Every Tuesday we’re greeted with new media releases such as albums, DVD releases, or video games. With each one comes another product the public forges an opinion on. For DVD releases, the reviews are already in on the movies themselves, but with music and video games, most of what we’re hearing/playing is new. On Tuesday, February 12, the public finally received a video game that’s been in development since 2006: Aliens: Colonial Marines. The game attempts to create a story that pieces together Aliens and Alien3, the second and third entries of the influential Alien movie series. Influential is a small word for what the Alien series has done. From Halo to Half-Life, many huge game releases have been influenced or inspired by Alien. So how did the intellectual property do when under the direction of Gearbox Software, creators of Brothers in Arms and Borderlands, and their associates?
Well, as far as reviews go, the game is being seen by the press as a mess. Various technical issues are said to abound as well as an incomprehensible story and a paltry single player campaign. Yet the technical issues, such as the artificial intelligence (how enemies operate and respond to the player) and the graphics, have brought controversy. I know, an opinion article based on a bad video game; sounds like a snore-fest. But the controversy surrounds something that we all may have fallen prey to in the past: alleged false advertising. This brings me to E3. E3 is a large, entertainment expo that shows upcoming video games and gives fans a chance to play the latest and greatest technology. At E3, Randy Pitchford, the CEO of Gearbox software, showed a demonstration of Aliens: Colonial Marines. The audience was blown away by the realistic lighting, movie-like atmosphere and the ways in which the enemies attack and respond to the player.
Fast-forward to about a year and a half later. The game is released, and consumers begin to notice something quite peculiar: the game itself looks drastically different from the E3 demo. Dynamic lighting is either minimal or non-existent, the movie atmosphere has been streamlined and the enemies act in irrational and sometimes laughable ways. While I believe that Gearbox has covered themselves as a company, others do not agree. By labeling what they show as a “work in progress” and stating that what is shown may not be representative of the final product, illegal activity doesn’t seem obvious to me. Many examples can be given of games that have had E3 demonstrations which included environments and features not included in the final game, such as Halo 2 and Doom 3.
But how much of what we saw was actually real? Recently, a Reddit poster who claims to be privy has given his take on Aliens: Colonial Marines troubled development. Many alleged claims were included: the majority of the game was outsourced, other projects were given higher priority, etc. Which claims are true, and which are exaggerations? We may never know, as the poster claims he can’t substantiate his claims due to a non-disclosure agreement. This brings us to a discussion that internet users have been tackling since the games release: ethical advertising. Is what Gearbox software did ethical? Maybe they intended for these features to be included in the game but in the end, they just didn’t have time to implement them. Maybe the demo was pre-rendered in an attempt to influence gamers’ buying decisions? Who knows?
I’ve rented the game and enjoyed a bit of it. My feeling is that time will wash away the sting felt by those who dropped $60 on what they perceive as a bad product, or one that they felt they were “duped” into buying. After this, I hope people will take the game for what I took it as: a B-movie translated into a game. Instead of a full-fledged Alien entry, I saw the game as an “inspired by” journey into the Aliens universe if handled like a B-movie. Dialogue is humorous, actions are glitchy, and enemies are laugh-out-loud at times. Yet despite this, you enjoy the good when it arrives and laugh at the bad when it peaks its head in. The drama is only heating up, though. Twitters are being used to voice opinions, Reddit is helping disseminate knowledge with regards to this situation and the drama is unfolding at a constant rate. I encourage you to head online and read up on some of the controversy. If anything, appreciate that the internet has made it so we can voice our opinions, help others avoid products we don’t support and give us insight into why that product may have turned out so poorly. As usual, be skeptical and don’t believe everything you see. Be a well-informed consumer of the media.