Pitchford promises Aliens: Colonial Marines investigation

February 20, 2013 // 11:34 a.m.

Tags: #aliens #aliens-colonial-marines #borderlands #gearbox #pc-gaming #playstation-3 #sega #timegate-studios #xbox-360

Gearbox head Randy Pitchford has stated that his company is investigating the reason why the supposed gameplay demo for Aliens: Colonial Marines, released last year, is of significantly superior quality to the final game.

To say Aliens: Colonial Marines has had something of a chequered past is putting it mildly: five years ago we reported on Sega's plans to release the game on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in late 2008, explaining that the game was being developed by the little-known Gearbox Software - a company whose biggest release thus far had been the Half-Life: Opposing Force expansion pack.

Sega promised much all those years ago: a story written by Bradley Thompson and David Weddle would see the player take a first-person perspective in a shooter teeming with squad-based tactics as a member of an elite team of Colonial Marines - the state of the bad-ass art troopers found in the Aliens film. Sadly, 2008 would come and go without an Aliens: Colonial Marines release, with Gearbox boss Pitchford breaking his silence in June 2009 with the admission that the game would be pushed back to at least 2010.

In a recurring pattern, that date would be pushed back time and time again with Gearbox apparently choosing to focus its efforts on first-party action role-playing game shooter Borderlands and its sequel instead. In fact, Gearbox would even have time to finish Duke Nukem Forever, a thankless task it inherited when it picked up the rights to the game after well over a decade in development hell.

Duke Nukem Forever, of course, would receive terrible reviews from critics, while Gearbox's Borderlands series would go on to win awards - something that appears to be repeating itself with the poor critical reception of Aliens: Colonial Marines.

That Aliens: Colonial Marines is a bad game, but nevertheless one with moments of joy to be found, is at this point unquestionable - but videos have surfaced demonstrating an apparent bait-and-switch on the part of developer Gearbox and publisher Sega. One excellent example, published by VideoGamerTV, puts footage from the supposed gameplay demo released last year next to footage of the actual game - showing significant differences in quality between the two, to the point where the final release feels almost like a fan remake of the much better game that was originally promised.

With that video, and others, demonstrating that the final release appears to have little to do with what was claimed to be a recording of gameplay footage from a work-in-progress version of the engine, gamers have been up in arms about what appears to be an attempt to mislead them into purchasing a game substantially different from Sega's promises - an accusation seemingly backed up by the company's decision to place an embargo on reviews until after the game had hit shop shelves and eager fans had picked up their day-one purchases and pre-orders.

Now, Pitchford has promised fans that Gearbox is looking into the problem. Responding to a customer question on social networking service Twitter, Pitchford posted: '[Wanting an explanation as to the differences between the demo and the final game] is understood and fair and we are looking at that. Lots of info to parse, lots of stake holders to respect.'

The admission that there is, perhaps, a case to answer came as Pitchford responded to a veritable torrent of complaints and abuse by blocking those he claimed were not offering constructive criticism and re-posting messages he received in support.

With claims that Gearbox took milestone payments intended for Aliens: Colonial Marines and used them to fund the development of Borderlands and that the bulk of the work was outsourced to tiny TimeGate Studios while Gearbox got its own game ready for launch, the result of Pitchford's investigation should be interesting indeed.

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