Monday, October 7, 2013

The Many Days of Horror! - Aliens:CM Stasis Interrupted

Aliens: Colonial Marines DLC - Stasis Interrupted

By now it's pretty much a meme in its own right, the notion that Gearbox willfully and intentionally defrauded people by releasing Aliens: Colonial Marines as a shambling mess of a game. Some of you may recall that I actually got to play it on day of release (and finished it the same day) so I actually rather enjoyed the game, having A: not been led to have any preconceived notions of what to expect (hell, I remember reading it had been cancelled), B: not being in game journalism I did not feel butt-hurt that I had seen a demo at a convention that made me feel all special inside (yes, I think the press going on about that demo is a bit whiny; I've actually seen the demo and it's pretty much what the PC version looked like), and C: I was really expecting the game to be bad fun, and I got exactly what I expected (and I don't think 2011's AvP was any better, either).

Anyway, the last DLC content pack was released for A:CM called Stasis Interrupted. In a nutshell, it's okay. The purpose of this pack is to fill the quota for those with season pass subscriptions, and to do so with some actual single player content. As an expansion to the main campaign goes it fills in some of the convoluted backstory of the game, looking first at a woman who was part of the colonists kidnapped for use by Weyland Yutani, then another colonist who is an ex marine, and last a scientist for W-Y who decides he's had enough of assisting evil mad science and manifests a conscience. Amidst all the action Corporal Hicks is an important guest, as the DLC fills in how he survived his (previously canon) death in Alien 3.

Is the DLC worth it? Without discussing specifics, the short version is: if you paid for it already, and enjoyed A:CM enough to find all the gnashing of teeth about the game to be amusing, then sure, you might like it. But there are a few warnings to consider, first:

Glitches? I played the PC version, which appears to be the "not buggy" version, or at least if it is buggy I seem to be really lucky. As near as I can tell people who talk about lame AI and weird glitches all seem to be playing console versions of the game. I experienced to glitches or unusually weird AI during my play-through except for once when one of the bull aliens got hung up on some scenery.

Crazy Plot Filling? The DLC fills in some of the gaping plot holes and unanswered questions of the main game. Parts of it are quite fun (the opening stuff with Lisbeth actually feels scary, for example) and other parts appear to be aiding the retcon by virtue of a comedy of errors (such as how a corpse ends up in Hicks' stasis tube in time for Alien 3). If you try to piece together the plot, it gets more than a little loony. They really could have come up with something better than this by not trying to tie the whole game into the second and third films with a deliberate retcon just so they could get the voice actor for Hicks back. I mean....why not retcon Newt, too? Hell, let's just retcon Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection! I would be down with that.

If there's one giant mech-loader sized hole in some of the plot reasoning for the entire game (and it's dramatically highlighted by the DLC, which focuses in some cut scenes on Ripley's suicide-by-molten metal) it's that Alien 3 ended with Mr. Weyland out of luck on a source of an alien queen. They had some DNA samples of Ripley which magically contained alien samples as well, and that was it. Cut to Alien: Resurrection which was all about scientists literally centuries in the future after the first three films trying to recreate both Ripley and the alien species from this old evidence.

If all the above was the impetus of the film, then why do we. going by the DLC timeline as presented, see that Weyland had several xenomorph queens either in captivity or at least somewhere he could capture them with enough resources and time? We actually see Ripley perish in a cut-scene shortly before Hicks and Levy make a big escape and encounter no less than two queens before the DLC's conclusion. Why the devil was Weyland even bothering with Ripley, then?

I guess you could assume that a baby queen was his goal....raise her in captivity from the get-go, do what the scientists would do a couple centuries later in the fourth film. Still....the subtext and implication of Alien 3 was that the alien queen Ripley took out with her was it, end of the line. Of course, I'm complaining about this in a game that went through hoops to resurrect Corporal Hicks, but....well....never mind.

Anyway, I had fun playing the DLC but suggest that only those who like me played through the campaign and enjoyed it...whether your enjoyment is thanks to lowered expectations, an appreciation for the old school aesthetics and design features, or just because your a hardcore Alien franchise junkie and don't care if the game has issues, you're going to play it...if you meet  one of these criteria (or more than one, as I do!) then Stasis Interrupted will give you about 3-4 more hours of entertainment. Everyone else, move along, nothing to see here.


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