Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Aliens: Colonial Marines Turned Out To Be A Disaster

When Aliens: Colonial Marines was nearing its Feb. 2013 release date, fans had many reasons to be excited. Sure, the game had gone through an extended period of development, one that now was stretching over six years, and yes, there had been some odd rumors of potential cancellation amid layoffs.


However, the developer was Gearbox, hot off another hit with Borderlands 2 and the continued success of the Brothers in Arms series. The E3 presentation offered by Gearbox's Randy Pitchford in 2011 was stunning, a proof of concept that showed off just how good the game would be. What could go wrong?

As gamers now know, plenty could go wrong, and almost everything did. When Aliens: Colonial Marines arrived, it was a glitchy, incoherent mess that garnered Gearbox's worst critical reception to this day. Here's how Aliens: Colonial Marines, a highly anticipated game from a respected developer, became a messy disappointment rivaled by few others.

A busy schedule kept Gearbox from focusing on Aliens: Colonial Marines

As soon as reviewers received copies of Aliens: Colonial Marines, it became clear that there were significant problems with the game. Teammates would drop nonsensical dialogue. Xenomorphs were easy-to-kill, often annoying foes. Major set pieces, such as using the loader, were sidelined. The story, billing itself as something of a continuation of James Cameron's landmark Aliens, was ignorable and repetitive.


Why had a game that took six years to put together arrived so half-baked? Gearbox took on the project in 2007, shortly after SEGA acquired the rights to the Aliens' license, and began preproduction on the game. However, during that time, Gearbox was finalizing its first new IP since Brothers in Arms, the blueprint loot shooter Borderlands.

The surprise success that Borderlands achieved may have been one of the first problems for Aliens: Colonial Marines. Gearbox decided to prioritize Borderlands 2 and, as a result, shipped the production of the game over to another studio, TimeGate. However, when TimeGate began working on Aliens: Colonial Marines, in late 2010 or early 2011, the team was tasked with hitting a spring 2012 release date, with critical parts of the story still not in place.


Poor communication leads to rushed production

According to inside sources speaking with Kotaku, TimeGate pushed forward with Aliens: Colonial Marines, despite the gaps in what the team had received. "There was obviously not four years of work done on the game," explained Kotaku's source. Gearbox gave TimeGate a mandate. Kotaku's source recalled they were told, "Don't worry about performance, just make it awesome." Arguably, TimeGate succeeded in that regard, considering the demo shown at E3 2011.


However, critical pieces of the game were not going to be ready by spring 2012, so Gearbox pushed back the release so it could retake control of development. According to a Reddit post written by a Gearbox employee under an NDA, Gearbox was not at all happy with what TimeGate had produced. The product wouldn't run on the PlayStation 3, the campaign didn't make sense, and the boss fights were absent.

However, Gearbox had an obligation to ship the game. According to the Reddit source, Gearbox was at risk of being sued by Sega for its failure to deliver. Issues that "weren't 100% blockers," or game-killing bugs, were ignored for the sake of shipping a working product. And so, in Feb. 2013, Gearbox delivered that product, much to the disappointment of Aliens fans everywhere.