The critical consensus is that Aliens: Colonial Marines is not a good game. Some might say it is downright bad. Digital Trends’ Adam Rosenberg said that the game is “an insult to fans of the franchise,” and those fans are accustomed to abuse after the past 20 years. Within a day of the game’s release, myriad parties involved with the game’s production are attempting to explain what happened during the game’s prolonged development. People claiming to be former team members from Gearbox Software say that the fault lies with another studio entirely. Sega, meanwhile, has pointed its finger at Gearbox instead.
Back in May, approximately when Sega began offering the press chances to play Aliens’ multiplayer modes in the lead up to E3, the alleged former Gearbox employee took to the Web to explain why no single player demo was offered. “Gearbox isn’t even making the game, except for the multiplayer,” said the developer, “Primary development was outsourced to TimeGate Studios, which has a less than stellar past. I hope it proves me wrong, as I still have a lot of friends working at Gearbox, but I am expecting it to be average at best.”
TimeGate’s reputation is by no means poor. Its last major release, first-person shooter Section 8, received moderate reviews when it released in 2009. The critical consensus surrounding that game echoed the unnamed Gearbox developer’s hopes for Aliens: An average shooter.
Gearbox’s president Randy Pitchford, meanwhile, insists that TimeGate only did a modicum of work on Aliens. Speaking with IGN at the DICE Summit, Pitchford said that TimeGate was only working on the game for “about 20 or 25 percent of the total time” and that “their effort is probably equivalent to ours.”
Publisher Sega is not as eager to spread blame equally. Sega producer Matthew Powers told news outlet Playnews (via Dark Side Of Gaming) that TimeGate and other studios like Demiurge (who helped develop the multiplayer modes and is producing the Wii U version of the game) only offered basic assistance. When asked if Gearbox was in fact only responsible for multiplayer, Powers replied, “Absolutely not, the game has been developed by Gearbox Software. Other studios helped Gearbox on the production of single and multiplayer.”
After Borderlands 2’s success—Take-Two said it’s now its bestselling game ever—Gearbox’s position in the industry is secure. Two out of its last three shipped games, though, have been critical disasters. Aliens may prove a commercial hit yet, but it could cause the studio trouble down the road.