Vertical Slice: Marines, or not Marines

Vertical Slice: Marines, or not Marines

by September 12, 2014

Sometimes I wonder if the Aliens: Colonial Marines saga will ever end. For every time I think the damage caused by the game’s controversial release has begun to heal, a fresh news report reopens the wound.

But sometimes I wonder if I want it to end. For every time I read a TSSZ news report regarding Sega and Gearbox’s ongoing legal dispute, the lessons I learnt in Feb 2013 come rushing back.

The lessons came in two flavours. First, Aliens: Colonial Marines confirmed a heartfelt suspicion I’d harboured for some time: Sega, the innovative trendsetter of yesteryear, was dead, and only a cold, hollow, money hungry machine remained.

Secondly, it reaffirmed my decade long decision to never pre-order, to never buy a game at launch, and to not buy into the hype. At times being a sceptic can suck, but rejecting any and all PR and marketing efforts made by any and all videogame publishers has saved me money and has saved me from disappointment.

One must keep in mind that while Colonial Marines had what is quite possibly the most controversial launch in videogame history, its joined in the hall of shame by the likes of SimCity, Diablo III, Battlefield 4 and practically any PC game requiring Uplay. These days, problematic launches aren’t surprising, they’re expected.

Despite my curiosity regarding what seemed to be the “dudebro” equivalent of Sonic 2006, I held out on Colonial Marines until I bought a copy for £3 brand new at Rezzed 2014. TSSZ readers with exceptional memory will remember that it was at Rezzed 2014 that I played the public demo of Alien: Isolation. You can read my full preview here.

Long story short, I wasn’t impressed.

Vertical Slice Isolation Pre-order

But my voice was a small drop in an ocean of praise. In fact, SonicRadio’s Charles Edwards published his own preview of the demo on TSSZ after mine, and described it as “the best sci-fi/horror experience I have ever played”. But it’s not differing opinions I’m concerned about – everyone’s entitled to their own – but rather the ominous sound of the hype train gaining speed.

Developer Creative Assembly has only shown a few, small sections of Alien: Isolation publicly, even though the studio claims the full game to be a much larger and more complex experience. But this didn’t stop Sega from revealing not one, but two enticing pre-order bonuses in the form of game add-ons featuring the original characters and cast from Alien – one of these add-ons being retailer exclusive.

I would argue that such additional content should be included with the game outright, but shameful DLC hijinks is a completely separate discussion. What I did find ironic about Sega’s pre-order DLC announcement, however, was that even though Sega is trying to distance Alien: Isolation from Aliens: Colonial Marines, the company’s marketing strategy for both games is almost identical.

“Trust us you idiots, this is the Alien experience you’ve been waiting for, and buying it in advance will only make it better!”

Ah, but Michael, we’re not dealing with Randy Pitchford and his gang of unscrupulous Gearbox goons, I hear you cry. And that’s true, but even disregarding the numerous unrelated catastrophic launches mentioned earlier, there’s still plenty reason not to pre-order Alien: Isolation.

Consider Creative Assembly, a developer once revered within RTS circles for its long running Total War series, the first of which under Sega’s direction was the buggy Empire: Total War. From there we got the mediocre Viking: Battle for Asgard, the abysmal Stromrise and the lackadaisical Sonic Classic Collection for the Nintendo DS. But through these “hiccups”, the Total War series remained strong, that was until Rome II: Total War.

The highly anticipated sequel to what is considered one of the greatest RTS games of all time, Rome II was an unbalanced, untested, bug ridden mess. So broken was Rome II that some paying customers couldn’t even launch the game, at all. A good proportion of those customers pre-ordered, netting them the Greek States Culture pre-order DLC but no way to play it. A year after launch and Creative Assembly are still releasing patches, with with the fifteenth path currently in the works.

Yet we’re being asked to have faith and spend money on Creative Assembly’s first ever FPS, months before it’s released.

Vertical Slice Rome II Pre Order

This is the first Vertical Slice published since Donnie a.k.a. SSF1991 joined TSSZ as its primary news reporter. As one would expect, Donnie plans to add his own flair to his work with TSSZ, delivering reports he believes are in the interests of TSSZ readers, but also attempting to focus on more upbeat stories.

As part of this new approach, Donnie is considering dropping the never ending Aliens: Colonial Marines scandal as a priority news topic.

In many ways I can see why Donnie would want to move TSSZ away from Colonial Marines news. The damage to consumers has been done, and any additional news is strictly legal in nature. Furthermore, there’s only so many hours a day Donnie has to spend reporting, and with Sonic Boom just around the corner, his resources could be better spent focusing on Sega’s future rather than its past.

But isn’t that what Sega wants? For its past mistakes to fade from the minds of fans and its critics alike, regardless of how heinous those mistakes were? Doesn’t Sega want us to raid our wallets and pre-order Sonic Boom, Alien: Isolation and whatever future titles are in the works without the lingering, bitter taste of Colonial Marines and Rome II to sway us? Have we, as consumers, really learnt our lesson well enough for us to move on?

I for one find Sega a difficult company to trust. But I may be, as I often am among TSSZ readers, in the minority.