Modders Give Gearbox’s Aliens Some Colonic Irrigation

Aliens: Colonial Marines got 99 problems, and looking like it’s from 2005 is one of them. Which is mystifying, given that recent in-game footage clearly showed that a more attractive version of the game did/does exist somewhere. God only knows why they’d put so much effort into a game whose lone memorable achievement is taking as long to develop as Half-Life 2 did, but modders have been busily trying to make Gearbox/Timegate’s mess look a little more as though it was released this decade.

Results so far are mixed, but explorations of the game’s ini files suggest it’s set its own bar mysteriously low, including failing to recognise current-generation graphics cards. Guides to and pre-fixed files for this exist if you want to dabble.

Meanwhile comparatively simple tweaks have introduced better lighting, effects, anti-aliasing and loading speeds thanks to DirectX 10 support. Don’t expect miracles, and bear in mind it’s something of a brute force approach, but it does make things look a little more lively.

However, there’s controversy around this mod, with rival modders suggesting that it’s not true 10iness and indeed there might even be a placebo effect at work. Well, those gentlemen can have their drama – for players the question is whether, whatever the mod actually does, it makes the game look and/or run better for them.

There’s also the SweetFX mod, which I’m struggling not to describe as the Instagram of Unreal engine games – but while what it does to shadows and highlights might be a little exaggerated, it does seem to do very welcome things to ACM’s dim, dull world.

Nothing as yet to fix the lousy AI, turgid writing or unrelenting tedium, alas.


  1. pakoito says:

    Apparently the DX10 mod is a fake somehow, reported by other media.

    link to

    • Hirmetrium says:

      Cheers for this. Guess I’ll uninstall it when I get home.

      Also would like to say the comparison shots of SweetFX look even worse than the originals.

      Only three more achievements and I can uninstall this game and leave it to rest. At least there is some fun to be had from the multiplayer.

      • Squirly says:

        I don’t understand. What is it about achievements that make people play a game they don’t like?

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          When the revolution comes, you’ll be first up against the wall, achievement-pauper!

        • Neurotic says:

          Although you know it’s a stinker, and you’re not really enjoying the experience, and your heart’s not really in it, you still feel as though you owe it to yourself to play a disappointing game through at least once, and for that you sometimes need a little more motivation than just ‘Fuck it, I paid good money for this, let’s do it just once.’ So when a game disappoints you that much, even something as abstract and arbitrary as Achievements can really help.

          • transientmind says:

            It’s like when you go out to a really nice, fancy restaurant to partake of a properly expensive meal for your own enjoyment, only there’s way more than you can comfortably fit inside you so you keep eating PAST the point of enjoyment, paying for the privilege of feeling bloated and unwell, worse off in body and wallet than you’d started. And when your girlfriend asks, “Why are you still eating when you’re full, you daft bastard?” and you reply, “Because I PAID for this, dammit!” then you realize that you’ve heard that somewhere before…

            Search your feelings, you know it to be true: You… ARE your father.

            And then you get physically dragged out by an irate girlfriend in the middle of your, “Noooooo! It can’t be true!” moment.

        • Hirmetrium says:

          I think you missed the bit where I said I secretly enjoy spitting acid in other players faces.

          The game is still buggy and frustrating as hell. Nothing worse than being an alien running along the ceiling to flank somebody and just falling off into their guns. It ain’t fun at all.

          Besides, achievements ARE good fun. They make me feel as if I have completed the game properly (because the ending sure as hell doesn’t make me feel that way).

          • Squirly says:

            Fair enough. I guess I’m just thinking that behind all that is a developer going “Sure, this game was panned critically, but it still SOLD well (it did, sorta) and look at all those players doing all the achievements!”

            You are sending out the wrong message here.

    • pakoito says:

      Did they ninjaedit the article or was it there all along?

    • Lekker says:

      I don’t understand how people could jump on it like rabid fanboys they are. Game is coded to run with DX9 API and you cannot fucking change that with changing a few lines in .ini, and modifying a .dll slightly(I doubt that was even done).

      I forgot to add, SweetFX runs pretty much with every DX9 and DX11 games(few exceptions), not UE games only. You can also run it with OpenGL games using a modified .dll wrapper.

    • El_MUERkO says:

      So a mod makes the game look like it has direct x10 special graphical niceness but people are going to un install it because it’s not really direct x10.

      This confuses me greatly.

      If the game looks nicer and it’s not powered by the souls of baby otters why would anyone care?

    • AliensCM says:

      Crysis 2 on CryEngine 3, Aliens: Colonial Marines on Red Ring[3] (Unreal Engine 3 with a new renderer) , so AliensDX11 is not fake

  2. Nick says:

    shame they can’t fix everything else thats terrible.

  3. Meat Circus says:


  4. Maxheadroom says:

    Granted I wasnt expecting it to be ‘this’ bad but from the get-go I didnt really see what they could do with an Aliens fps that hasnt been done a dozen times before.

    They really need to remake the c64 version (both of them).

    • Neurotic says:

      FANTASTIC game! The flick-screen one where you watch everything through the helmet cams. That was a brilliant, brilliant game. The SID chip did the Pulse rifles and Smart guns so, so perfectly, and the best part? The enormous fold-out map of Hadley’s Hope that you struggled to get through. Jesus, that was a game and a half.

      I also have fond memories of the Argus Press C64 Alien game – green ASCII art-shaped memories. :D

    • georgetownhoya says:

      Already been remade! The c64 version on PC: link to

  5. Lifebleeder says:

    I liked the intro in the video.
    “I got sucked into the hype for Colonial Marines, the guys that did Borderlands……and……uhh……..all these….great things.”

    Spot on.

    • Nick says:

      To be fair, Opposing Force and the first two BIAs are great.

      • Lifebleeder says:

        Never played Opposing Force, but I did play the first couple BIA’s. They were in fact very good. I had forgotten Gearbox made them, I concede good sir!

      • Gap Gen says:

        Hell’s Highway was weird. Kinda like the devs had just finished playing FEAR when they got to writing the plot. I get that they were trying to do something with shellshock or just the general psychological effects of war, but the final product was sort of odd.

        Oh, and I’m not sure what it says about the first two games that in the later missions in EiB I sometimes got better results by hiding my squad and doing sections of the level by myself.

    • Vorphalack says:

      I feel like I dodged a bullet with Colonial Marines. I first noticed the hype building up a few months ago, but dismissed it as I got my fill of Alien universe shooters 14 years ago with the Rebellion made Aliens vs Predator. That was top class gaming and I just figured they wouldn’t be able to top it. It’s nice to be right every now and then.

  6. Eddard_Stark says:

    What worries me most about the whole A:CM controversy is that the game would probably have been universally praised by the media and mainstream crowd had the devs delivered the presentation qualities from e.g. that E3 demo mock-up. While in reality horrendous graphics are not the game’s biggest problem if you ask me. It would still be a shallow railroad popamole shooter even if it had some eye-candy. Which is a great shame since the source material IMHO provides all necessary tools to build a great game upon. And note: trying fanblindly copy the movies (and oh the irony, fundamentally not understanding a great deal of what was really good about them) via a crazy amount of fanservice will never result in a great game. All we got is linearity to the bone, horrible AI, catastrophic fanfic level story and writing, lack of any originality, etc. No amount of bloom or even reasonable stuff like dynamic lightning would save the game from being crap. And it’s a really sad thing.

    • Sir-Lucius says:

      That’s what I find most surprising about this mess of a game. Everything I’ve read and seen from ACM seems to fundamentally misunderstand where the appeal in the Aliens franchise is. Even Aliens and the subsequent sequels, despite their radical changes in tone from the original, kept the basic tenets of “aliens are terrifying and will fuck your shit up” and “humans are always at a disadvantage.”

      Admittedly I haven’t played it, but even if the game were visually appealing and not completely broken, it sounds like it would still be a bad Aliens game.

  7. Rian Snuff says:

    “Like polishing a turd!”

    Definitively not the game I seen in the trailer.
    A prime example about how you can’t take a trailer for face value about the final product.
    Glad I don’t buy games on day these days.
    I’ll hope they can fix the game up enough in the future that it’s worth buying on sale anyways.

  8. Danda says:

    What’s the point of polishing a turd? The game will still suck!

    Still, I’m amazed by this:

    link to

    This is shocking. This game is topping the UK charts!

    • Crazy Hippo says:

      this will have been the pre-order sales going through. i would be immensely surprised if it is at the top of the charts next week

  9. Maxheadroom says:

    There’s a Baulders Gate Enhanced joke in there somewhere but I’m too tired to think of it.

    Seriously though, I share P4p’s “What?!” sentiment .

  10. Baresark says:

    Haha, people are bitching about this placebo effect, if indeed it is one. But that is only because they don’t understand how the placebo effect works and how beneficial it is. At least in medical science. It’s not synonymous with fake or bad, though it can be. If people use it and they think it makes the game look better, good on them.

    • grundus says:

      I get what you’re saying and all but it’s a bit different when it comes to gaming. Placebos are good in medicine because they make the patient feel better even though they’re not taking any actual drugs and no one can tell them that they don’t feel better because no one knows how they feel exactly.

      When it comes to games, everyone can see what you’re seeing and if you tell them it looks better when it in fact doesn’t, they’ll tell you you’re an idiot. It also requires effort to install a mod that does nothing useful, so why bother if it’s not actually going to change anything?

      • solidsquid says:

        Actually, while it’s not as obvious an effect as medical placebo, it is possible to convince people that the game has better graphics and they’ll think it’s improved. It’s like an expensive bottle of wine tasting better than a cheap bottle, even if you have the same wine in each bottle (just labelled differently), because you think it’s better it seems to be subjectively better to you

  11. Bhazor says:

    From this video it seems
    lower contrast = realistic graphics.

  12. Greggh says:

    99 problems but a glitch ain’t one?

  13. faelnor says:

    How the game looks is only the 99th problem.

  14. Hoaxfish says:

    I think the most interesting thing about this, after the fact people would waste time modding this crap, is that apparently the latest card recognised by the normal game is from 2007 (i.e. 1 year after it was announced)

  15. TwwIX says:

    Graphical tweaks ain’t gonna fix bad game design.

  16. Mario Figueiredo says:

    This annoys me. Modders trying to make this game look better, benefits greatly those that put this thing up for sale. Being the case of this particular game, I think it deserved all the punishment it could get. False advertisement shouldn’t be taken lightly.

    I have a stance on sword combat games that they shouldn’t be about dismemberment and head rolling, that doesn’t apply here.

  17. Lev Astov says:

    I just watched the video in the article and, having not seen A:CS before, I think that game looks amazing! It’s a real shame everyone hates it. It is clear the level designers really loved what they were doing.

  18. Hoaxfish says:

    In other news… stuff from the cancelled Obsidian Aliens RPG has been turning up:

    gameplay: link to


    • animlboogy says:

      This fucks me up to see. Obsidian makes such wonderful games. The only middle of the road experience they’ve put out there so far is Dungeon Siege 3. Why did Sega cancel this while pushing out something so immediately and universally reviled as A:CM?

      • Brun says:

        Obsidian has a cult of very vocal and loyal fans, but I don’t think their popularity is nearly as universal as the people on RPS want it to be. They seem to have acquired a reputation amongst publishers as being something of “tainted” developer – the kind that can deliver 75% of a great experience – which is likely why they’ve had difficulty getting publishing deals recently. You can look at Alpha Protocol and New Vegas as examples – both good games that were weighed down by various issues. Whatever those issues may be and whether they are actually Obsidian’s fault or not, their name is repeatedly associated with games that are just not quite all the way there. As such, it’s entirely possible that Sega decided they were too much of a risk – and despite what many people here will claim, their RPG was a ways away from completion.

        • Muzman says:

          Also, Squad Shooter FPS console title looks like money in the bank (and just might be, in the end). RPG is a bit harder to pick (even with Mass Effect(s)). I’m sure every bit of audience research they did on an Aliens title went something like “OMG that bit with the pulse rifle! and the sentry guns were badass! and omg. I am the ultimate Badass! GET AWAY FROM HER YOU BITCH! WE”RE IN SOME REAL PRETTY SHIT NOW! GAME OVER MAN! MARINES WE ARE LEAVING! PEW PEW LET”S ROOOOOCK!”

          As much as a sophisticated game would likely be a better one, there’s not a lot to indicate the average fan really wants such a thing.

        • Prime says:

          Well said, Brun.

          Obsidian have long been praised on RPS to the highest heavens while delivering only incomplete or troubled experiences. I’ve seen people here make excuse after excuse about their games – it’s the fault of the publisher not giving them enough time, it’s a shitty engine they’re being forced to use, blah blah blah – and it drives me a bit mad. They’re simply not the gods of gaming people want them to be. Looking Glass software were our gods, and we killed them by not buying their stuff.

  19. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Argh! The SweetFX mod just turns up the fucking contrast and hurts my eyes!

  20. ratmbr says:

    i can’t attest for the dx10 mod, i don’t like sweetfx either, but the ambient occlusion activation via nvidia tools really works:
    link to