Does A Typo Correction Fix The AI In Aliens: Colonial Marines? | Gameplay Comparison

Hello, this is Matthew from Rock Paper Shotgun. Last week Aliens Colonial Marines popped back
into the headlines, like some squealing news beast bursting from the internet’s chest. Seeing the name appearing on my news feeds warped
me back to 2013, where the game’s notoriously shonky launch saw it hogging the news spotlight
for the all the wrong reasons. Here was a game that was so technically wonky
that a few angry fans took out a lawsuit against Sega and Gearbox for misleading them with
earlier preview builds. Giant corporations leading people on under
false pretences? Weyland Yutani would be proud. The game was a clear downgrade from what had
been showed during its six years of development, but for most of us it was the laughable AI
goofs that had us ejecting the game out of the nearest airlock. The xenomorphs – the most deadly creatures
in the universe, don’t forget – lurched around like drunken clowns or simply squatted
on the spot waiting for someone to put a bullet in their big empty brains. And who could forget this classic from YouTube
channel Grizzly Case… Which is where last week’s news comes in.

A modder by the name of JamesDickinson963
had discovered that some of Colonial Marines’ AI problems stemmed from a one letter typo
in the game’s initialisation files. The typo misspells tether as teather, which
isn’t a word and so not much use for telling the aliens how to behave. As James explains it over at Mod Database,
when a Xeno is spawned it is attached to a zone tether, which tells the Xeno what area
is its fighting space. What the typo meant was that it was unable
to switch to a new tether, so was unable to adapt its movement in relation to your character. While James admits most of this information
is inferred from what he knows about the game, he reasons that this is why the xenomorphs
in the vanilla version of Colonial Marines tend to cluster together or why they don’t

Playing the game with the typo included, which
is where this current footage comes from, certainly backs up what he’s saying. One of the most damaging aspects of the AI
is way the monsters slither and scuttle into levels only to run straight at you. This was always one of my biggest quarrels
with the alien behaviour in the game – in the films, you very rarely saw the alien in
its entirety, only glimpses of that beetle-like shell as it zips in and out of the shadows. But the aliens in Colonial Marines are far
less coy, just standing up on their hind legs and trotting around the levels like, well,
a man in a stupid costume. From the point of view of a shooter, the game
took what should have been a very lithe and quick witted opponent and turned into something
really predictable. In the typo version of Colonial Marines, you
can pretty much guarantee that an attacker will make a beeline for you, meaning that
many action set pieces can be won by finding yourself a nice corner or doorway to stand
in and blasting at xenos as they form a neat orderly queue.

In space no one can hear you shrug. So what happens if you try the game with the
typo corrected? I’ve included a link to James’ original
blog post which is pretty self explanatory about what needs to be fixed. You just jump into the file and delete that
extra letter A. The footage you’re looking at now is all post typo. And it’s, well, a subtle change. Aliens generally seem to stay lower to the
ground rather than running around on their back legs, which in turn gives them a load
more waist-high cover to climb behind. Perhaps this gives the illusion that they
are more stealthy in their approach. Here, for example, you get a much better sense
of something horrible scuttling around the level. Elsewhere they still gun for you in a straight
line, but seem more willing to pounce and can cover ground a bit more quickly as a result. During the scene where O’Neal is hacking
the keycode, I saw aliens hopping over the barrier to get round behind me more often,
and the scene felt more intense as a result.

I definitely died a few times more. I wouldn’t say it was revelatory though
– having played the scene several times with the typo and without the typo I saw moments
of seemingly smarter behaviour occur at random in both. Part of the challenge of testing the typo
is finding the parts of the game that are less scripted – most of the aliens pop out
of specific holes and don’t have the space to approach you anything other than head on. This section where you climb up a tower shows
the most improved Alien behaviour, as they have the option to run along the ceilings
or hop over the edge of the walkway and emerge elsewhere. In the version with the typo they’d often
run straight at me regardless, though with the typo fixed you see them retreat after
they appear and pick more interesting routes of approach.

I remember seeing Colonial Marines a year
or so before release and hearing the sales pitch about aliens coming out of the goddamned
walls and using any surface to reach you. And without the typo you see more athletic
aliens a little more often – although again, it often feels more like scripted events based
on where they spawn. I never saw an alien decide to retreat up
a wall or ceiling the flank me – it’s still a case of them getting endlessly up in my
grill. I also wonder how much of the fix is just
in our minds, as we forensically search for signs of intelligent life. In all honesty, even with the typo fixed there
are moments where the aliens freak out, jumping in and out of windows for no apparent reason
or trying to dart between two pieces of cover as if it can’t make its mind up about where
it wants to attack you from.

Of course, to some people this is old news
– James technically discovered the typo in October last year. It surfaces in the news today in the way that
many news stories seem to surface – someone finds something cool, writes a reddit post
and the news editors the world round hop on it. Perhaps the typo news didn’t make more of
a splash to the modding community in 2017 because they already had a mod that does so
much more. You see, James discovered the error while
working on an overhaul mod for Colonial Marines – one that rebalances the action to create
the experience promised in those earlier previews.

For my money, this mod is far more interesting
than fixing a typo. In James’s mod – which you can download
and install by following the link in the description – the xenomorphs benefit from a revamped AI
and a much needed burst of speed. The footage you’re seeing now is the game
with the mod, called TemplarGFX’s Colonial Marines Overhaul. And here the differences are night and day. It’s the speed of the things that has the
biggest impact. If you think back to the film Aliens, what
makes it work is the sense of being overpowered, of being overwhelmed, of tough marines emptying their guns into
the darkness in a panic. In the unmodded Colonial marines it behaves
too much like a polite shooting gallery, with aliens popping up like ducks at a funfair
rifle range. Here they come at you from multiple angles
and all at once and it’s enough of a change to give the gunplay a different feel. It’s not going to radically fix many of
the game’s problems – it still suffers from some horrible pacing, dialogue and plodding
NPC behaviour.

If you read John’s thoughts when the game
came out in 2013, it pretty much all holds up. I’ve linked to that review in the description. But at least the aliens behave a bit more
like aliens, which is kinda important when your game is called aliens. If you are desperate to revisit the game,
this mod is definitely the way to do it. It’s kind of shameful that it had to fall
on a fan to make the game more fun in the first place, but kudos to him for putting
in the time. Perhaps the most heartening bit of this whole
affair is seeing James defend whoever made the error in the first place. While many are quick to add the mistake to
the Gearbox’s rap sheet, the chap who found the mistake writes “I spent three years
working on this mod before I found the typo, every gamer/modder that played ACM messed
with those INI files. No one saw it, not a single gamer for what,
4 years? 4 years of rabid aliens fans like myself with
coding knowledge missing it kind of says you can’t really be too hard on the devs for
missing it too.” Which is a very generous approach.

And here ends the tale of the Colonial Marines
typo. Surely this is the end of Colonial Marines
news saga? Time will tell. If you enjoyed this comparison video, please
do let us know, either in the comments or with one of those thumbs up that some people
like to give. I’d love it if you subscribed to the channel,
where we cover everything PC gaming-related, from alien typos to co-operative bus simulator
playthroughs. Which you can watch right now by clicking
on the pop-up. Don’t forget to hit the notification bell
if you do subscribe, to ensure that you are fully tethered to our channel. And that’s tether without the letter A.
Hopefully see you soon.


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