a live demo. He lied to us. To our faces. We can't even get the truth out of them on who developed the damn game (was TimeGate a co-developer or just an outsourced company?). Our industry runs on little white lies controlled by marketing. Peter Molyneux makes promises that won't be delivered, while major publishers distribute bullshots -- touched-up images that present the game in a better light than it ever will be when in the player's hands (see Edge's excellent article). Pitchford's act of deception goes beyond being a white lie. He earned fan trust and admiration through manipulation. Not only at press events, but also Gearbox's Community Day where the same demo was shown and presented in the same light of being indicative of the final game. How can we ever trust Pitchford and Gearbox again? Because they made Borderlands 2? Sure, but what about that Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 demo that I am now questioning? And the lies didn't even stop at the E3 demo. Gearbox and Sega kept showing a screenshot of the Alien Queen fighting a Power Loader. This scene does not happen in the game. [embed]244966:46950:0[/embed]  "It's rare, in all my years, to see a demo so unrepresentative of the finished product. Even worse, I've never seen a demo that looks so much BETTER than the finished product," Jim said. "The 'work in progress' warning attached to demos is to warn you the product doesn't look that rough. This may be the first game I've covered where it meant the opposite. Gearbox's definitely on the hook for dishonesty -- if not to us, then definitely to Sega." Some may bring up Killzone 2 and its infamous 2005 E3 demo that blew audiences away with its graphical fidelity that has yet to be matched by a game of this generation. The difference with Gearbox is that it continued to use footage from this demo in its trailers. We at least saw the real Killzone 2 before launch. By knowingly deceiving its fans, Gearbox has gone from being a company worth celebrating to a developer that plays dirtier than the big publishers that we so often damn for sleazy marketing campaigns and excessive pre-order programs. Before founding Gearbox, Pitchford was a magician. Turns out he's still pulling tricks of illusion on the public. Soon his audience might ask, when is the vanishing act? [Image courtesy of VideoGamer]
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Pitchford goes to Molyneux and beyond
How often we forget that demos are sales tools, designed to pitch consumers a dream of what may be, not what actually is. Dull knives slice cans like butter, hamburgers perfectly cook on a budget grill, and Aliens: Colonial M...

So ... who the hell DID make Aliens: Colonial Marines?

Feb 14 // Jim Sterling
Anonymous Allegations from Gearbox developer In 2012, an anonymous writer claiming to be a former Gearbox worker posted on TexAGs.com message board to reveal the Colonial Marines campaign had been outsourced to TimeGate. According to the early allegation, dug up recently by Superannuation, Gearbox had refocused itself toward multiplayer a long time ago. Hate to say it, but I wouldn't get your hopes up too high for Colonial Marines. I used to work at Gearbox, and the development of that game has been a total train wreck, going on what, 6 years now? Gearbox isn't even making the game, except for the multiplayer. Primary development was outsourced to TimeGate Studios, which has a less than stellar past.I hope it proves me wrong, as I still have alot of friends still working at Gearbox, but I am expecting it to be average at best. While the comment went unnoticed at the time, its resurfacing seemed to explain a lot.  SEGA denies Colonial Marines was outsourced Dark Side of Gaming ran a story in which a SEGA rep was quoted as denying the outsourcing of Colonial Marines. According to Matthew J. Powers, the other studios involved in production merely "helped" Gearbox as it worked on both the solo and multiplayer portions.  Absolutely not, the game has been developed by Gearbox Software. Other studios [like Timegate] helped Gearbox on the production of single and multiplayer. Of course, as the story developed, it became wholly likely that not even SEGA knows who did what.  Randy Pitchford tells IGN TimeGate made up to 25% of A:CM A recently published IGN interview with Randy Pitchford, put out just before the controversy began, had the Gearbox CEO claim TimeGate helped with maybe a quarter of Colonial Marines. He said the studio was just as much a collaborator on the project if you took all of Gearbox's preproduction work out of the equation.  Houston-based TimeGate Studios, meanwhile, worked on “probably about 20 or 25 percent of the total time,” with Pitchford noting that “if you take preproduction out of it, their effort’s probably equivalent to ours. Now, it’s not fair to take preproduction out of it, but that says a lot about how much horsepower those guys put into it.” The interview also broke down the contributions from other studios. According to Pitchford, Demiurge helped Gearbox with networking and multiplayer options, while Nerve designed the multiplayer maps. Pitchford presented all this as Gearbox wanting to give customers more for their money, packing in more content rather than selling it as DLC.  Colonial Marines has a DLC season pass costing $29.99. Anonymous 'ex-Gearbox' dev spills the beans on Reddit Things got really interesting once an alleged developer took to Reddit and revealed some shocking, if true, details about A:CM's development. It's a story that involves Gearbox dicking SEGA around, pushing off its campaign to TimeGate, favoring Borderlands 2 over Aliens, and rushing at the last minute to fix an utterly broken, serviceable game. It's juicy stuff. First off, due to me breaking NDA, I can't provide any proof that I'm not just talking out of my ass. But I figure you'd be interested in hearing what I have to say regardless. I've been on the project for around a year and a half, so some of the following are things I've heard from more senior guys. Pecan (the internal codename for ACM) has a pretty long history. SEGA, GBX and 20th Century FOX came to an agreement to produce an Aliens game around 6 years ago, after which SEGA almost immediately announced it, long before Pecan had even started production. The game has been in active development in the past, only to be shelved in favor of another project (Borderlands, Duke, etc), and each time it was resumed it would undergo a major content overhaul. SEGA, naturally, wasn't super pleased about the delays, but GBX got away with it for a long time and the contract between SEGA and GBX kept getting augmented to push the projected release further and further back. The last time it was resumed, GBX outsourced a good portion of the game to outside companies. Initially, the plan was for TimeGate to take the majority of campaign, GBX would take MP, Demiurge and Nerve would handle DLC and various other focused tasks. This decision was made mostly so that most of the developers at GBX could continue working on Borderlands 2, while a small group of LDs, coders and designers dealt with Pecan. Somehow the schedules for Pecan and Borderlands 2 managed to line up and GBX realized that there was no fucking way they could cert and ship two titles at the same time. Additionally, campaign (which was being developed by TimeGate) was extremely far behind, even as Pecan's Beta deadline got closer and closer. In April or May (can't remember which), Pecan was supposed to hit beta, but GBX instead came to an agreement with SEGA that they would push the release date back one more time, buying GBX around 9 mos extension. About 5 of those 9 months went to shipping BL2. In that time, TimeGate managed to scrap together 85% of the campaign, but once Borderlands 2 shipped and GBX turned its attention to Pecan, it became pretty apparent that what had been made was in a pretty horrid state. Campaign didn't make much sense, the boss fights weren't implemented, PS3 was way over memory, etcetcetc. GBX was pretty unhappy with TG's work, and some of Campaign maps were just completely redesigned from scratch. There were some last minute feature requests, most notably female marines, and the general consensus among GBX devs was that there was no way this game was going to be good by ship. There just wasn't enough time. Considering that SEGA was pretty close to taking legal action against GBX, asking for an extension wasn't an option, and so Pecan crash-landed through certification and shipping. Features that were planned were oversimplified, or shoved in (a good example of this are challenges, which are in an incredibly illogical order). Issues that didn't cause 100% blockers were generally ignored, with the exception of absolutely horrible problems. This isn't because GBX didn't care, mind you. At a certain point, they couldn't risk changing ANYTHING that might cause them to fail certification or break some other system. And so, the product you see is what you get. Beyond gameplay, the story has been raised as an issue several times. I can't really comment without feeling bad beyond saying that the script was approved by 20th Century FOX, and that the rush to throw a playable product together came at the cost of the story. Campaign does a pretty bad job of explaining a lot of the questions raised at the start of the game, and so hopefully there will be DLC to flesh that out a bit better. I'll answer some questions, but I have to run soon, so it may take a while for responses. Alleged TimeGate developer throws Gearbox under the bus The original Reddit poster would later be responded to by a different anonymous user, this one claiming to be in the employ of TimeGate. Defending his studio against implications of laziness, the poster said Colonial Marines' campaign turned out so badly thanks to terrible supervision from Gearbox.  Just to clarify, Everything Timegate did was under clear and explicit direction from Gearbox. Gearbox had creative control of everything that occurred at TG. In addition, Gearbox was responsible for firing some of the most talented people (and internationally recognized as such) TG had employed, all of which were snatched up immediately by competitors. It was Gearbox's shitty oversight of the project that led to the product you all now have before you. I wouldn't expect you to understand, considering you're probably some QA who has no idea what goes on outside of his department. But TG had absolutely no control of what was produced, they did exactly what they were asked to. You should be furious with Gearbox for assigning such shit quality creative directors to the project. According to another anonymous poster, the game's ever-changing story didn't help TimeGate either.  The script was rewritten too many times. Demiurge working on Wii U version, now rumored to be indefinitely delayed The final chapter in the story so far places Demiurge as the studio behind the Wii U version of the game, with Kotaku alleging an indefinite delay on the upcoming release. Writer Jason Schierer made the claim, though notes it's not confirmed.  We heard from a tipster about a month ago that the Wii U version had been "postponed indefinitely." We reached out to Sega, and they denied it. I'll let you guys fill in the blanks there. :) And that's us up to speed on the Aliens: Colonial Marines story so far. Personal feelings on the game aside, it's one hell of a story, and I think that, when/if the truth finally outs, it'll make for some fascinating reading. It's already quite engrossing with just what we have!
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A rundown of all the known (and not-so-known) events so far
Aliens: Colonial Marines has turned out to be more than just a bad game. It's a confusing story of allegations, outsourcing, and potential deception on a considerable level. The biggest mystery to come out of this debacle is ...

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Office Chat

Hope for Fallout, doubt for Batman and sadness for Aliens


Another casual discussion from the Dtoid news room
Feb 14
// Conrad Zimmerman
In another casual conversation from Destructoid's news room, Jordan Devore, Daniel Starkey and and I discuss the possible futures of Batman and Fallout. Plus, we marvel at how spectacularly wrong Aliens: Colonial Marines went.
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Jimquisition: A-LIE-ns: Colonial Marines


Emergency Jimquisition!
Feb 13
// Jim Sterling
Waking through Gearbox's walkthrough of Aliens: Colonial Marines. That is, the Aliens: Colonial Marines Gearbox wanted the world to believe in, not the one that actually happened. While demo footage is not represen...
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AvP: Evolution is all about Valentine's lovin'


Xenomorphs and Predators can get along after all!
Feb 13
// Jim Sterling
Okay, so Aliens fans were let down this week by a certain game, but interactive Xenomorph entertainment is always on the horizon, and iOS users have AvP: Evolution to look forward to. The only way is up from here! But we've g...
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Aliens: Colonial Marines patched on all systems


May as well be using harsh language
Feb 13
// Jim Sterling
Gearbox Software has released three big launch patches for all versions of Aliens: Colonial Marines, with a laundry list of improvements.  If you're hoping the patch fixes all the issues that netted the game its current ...
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Aliens disappoints, Demos kill sales, and Toys are fun


The Destructoid Show wants out of this chickensh*t outfit
Feb 12
// Max Scoville
Hello there, boys and girls! It's your creepy uncle Max with another installment of the critically-acclaimed [citation needed] Destructoid Show! Today we talk about Aliens: Colonial Marines, which seems to be the bummer of t...
Aliens: Colonial Marines photo
Aliens: Colonial Marines

SEGA denies Aliens: Colonial Marines was outsourced


Claims wholeheartedly that Gearbox developed the game
Feb 12
// Jim Sterling
Shortly before the embargo broke on Aliens: Colonial Marines reviews, a potential explanation for the game's woeful quality begun to surface. According to reports, Gearbox Software outsourced the solo campaign to TimeGate Stu...

Aliens games to play that aren't Aliens: Colonial Marines

Feb 12 // Jim Sterling
Alien 3SEGA Genesis1993 I have fond memories of Alien 3. Not the most refined of games, this sidescrolling shooter nonetheless maintains its own unique charm. A nice little soundtrack, an atmospheric (for its time) visual style, and a genuine effort to be authentic as possible within the 16-bit limitations, Alien 3 is worth giving a spin. If you're into vent crawling, ladder climbing, prisoner rescuing and Alien blasting, you'll get your fix right here.  The fact I still remember that stage intro screen after all these years has got to say something!  Alien TrilogyPlayStation, SEGA Saturn, PC1996 Okay, Alien Trilogy isn't that good of a game, and it's here mostly for nostalgia. I played the everloving hell out of it when I was a kid, and I recall many a school sick day spent playing this little number. The music still induces a little shiver down my spine.  Trilogy is a fairly basic little DOOM clone. You run around various stages inspired by Alien, Aliens and Alien 3, blasting Alien warriors, Dog Aliens, and excruciatingly annoying Chestbursters. The game's stingy with its ammo and can be pretty damn cheap, which is why I rarely felt shame inputting the famous password:  1GOTP1NK8C1DBOOTSON. That's, "I got pink acid boots on" for those lacking an eye for subtlety. Great cheat name, and the unlimited firepower was certainly nothing to spit at! You can pick PSOne discs up for peanuts on eBay, and it'll work on your PS3. Worth a spin, if only for reminiscence's sake.  Aliens vs. Predator 2PC, Mac2001 If I'm quite honest, I never really gelled with any of the Rebellion/Monolith AvP games, but AvP2 is so fondly regarded, I'd not be doing my job if it was omitted from the pile. This game is widely considered the last word in terms of Marine-on-Xenomorph-on-Predator action, with its three-way battles designed to make Preds feel badass, Xenos feel insidious, and Marines shit their pants. In many ways, playing as the terrified and powerless humans was the most fun part of the game. You are gonna die, but sometimes it's hilarious to be so utterly screwed. I may not have quite appreciated it the way some people did, but I'd be a fool to contest the assertion that it pretty much codified the idea of what an Aliens vs. Predator game should be, and has not been topped by anything in the field. There just doesn't exist a worthy adversary to this particular installment.  Aliens: ExterminationArcade2006 Anybody who hangs out with me for any length of time will soon learn one thing -- if there's an Extermination arcade machine in the vicinity, I'm going to find and play it. A few places local to me always seem to boast one of these, and I consider it a failure of a trip if I visit one of these places and don't waste at least one coin.  Extermination is a typical lightgun shooter. You grab your plastic pulse rifle and face the incoming horde of screaming Xenomorphs. It's silly arcade fun that never tries to be anything else, and while it looks pretty dated now, it still offers a pretty good commitment to detail and some cool environments. Plus, who isn't a sucker for a solid plastic-gun-holdy-shooty game? Aliens vs. PredatorArcade1994 Aliens vs. Predator for arcade is one of those games that really make me hate the dodgy world of licensing. Capcom made this, but SEGA owns the rights to Aliens games, so the chances of it ever getting a re-release are minimal at best. Still, if you can get a chance to play it, do so. It's bursting with character, is entertainingly ridiculous, and delivers some righteous brawler action the only way a Capcom arcade game can. You get to be either a Marine or a Predator, and face off against an army of increasingly colorful and bizarre Xenomorphs. It's as garish and neon as any nineties brawler could be, and I love it for that fact. The Alien designs are outlandish and strictly nonsensical, but that doesn't stop them from being cooler than they had any right to be. I have a lot of time for this little beauty.  Aliens: InfestationNintendo DS2011 SEGA's run with the license may not be the most glorious chapter of interactive Aliens history, but it is at least responsible for bringing us Aliens: Infestation, a genuinely great scrolling shooter from the fine folks at WayForward. Atmospheric, original, and closer to the spirit of the property than Colonial Marines could ever hope to be, this unique little spin on the Aliens universe is challenging, engaging, and quite a lot of fun. Players get to switch between four Marines at any one time, and there is a small army of 19 heroes to rescue and play. The twist is that once one of them dies, they're gone for good. If you start growing fond of one (which is possible, as they all have their own neat looks and personalities), you may very well find yourself in mourning.  For a retro-style shooter, Infestation is surprisingly scary. Aliens hit hard, and hit fast, while the dismal environments can be genuinely foreboding. While the difficulty can border on the wrong side of unfair, it at least makes Xenomorphs intimidating, credible threats, returning some of the edge they've lost in the transition from indestructible stalker to mindless bug. 
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Xenomorph action that won't ruin your day
Aliens: Colonial Marines is finally out over more than half a decade of waiting, and the disappointment is real enough to lick. It's a terrible letdown, to the point that this particular Aliens fan -- who buys almost anything...

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Aliens: Colonial Marines says hello, my honey


All singing, all dancing!
Feb 12
// Jim Sterling
So yeah, Aliens: Colonial Marines is pretty glitchy, but considering the lack of entertainment value in every other facet of the game, I guess we have to take our laughs where we can get them. This, for the record, is worth a solid chuckle.  At least this game's proving itself fertile ground for video clips and .gif silliness!
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Reviews Elsewhere: Aliens: Colonial Marines


What other critics thought of Gearbox's (or is it TimeGate's) Xenomorph romp
Feb 12
// Jim Sterling
The verdict is in for Aliens: Colonial Marines, and it's not pretty. Even having beaten the campaign over a week ago, I'm still in a hazy shock over just how bad it was, even by licensed game standards. Of course, I've made i...
Aliens: Colonial Marines photo
Aliens: Colonial Marines

Aliens: Colonial Marines innovates with self-heal glass!


A window into the FUTURE!
Feb 12
// Jim Sterling
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a stinker, this much is true. However, it's not all bad. As the super-duper really-real canonical sequel to Aliens, Gearbox's outsourced labor of love is rewriting the script on a beloved movie fr...

Review: Aliens: Colonial Marines

Feb 12 // Jim Sterling
Aliens: Colonial Marines (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3,  Wii U, Xbox 360)Developer: Gearbox Software, TimeGate StudiosPublisher: SEGAReleased: February 12, 2013 (PC, PS3, 360), March 2013 (Wii U)MSRP: $59.99Rig: Intel i7-2600k @3.40 GHz, with 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 580 GPU (SLI) Aliens: Colonial Marines famously considers itself the canonical sequel to Aliens, but the quality of its campaign reduces such a claim to little more than arrogant posturing, as this bumbling fan fiction dares compare itself to one of the most respected science fiction horror films of the 20th century. It barely deserves a comparison with Battlefield Earth. Clocking in at just under five hours, and containing very little in the way of actual story, Colonial Marines quickly establishes itself as nowhere near notable enough to be the "true sequel" it claims to be. While it indeed takes place aboard the Sulaco and LV-426, the actual plot devolves roughly into the same tired "Marines meet Xenomorphs, get slaughtered, fight Weyland-Yutani for a bit, then kill a Queen" storyline seen in almost every other Aliens game. Characters are barely distinguishable from each other, containing no trace of the strong personalities and personal terror one would expect from a true Aliens story. Instead, we get archetypal soldiers who say "Hoorah" every few minutes to remind you they're totally soldiers, and a main villain introduced in the final cutscene of the game. Dialog is embarrassingly puerile, and couldn't be more full of gung-ho machismo tripe if it tried. While the original Aliens dissected its posturing "manly man" stereotypes, and showcased how utterly frail a cowboy mentality can be when everything falls apart, Colonial Marines revels in its own testosterone, submerged gleefully in a pool of dank ultramasculinity. This is a game that unequivocally misses the point of Aliens, which wouldn't be so bad if it hadn't already had the gall to insist it was a true followup. Only Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem could claim to be a worse mishandling of the series' lore.  [embed]244276:46850[/embed] Perhaps the most disgraceful element of Colonial Marines' story is a plot twist ham-fistedly forced into a late chapter that, for fear of upsetting readers with spoilers, I cannot adequately detail. Suffice it to say, the story undoes canon established in the movies, and does so with such casual disregard, it comes off as an insult to the audience's intelligence. When one character points out a fatal plot hole in this awkward twist, the revealing party actually says, "That's another story," and it's never addressed again. This is how much Colonial Marines respects its own ideas.  The unremarkable plot, and even its desperate retcon, could be forgiven if the game was good enough to back it up, but unfortunately Colonial Marines is a tepid experience that starts off promising, contents itself with unimpressive arcade action, then abruptly spits the player out with a rushed ending and an absolutely laughable final boss.  At first, the campaign does an excellent job of building up atmosphere. Environments are authentic and look gorgeous on a PC, with excellent attention to lighting and a beautiful presentation of an infested Sulaco. The mounting tension toward the first Xenomorph meeting is palpable, and the initial encounter is impressive, pitting the player against a quick-moving "Lurker" genus that keeps hiding in its resin-coated nest and attempts multiple sneak attacks. This first fight is intimidating and contains everything one would expect from a frightening Xeno battle. It is also the first and last time Colonial Marines ever successfully attempts such a thing.  After this first fight, the game settles into a formulaic and utterly brainless shooter that tosses out Xenomorphs haphazardly and encourages nothing more involving than the most basic of run-and-gun tactics. Battles are pitifully easy, and the motion tracker is never really needed, since the thin corridors and wide open spaces negate the need to ever locate attackers. The aliens themselves are content to run directly into your bullets, with the occasional random, silly looking jump maneuver to give you the impression they're conscious of danger. In some levels, they'll even stand frozen in place, completely static character models just waiting to be shot.  Moments that could have been excellent fall completely flat on their face due to an understated presentation and total failure of execution. One stealth segment, in a sewer full of blind and explosive Xenomorphs (that walk like they're holding in a lot of feces), promises to be tense stuff, but the enemies are so stupid they're basically harmless, and the "stealth" consists simply of walking slowly through a dreary corridor. A power-loader battle is hinted at from the very beginning of the game, but once you finally get into the unwieldy thing, you simply mash buttons in the vague direction of your enemy over and over again until it's dead. Then there's the final battle against the Alien Queen, which consists of pressing a few buttons on a machine -- and that's literally all you do.  Though environments and models are impressive at first glance, everything falls apart once they start to move. Animations are jerky, messy, and incomplete, with Xenomorphs awkwardly disappearing in globs of half-rendered acid blood when killed or getting snagged on scenery before launching into glitchy spasms. Some transition animations seem totally missing as character models instantly switch out for more battle-damaged versions in plain view of the player. Allied NPCs are left similarly wanting, guided by an A.I. that regularly makes them walk into walls or wander around a room, slightly lost. Ally characters disappear and reappear in front of you from a cloud of blue light if you so much as move a few meters ahead of them, so unwilling is this game to animate anything if it doesn't have to. Xenomorphs and Marines often fail to recognize each other, with enemies running straight past squad mates in a bid to attack the active player, giving off the feel of a poorly scripted pantomime rather than a believable battle scene. Once Weyland Yutani mercenaries are introduced, the action slows to an agonizing crawl, attempting to be a cover-based shooter despite lacking a cover system. Ranged gunfights feel like the very worst of mediocre 90s first-person shooting games, and the terminally unintelligent opposition would be almost amusing if it didn't make for such excruciating dreariness.  An overwhelming sense of disconnect is felt when playing the campaign. A player's movement, a weapon's gunfire, and the Aliens never feel like they belong in the same game. You're shooting a Xenomorph, but there's no sense of impact, the game lacking the visual and audio capability of making it feel like you actually killed your enemy. Nothing bears any gravitas, there's no sense of weight. It's the same feeling I've had when playing an alpha build of a game in preview sessions, before the developer managed to add the official sound files and animations to tie everything together. Colonial Marines is a jumble of audio-visual elements that dance around each other, but never connect. Then there are the little details, or the complete lack thereof, betraying just how unpolished the overall product is. In the first chapter, a Marine dropship crashes into a hangar, in what's supposed to be a dramatic and exciting visual setpiece. It's hard to stay engaged, however, when the pilot is sitting motionless in her cockpit, arms fixed rigidly to her sides like a Playmobil figure. Another time, a fellow Marine checks her motion tracker, but the tracker's screen is completely blank and mute. These totally overlooked aspects are small on their own, but combine to regularly derail any attempt at crafting a convincing experience.  So far, everything I've said applies to the PC version. On consoles, the experience is startlingly worse, lacking even the beautiful environments as a meager saving grace. The Xbox 360 version of the game is riddled with hideous screen tearing, flat textures, and blocky artifacts covering surfaces. Swinging lights and broken pipes don't so much sway from the ceiling as they do shift from left to right in segmented blocks, unable to give us a fluid swinging animation correctly. The consoles pack all the problems seen on PC, with the added "enhancement" of grotesque graphics. If you think co-op will help boost the entertainment value -- hold that thought. Cooperative play is an afterthought at best, tossing up to three generic marines into the mix, with their own jerky animation and glitches. Team members move around in stuttered jumps, and there are issues with multiple users trying to open doors at the same time and being unable to shoot for a limited amount of time. Outside of a revival option, there are no team interactions, adding to the numbing arcade feel of the entire package. Co-op, indicative as it is of this game's problems, has been roughly shoveled into the core game with little regard for cohesion or common sense.   If I'm to praise anything, I will say that the game has a nice leveling system. As the player accrues XP and ranks up, new attachments can be purchased for weapons. Experience is earned by killing enemies and completing challenges -- specific goals to be accomplished at any point in-game, such as shooting a certain amount of Xenomorphs crawling on walls. What really makes this system click is the fact it carries over into multiplayer and co-op, making for a unified experience across all modes. It's just a shame this is the only "unified" aspect of the game.  The campaign is a mockery of the franchise, but multiplayer makes for a far better experience. Not a good one, but noticeably superior. Pitting one human team against an alliance of Xenomorphs, online competition threatens to be a tense, thoroughly entertaining experience. It falls short in many basic areas, but at least it approaches levels of acceptability far beyond the means of the solo adventure. There are a number of fairly standard game types, from simple deathmatches to capture-and-hold and elimination based modes, and they all work as you'd expect. The real twist, of course, lies in players taking turns to be the enemy.  When playing as a Marine, you get to keep your experience and loadouts acquired during the campaign, and may thus be armed with pulse rifles, shotguns, and a range of pistols. When spotting an enemy at range, the Marine will dominate Xenomorph players, so Aliens must make good use of vents, ceilings, and shadows to break apart and ultimately destroy the opposition. In the hands of players who know what they're doing, both sides are surprisingly well matched, helped in part by the three playable Xeno classes that compliment each other nicely. As well as regular Xenomorph warriors, players may choose ranged Spitters and stealthy Lurkers, each one boasting customization options and new attacks to be unlocked as they rank up. Marine and Xenomorph ranks are logged individually, so you'll need to acquire kills and complete objectives successfully as an Alien before getting access to advanced execution moves, genetic mutations, and silly cosmetic alterations. During the game, one Xenomorph player may also earn the right to play as a Crusher -- an oversized monster capable of ramming its victims and dealing horrific amounts of damage. Whether on your side or chasing you down, Crushers are a rather amusing addition.  The downside is that, while playing as a Marine can sometimes be an enjoyable experience, the Xenomorphs generally aren't much fun to use. They move slowly, even when mutated for faster movement, environments are nowhere near intricate enough to find many good hiding places, and attacks are fairly unimpressive and bland. Sure, getting a Spitter in a good location and launching acid at prey will net you a great killstreak, but it doesn't alter the fact you're just sat there, repetitively hurling slow-moving globs of goo until someone eventually finds and kills you. As painful as it is to say ... I really dislike getting to play an Alien. As with the campaign, sloppy animation comes into play -- the camera can't handle it when Aliens run on walls, even with the third-person perspective, and some animations, like the Spitter's jump or a number of execution attacks, don't seem to be finished and instead look clumsy. Having a Xeno transition from walls to ceilings is a clunky, unpredictable affair, and sometimes the creatures will just fall off whatever surface they've clung to. The general disconnect between player actions and the world around them is negated somewhat by a more dynamic opponent, but it's still there in abundance.  The multiplayer sometimes approaches something resembling entertainment, but overall it's simply not worth paying for. It's about half as decent as the online mode found in Aliens vs. Predator, which is far cheaper and way more polished. Plus, the Aliens feel a lot more deadly in Rebellion's effort, and a lot more like Aliens, rather than the sluggish, convulsive creatures Gearbox tries to bring to life.  Aliens: Colonial Marines is more than a disappointment. It's downright depressing. I can't say if it's the result of a lacking budget, rushed development, or sheer carelessness, but having the nerve to present this as a full retail game is inexcusable. It's simply not finished, and it certainly isn't worthy of being considered a legitimate followup to Aliens. As a story, it's inconclusive, riddled with cliches, and underwhelming. As a game, it's incoherent, insubstantial, and blatantly unconsummated. It took over five years for me to finally play this game, and less than five hours to feel nothing but a shocked emptiness at the thing I'd first downloaded with feverish anticipation. Multiplayer raises the game's stock, but not by much. Certainly not enough to be worth the time of any Aliens fan, when there are cheaper, more professionally produced alternatives on offer. This feels like an amateur's dalliance, not a high profile mainstream release that's been in production since 2006 and heralds itself as an important addition to science fiction history. It works, just about, and it comes across as a game developed to attain that one lowly goal -- to simply work, to achieve the bare minimum quality required to escape being labeled unplayable. The result is something that is, indeed, playable, but nonetheless heartbreaking in its awfulness. At first, Colonial Marines surprised this lifelong Aliens fan with its ignoble crudity. Then it angered me. Now ... I'm just very, very sad. I don't even feel like ending this with an obligatory movie reference.
Aliens: Colonial Marines photo
Get away from this bitch
Aliens: Colonial Marines has been one of my most anticipated games every year for over half a decade. My love of anything distinctly related to Xenomorphs, as well as my general high regard for the majority of Aliens games re...

Five space horror games better than Dead Space 3

Feb 05 // Allistair Pinsof
In Dead Space, the sound design stirs the nerves as alien rattling, clawing, and screaming echoes down a hall. And when the necromorph comes within sight, the sensation of fear peaks, causing the player to nervously misfire a couple rounds before hitting. But, what if necromorphs couldn't be seen? Enemy Zero is such a game, wherein aliens are invisible and can only be eliminated up close. The first-person view, extremely limited ammo, and hush-quiet ship of Enemy Zero make it a space horror game that is yet to be matched in its pure, visceral scares. It's a bit too simple for its own good, and once the tricks of the AI are learned, the illusion of the aliens goes out the window with it. Yet, Enemy Zero is the first game I'd recommend to those who think Dead Space isn't scary enough. Pick a genre, pick a perspective -- hell, even pick a platform -- and there is likely a worthy Aliens game for you. From the overlooked run-and-gun action of Alien Resurrection to the eerie Metroid-inspired Infestation, the Aliens series is among the few franchises to successfully make a transition from theaters to consoles, time and time again. Let Jim Sterling, Aliens connoisseur, be your personal spirit guide. No "When I was 12" qualifiers here: I still find the Metroid series unsettling in its atmosphere and haunting sound design. Without relying on the jump scares, gore and narrative padding that Dead Space frequently indulges in, each Metroid game achieves a similar tone of menace and isolation. From landing on planet Zebes to evading bounty hunters, Metroid never offers the player a safe haven from predators. It may not be as shocking as Dead Space, but it's definitely as effective. There are few horror series appropriate for kids that still manage to scare the pants off adults. Every year, people install and play System Shock 2, despite having to navigate the swamps of fan patches, setup troubleshooting, and cryptic .nfo documents that point the way to running the revered title on current systems. It's true that System Shock 2 led the way to Ken Levine's work on BioShock, but it's not true that BioShock carried the same elements of horror that made SS2 a remarkable game full of unforgettable scares. I wrote about one I had here, and could write about many more if I only had the patience to reinstall it on my current computer -- Oh, what the hell ... I sure am cheating here. Cryostasis doesn't take place in space; it takes place in the North Pole, 1981. But, what makes a space horror game a space horror game? The tech and presence of the planets and stars, I'd argue. But, it's the confines of a ship, adrift and left nowhere, and the complete isolation that makes enemy encounters so scary. Cryostasis even offers the bonus of surreal dream sequences, especially near the end, that will speak to the sci-fi nut. I could have listed Doom 3 or Dino Crisis 3 (it's not bad, really!) here, but I chose Cryostasis instead because it really nails the elements of space horror even if it doesn't take place in space. [Image by modusprodukt, courtesy of deviantART]
Better than Dead Space 3 photo
In space, no one can hear you be mediocre
By now, you may have heard the inarguable, absolute truth -- as is the case with Destructoid's reviews that are handed down from the maker to our holy reviewers -- that Dead Space 3 is not as great as the first two games. Bei...

Colonial Marines photo
Colonial Marines

Meet your new Alien buddies in Colonial Marines


Also, the Marine Smart Gun is pretty cool!
Feb 01
// Jason Cabral
The Aliens franchise has always had its hits and misses, but Gearbox is looking to expand upon the series fiction with Aliens: Colonial Marines and bring out some new Aliens to for us to play with. Don't worry though, they h...
Aliens season pass photo
Aliens season pass

Aliens: Colonial Marines will have a $30 Season Pass


Four content packs planned at $10 each
Jan 30
// Chris Carter
Fresh off the new "kick ass" trailer, we now have more info on Aliens: Colonial Marines -- it will have four pieces of downloadable content at $10 a pop, and a Season Pass for $30. According to the listing, all of the add-ons...
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Boob Wars: Colonial Marines, HD Wind Waker & RIP THQ


The Destructoid Show gets weird on Fridays
Jan 25
// Max Scoville
Hey gang, here's the recording of today's live Destructoid Show! Nintendo Direct happened, so we talked about all of that, and SimCity has new curved roads in it, I hope you're ready for that. That new Aliens: Colonial ...
Aliens: Colonial Marines photo
Aliens: Colonial Marines

Aliens: Colonial Marines trailer prepares to kick ass


That is why the video is called 'Kick Ass'
Jan 24
// Jim Sterling
A new trailer has arrived for Aliens: Colonial Marines, the game that's finally, definitely out in February and nobody can take that away from me. It's a video all about kicking ass, and how the Marines are the ones who shal...
Aliens photo
Aliens

Aliens: Colonial Marines is finally finished


Gearbox announces gold status for long-awaited title
Jan 16
// Conrad Zimmerman
It seems like we've been waiting an eternity for Aliens: Colonial Marines to see release, with the game having been expected as early as 2010. Today, a post on the Gearbox website confirms that the wait will only be a mo...
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Aliens: Colonial Marines gets a story trailer


Watch a thing on the Internet please
Dec 27
// Jim Sterling
Here's a hot new trailer for Aliens: Colonial Marines, which is finally arriving on February 12 AND THERE'S NOT A DAMN THING ANYBODY CAN DO TO STOP IT. Except, delay it. I guess they could delay it.  Anyway, check out t...
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Aliens: Colonial Marines screens have aliens in them


SCREEEEEE!
Dec 12
// Jim Sterling
SEGA has sent over a smattering of new screenshots for Aliens: Colonial Marines, focusing mostly on the multiplayer aspect and the various Xenomorph classes available. Check out the Warriors, Drones, and Spitters. They do thi...
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No Borderlands 2 for Wii U, wouldn't be 'OMG' enough


Gearbox unable to come up with cool ideas for it
Nov 26
// Jim Sterling
Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford has said that Borderlands 2 wouldn't be coming to Wii U, due to an inability to exploit the GamePad in some sort of Earth-shattering way. In contrast, the studio has plenty of ideas for Aliens: Col...
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Aliens: Colonial Marines gets Survival Mode trailer


OH MY GOD IT'S LIKE COD ZOMBIES WHAT A RIPOFF!
Nov 21
// Jim Sterling
I have to admit, you can throw a wave-based survival mode into almost any game, and I'll be happy. I've always got time for that particular game type, and the inclusion of Xenomorphs just makes it all the more perfect. ...

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