While our review of Aliens: Colonial Marines is still in the works and our reviewer is shying away from opinions until he’s played it himself, I’ve been keenly watching the review scores and, well, they’re not good. The follow-up game to Gearbox Studio’s excellent Borderlands 2 is widely being regarded as a dud. Right about now, a lot of people are scratching their heads wondering how a studio so obviously talented could take six years and deliver Aliens: Colonial Marines, a game described as so undercooked that it’s draws their whole PR campaign into question. It really makes you wonder how Randy Pitchford, CEO of Gearbox and admitted Aliens nut, could stand so heartily behind something so easily picked apart.
Like those players above, I wondered: What happened, Gearbox? Without an official Vagary review, I won’t draw final conclusions on the game (the questions raised here don’t represent any “official” opinion — none of us have beat the game yet), but I decided to do a little digging. Gearbox hit the ball out of the park with Borderlands, no doubt about it, but how about their other games. Did they review well?
Since 1999 the studio has had a major hand to play in ten games. They played less tangible roles in a handful of others, so this chart doesn’t represent the entirety of their work. Still, if we’re looking at “Gearbox Joints” we can paint a pretty good picture.
Have a look:
Note: All scores are derived from Metacritic aggregates with the exception of Half-Life: Opposing Force.
As you can see, Gearbox has a decent track record, but not great and leaning towards inconsistency. There are some high points in that list but some real stinkers too. If we look at the best scores for each game, their average is just over 77. Respectable. Their low scores, on the other hand, average out to about 72. A little less so but still not bad — not great, either. There is an incredible 46 point spread between their highest and lowest scores. What’s especially noteworthy here is that Aliens: Colonial Marines is their worst reviewed game ever by 5+ points depending on your platform. Worse even than the crapshoot that was Duke Nukem Forever. Now, without these two outliers, the average jumps to 81 high and 77 low.
Fellow writer, Tony Odett, and I talked a bit about these numbers. Is it fair to include Duke Nukem and Aliens in our assessment when the disparities are so high? Both games aren’t necessarily Gearbox brainchildren, after all, with Duke being brought on years into a troubled development cycle and Aliens standing in as a chronically sub-par licensed franchise. Something obviously went wrong in each game’s development, because ideas borne and bred in Gearbox’s wheelhouse tend to do much better. As a gamer and a critic, I can’t help but feel like Gearbox needs to own these games and their reception. Franchised or not, they took them in, marketed them, and asked the consumer to pay for them all while sticking their name on the front of the box. And a couple of them haven’t done very well. That’s theirs.
So what happened to Aliens: Colonial Marines? Read on for some ideas from inside tipsters.