Someone Is Trying To Fix Aliens: Colonial Marines

I mentioned Gearbox’s woebegotten Aliens: Colonial Marines in snarky passing earlier, and so was surprised to see the disappointing Xeno-shooter crop up in the news for Actual Reals. Turns out there’s a mod intended the make the lousy not quite so lousy. My main question at this point is why?

On the one hand, I admire the dedication to a thankless task. On the other, big red and pulsating hand, what a thing to dedicate your time to. Sure, much of the negative response to ACM was wildly exaggerated – it was underwhelming, particularly visually, rather than an outright disaster – but I struggle to believe that are many people out there who truly love the thing. Let alone love it enough to spend weeks, months, who knows how much of their time doing unpaid work on it. But someone has.

The new release is version 2.0 of TemplarGFX’s ACM Overhaul, made by one jamesdickinson963, and it tackles graphics, weapon-feel and Alien AI. The game is purportedly harder and prettier as a result.

I didn’t play enough of the original (I preferred to experience it vicariously through videos) to give you a cast-iron opinion on how effective Overhaul is, but the response seems divided between folk who are impressed and folk who think ACM is now too difficult. The modder claims that an impending V3 will correct that, and seems to be releasing interim updates in the meantime.

From the screenshots it looks over-dark to me, but I guess that’s one route to restore spooksomeness.

Grab the 100MB mod from here if you’re interested. Here are the headline features too:

New AI, Gun Play, Materials/Lighting, Bug Fixes and More! Xenomorph’s have seen the most work fixing their behavior and mechanics to make them truly terrifying foes to face, dramatically shifting the tone of the entire campaign. This State of the Bad-A** Art modification for ACM reworks, reprograms and rebalances Xeno AI, Human AI, Weapon Mechanics, Ballistics, Animations, Shaders, Particles, Decals, Lighting, and engine features to get the best out of the game possible.

The installation instructions in the download apparently contain a crucial error, so use the ones here if you’re going to check this out. BUT WHY WOULD YOU.

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  1. ran93r says:

    … but you can roll it in glitter!

  2. tomimt says:

    Sadly there’s no amount of work that could salvage the game from its horrible plot.

    • cakeisalie says:

      Exactly, and all the sections where you fight men instead of xenos. I really wanted ACM to be like a cross between Alien Swarm, Left 4 Dead and Killing Floor – a tactical class-based co-op shooter with a well-designed asymmetric versus mode. It could have been really good, but instead we ending up with a bad COD clone in space.

  3. TheLostSkeleton says:

    If there’s a PC game out there that didn’t live up to its promises, there will always be a modder somehow, some way, some where that’s trying to “fix” it.

    ReFueled (“fixes” Codemasters open world flop, FUEL)
    ATX (“fixes” Jurassic Park Trespasser)
    And the numerous STALKER mods (Paradise Lost, Zone Reclamation Project, STALKER Complete)

    • Anti-Skub says:

      Trespasser and Stalker were flawed gems. They might have been full of bugs and wonky mechanics but their core gameplay and world design was interesting. Colonial Marines is the exact opposite, it works fine, it’s just boring both visually and gameplay wise.

      • cakeisalie says:

        Yeah, Stalker was a great idea but they lacked the production values/budget of a big studio to properly pull it off. Still one of the most immersive and atmospheric games I’ve ever played and the Misery Mod is really good. Hopefully version 2.2 will be out soon.

        • Jay Load says:

          Still the most epically spectacular failure I’ve ever played, outclassing everyone else who got their games “right”, the sole exception being the Gods who were Looking Glass software.

          • Razumen says:

            Calling it a failures a bit much, I think it succeeds in what it does, even if it didn’t live up to its promises.

    • Alfius says:

      Darth Mod for various Total Wars…

      Seriously, Darth Mod for Empire turns the game from ‘so close, but so far’ into a genuine masterpiece.

      • IaIaFhtagn says:

        DarthMod Empire is probably the main reason that Empire is my favourite TW game. I enjoyed the base more than most anyway, largely due to an interest in the period, but DM was incredible.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        The Darth Mod’s author went on to make his own game.

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          Ultimate General: Gettysburg, which you can get for 1 dollar in the latest humble bundle (steam version only).

    • Scripten says:

      To be fair, STALKER was fairly decent even without mods. SoC and CoP were both really good games, just buggy as all else. The mods do make them significantly better, for sure, but the foundation is there.

      However, I get your point and have another one to add: KOTOR 2. Talk about a game that missed its potential. I’m actually very happy to see modders taking up the mantle on that one.

  4. Premium User Badge

    oWn4g3 says:

    Is it possible to play Co-Op with the mod? That’s the only part of the game that might interest me in case it really got more challenging and overall improved.

  5. Napalm Sushi says:

    Shameless reminder that Space Beast Terror Fright is currently the best Aliens game out there despite its lack of the actual license, Early Access status and ridiculous placeholder-that-stuck title.

    • Phil Culliton says:

      Thanks for the recommendation! Very cool, hadn’t heard of it.

      • Napalm Sushi says:

        It was covered here a while back, but a lot has been added since then, including “creeps” (copyright-friendly facehuggers), multiple weapons, multiple map tilesets, co-op play, selectable difficulty, power outages, ricocheting bullets, laser fences and infested architecture.

        • Phil Culliton says:

          Lovely – bought. Looks like an excellent Early Access title. Thanks again!

  6. Jay Load says:

    Ha! Why does anyone do a crazy thing? Restore am antique clock: Climb a mountain: Collect Transformers…

    You go where your passion drives you.

    Colonial Marines may have been a disaster but even disastrous products can inspire passion. Heck, I may be one of the few people alive who genuinely adores X: Rebirth while still being able to see ALL of it’s faults.

    I do also love trying projects like this, to see if the work done has redeemed the initial product release. Might have to fork out the thirty-eight pence it probably goes for now and try it out.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      I was just about to mention X-Rebirth. I was unable to get into it on launch because it was just so dang broken, as you know, but I decided a few days ago to grab the Home of Light DLC and give it a proper spin. And yeah, despite it’s flaws, still having bugs and obvious duct tape attempts to fix some things, I am rather surprised at how much I have gotten myself sucked in.

  7. Unsheep says:

    I enjoyed the gameplay in the original. Its was a really tough and demanding shooter since you died very easily, at least on a proper difficulty setting. The DLC was great fun as well. I liked the weapons too, “authentic” to the movies or not.

    So to me there was nothing wrong with the gameplay itself, you know…the ‘action’ part…which to me is the whole point of a shooter, not how glossy and shiny it is. I’d rather play a less-pretty action-filled shooter than a shiny boring one.

    My main problem was Hick’s part in the storyline, it was unnecessary and convoluted. The storyline would have been better if it had just stuck to the Marine-rescue theme. Also, the mech fight was rather ‘meh’, they could have done more with that.

    Of-course there’s no excuse for how Sega and Gearbox handled the game, but my thoughts are about the gameplay itself, which to me is not bad at all.

    If anything gaming media’s reaction to the game shows just how little intellectual diversity there exists in the gaming media world, its just one bandwagon after another.

    However, my ranting aside, I’m very curious to see what these modders can do. I’m happy to find a new excuse to play the game again.

    • Sleepery says:

      It was one of the few games I actually completed last year, and the DLC was a huge step up. I just couldn’t resist the Aliens-tourist effect, it was still very immersive.

      But you know, random internet bods will respect you if you declaim from a height how much the game spilt your pint, stole your girlfriend, and all that.

  8. Little_Crow says:

    I think the why is fairly obvious in this case – It’s a game from a beloved franchise. That’s often enough motivation for people to want to fix/improve the base game. Much like Long War, it’s all the more remarkable an achievement because of the lack of built in mod support.

    The people whose motivations should be questioned are those who make creepy/nude/sex mods for games, but please don’t as I’m not sure I want to know the answer…

  9. StoneMason says:

    The modder, TemplarGFX, is responsible for some of the best Operation Flashpoint Dragon Rising mods, really shows off just how good some of the core Fireteam gameplay/combat is and it’s not exactly a title you’d call a flawed gem.

    I’ve played maybe 6 hours of co-op Aliens: Colonial Marines with the mod installed and it’s really rather good, no more janky than AvP or AvP 2. Absolutely the worst parts are the scripted scenes and the movement of the friendly AI, otherwise the combat, environments and mood is great, especially if you have a group of players who can work together and communicate.

    The sad thing is you can see the elements that would have made a really exciting four player co-op campaign from the start, but all the singleplayer mechanics tacked on top to make it ready for launch, QTE’s, non-existent AI, scripted fights, disabled graphical features, show off just how much of a scam Gearbox tried to run by the end of development.

  10. templargfx says:

    My main question at this point is why?

    As to the first part of your question why now? Purely chance in fact. I was looking for a game to play, and I hadn’t played ACM in a long time. I’d never finished the campaign due to how god damn aweful the game was. When I played it. It was aweful. Survival Mod made it slightly better, and Ultimate BadA** mod made Bug Hunt pretty cool with friends. These mods led me to the tools UE Explorer and UPK Decompressor, and well, once I looked inside, being a modder its not like I could NOT change anything. That’s always how it starts…

    As for the second part, why bother? Firstly Im a MASSIVE Aliens fan (the second movie in particular of course) , and one thing ACM does well is model the Sulaco, Hadleys Hope and The Derelict really well, along with all the weapons and technical’s. The Modelling and clutter all fit really well with tonnes of movie references. The assets are there.
    Secondly what I found inside the game was something seemingly half finished or hastily put together. It became pretty apparent early on that alot of the gameplay elements were disabled, nerfed, screwed or barely used along with (in my opinion) rookie values on everything. Its like its meant to look like a realistic shooter, but work like an RPG. Neither works but there was enough stuff there to change into something that will work.
    Just upping the AI “tick” speed, the movement and acceleration and tweaking jumping for example hugely improved the fights with Xeno’s, that is what you get in V2.
    The AI for the Xeno Soldiers for example is pretty good, its a Finite State Machine driven by rule based events and there are 4 states with ~5-15 rules each. But the delay and refire values along with chosen distances just did not fit the theme or the levels. This is what V3 is about. Alot of sites have talked about the V3 update like its the available version unfortunately

    Once the vs Xeno gameplay became better the terrible WY fights stuck out. They were easy to fix also. they use your guns, so the gun balance on recoil and accuracy effects them. Second they no longer have 4x the health of the player. I tweaked some other areas to make it a bit more fun to kill them (their talking and animations). They serve as a nice respite from getting constantly terrorized by aliens.

    Switching bullet tracers from a weird not-really-there beam effect to the glowing bolt from the E3 demo really made shooting scenes look awesome, they have dynamic shadow casting lights.

    And putting the smart gun in place of the flamer throughout the campaign (a bit of a dirty hack to be honest) makes ALOT of the sequency so much more awesome to run through!

    I won’t go into the graphics side but suffice to say the same issue there too.

    My question would really be why would I stop?

    • Gnoupi says:

      And this, right here, is perfect ground for an interview.
      The question then is “why didn’t you interview the passionate genius behind it? He seems to have lots of interesting things to say”

      • Jay Load says:

        Seconded. Does seem a wee bit of a missed opportunity, Alec, instead of an article that comes across a bit like it was written by someone who’s lost his passion for games.

    • tonicer says:

      I hope you never stop. I hope people never stop modding games. And i hope people like the one who wrote this article will never have any influence on people who love to mod games. Please don’t stop what you are doing. This is why pc gaming will be a thing for as long as there are people who are passionate about games.

    • fearandloathing says:

      Oh boy, how p4wned did Alec just get.
      kudos to you templargfx, you’re doing god’s (or developers) work

    • Premium User Badge

      Skabooga says:

      Thanks to Alex for reporting on this in the first place, which in turn leads to another thanks to templargfx! Your description of the thoughts and motivations that led to your modding interested me greatly.

    • Minglefingler says:

      I reinstalled the game last night to try your mod and it really does change the game. It’s probably too difficult for me now but I’m not complaining, thanks for your hard work.

    • Jay Load says:

      Nailed it: Passion.

      I salute you, sir. Even though I’ve never played the game I now want to. Your passion is, it seems, infectious. Have yourself a [face]hug.

      Also: I fucking love the Aliens franchise AND most especially the Sulaco which just might be the best named ship in all of SF, and is definitely one of the sexiest.

  11. Premium User Badge

    garfieldsam says:

    “My main question at this point is why?”

    Imagine you’re trying to break into the gaming industry and you could put “I fixed the biggest piece of shit game ever so it’s decent” on your resume.

  12. CthePredatorG says:

    The way I see it, if there’s a team making an unofficial Daikatana 1.3 patch (Which there is: link to, Someone was bound to do the same thing for ACM.