My copy of Aliens: Colonial Marines came to me late and I mean really late. I had to see all the outrage come pouring in without knowing what was going on. The backlash against the title was intense, enough to keep the gaming media occupied for weeks in dissecting just how such a train-wreck happened. By the time my copy arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Where did the hyperbole end? Surely it couldn’t be that bad, right?
What did I think of the game? That’s easy, it’s as awful now as it was when everyone had their field day with bashing it. It deserves every bit of hate from the critics and fans alike that it received. There’s nothing I can really add to the conversation that hasn’t already taken place. There’s my review of Aliens: Colonial Marines; it’s just horrible.
So why write about a game months after the fact? That’s because this game hits a deeper, and more personal, note than any other game. This was my first taste of being a gaming journalist and it really gave me a sucker punch.
At New York Comic-Con, I was invited to attend an event hosted by Sega and Gearbox to show off, for the first time, multiplayer to the media. I didn’t know how to react, I was invited. Me, this kid still dreaming of being paid to write his opinions about video-games. It really was a major moment.
The intimidation present the moment I walked in through those doors was crushing. The room was huge and daunting, packed with pristine high-end PCs that cost more than I cared to imagine and all sorts of random Alien paraphernalia. There were crowds of other reporters, most of whom clearly knew each other as they huddled together in small groups to enjoy the drinks and buffet table. It was designed to awe and to pull at those nostalgia heart-strings. Mission accomplished, I lost myself in the glitz of it all.
So this ended up being my first invite to an industry event. I wrote about as much at the time and even took the next step to show my support of the project. I told those who read to be optimistic about the game thanks in part to the love and care being demonstrated by the team crafting the project. That means that not only was Aliens my first attended gaming event, but also the first time I felt used by the PR system of the industry.
I’ve been wrong about games before, this is nothing new. Having been so publically wrong, on the other hand, that’s something I’ve never done. When word started to come out about how awful the game was, I instantly went into a defensive mode unintentionally. I told myself it couldn’t be as bad as they made it out to be, surely it was just one faulty opinion. Then the chorus remained the same as the word built around the title. I was wrong, completely and utterly. It was embarrassing.
If writing about games is what I want to do in the future, then it’s best to get used to being used as a pre-order mouth piece. Looking at the current state of the major reporting in the gaming sphere, it’s clear to see that it’s all about the hype and previews. Here’s some screens and/or a trailer, now go write about how awesome it looks and make sure to include what the pre-order bonus is for them when they head into Gamestop. I don’t want to do that. My opinion on gaming is something I’ve built up after a long history of playing these silly things and I want to have a voice that means something. Not one that’s bought and paid for in the simplest fashion. That all it takes to woo me is to construct an elaborate show and dance number.
The Aliens encounter has heightened a sense of skepticism in the industry, one that is going to do me quite well as the new generation approaches. It’s a good thing to have. A sense of being wary of any promises of content is something all consumers should have. It’s why with E3 happening, I believe that not a single person should be rushing out to pre-order any of the new consoles. Wait and see what they truly offer before giving over your hard-earned cash to empty promises.
That’s the vow I’m making after this debacle. To be honest about what I see and what I feel and to avoid feeling so silly after the fact. It’s a good lesson to learn and, frankly, I’m glad I went through it so early. Here’s hoping I get the chance to make many more mistakes to learn from in the future.
Oh, and Aliens: Colonial Marines is just dreadful rubbish.
"Aliens: Colonial Marines" is on sale February 12, 2013 and is rated M. Shooter. Published by Sega.