Already facing reviews ranging from lukewarm to scathing on its release day, Gearbox Software‘s long-awaited Aliens: Colonial Marines is stirring up a bit of controversy alongside disappointment. Some signs indicate the game’s lackluster campaign may have been the responsibility of TimeGate Studios, rather than Gearbox itself.
As the opening credits scroll by, upon firing up Aliens: Colonial Marines, you’ll notice that TimeGate gets secondary billing after Gearbox in regards to developers who worked on the project, with Demiurge Studios tagging along, and Nerve Software bringing up the rear. TimeGate Studios has some familiarity with the first-person shooter genre, having worked on the expansion packs for the first F.E.A.R. game, and the acceptable but mostly overlooked Section 8 franchise, the latter of which featured no single-player campaign to speak of in its first outing, and tacked a critically panned, half-hearted story mode to its sequel, Section 8: Prejudice. If some of the rumors are to be believed, this may explain why the solo portion of Aliens: Colonial Marines is reportedly a huge letdown.
According to comments made by an alleged, former employee of Gearbox Software last year, the development of Aliens: Colonial Marines had been “a total train wreck, going on what, six years now?” The source, supposedly one of the three founders of Armature Studio, went on to add, “Gearbox isn’t even making the game, except for the multiplayer. Primary development was outsourced to TimeGate Studios, which has a less than stellar past.”
SEGA and Gearbox remain mostly mum on the issue thus far. In a June 2012 interview with Gamasutra, Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford went on record to state that 80 percent of the work on Aliens: Colonial Marines was being done in-house, and on February 11th of this year, he mentioned to IGN that TimeGate had been responsible for “probably 20-25% of the total time,” though he also stated that, aside from pre-production, “their effort’s probably equivalent to ours.” As for Demiurge Studios’ and Nerve Software’s contributions, the former was assigned to online aspects and the game’s Wii U port, while the latter constructed multiplayer mode maps.
SEGA refused to comment to inquiries from Eurogamer on the subject, though SEGA senior producer Matthew J. Powers responded to the accusations by stating, “Absolutely not, the game has been developed by Gearbox Software. Other studios helped Gearbox on the production of single- and multiplayer,” when approached at the Italian launch event for Aliens: Colonial Marines, according to DSOGaming (by way of Playnews).
Whether this statement is to be the final word on the matter has yet to be seen, given the game having been present on shelves for less than a day, one may wonder why Aliens: Colonial Marines turned out the way it did, should the allegations prove true. Was Gearbox forced to reallocate portions of the project, due to focus on other titles such as Borderlands 2? Did SEGA make the call to put TimeGate on the campaign segments, perhaps to help expedite the release of a game that was announced all the way back in 2008? Did the fan-demanded introduction of female character models to the game, following the revelation there initially would be none despite the prominence of Jenette Vasquez in the original Aliens film, pull vital team members away from the single-player mode?
If there are answers to be had, they may come to light in the coming weeks, as the mystery of the latest installment in what seems to be a cursed license in regards to gaming continues to unfold. In the meantime, perhaps SEGA could consider bringing WayForward (the developers behind Nintendo DS sleeper hit, Aliens: Infestation) and Demiurge together for a downloadable action title to soothe some fans. Shoot Many Aliens, anyone? Please?