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Aliens: Colonial Marines’ xenos get a lot smarter by fixing one misspelling

Others confirm some improvement seen in 2013 stinker

aliens colonial marines Gearbox Software/Sega
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

The unforgettably awful Aliens: Colonial Marines can be fixed — well, “fixed” might be an overstatement, let’s say, “improved” — by changing a single typographical error in a line of code, according to a modder taking part in the sisyphean effort to improve the game.

A thread over on ResetEra (as spied yesterday by Kotaku, too) discovered this post on ModDB from late October, in which the modder explains what the code is and what is affected when the word “teather” is corrected to “tether.” Here’s the code:

ClassRemapping=PecanGame.PecanSeqAct_AttachXenoToTether -> PecanGame.PecanSeqAct_AttachPawnToTeather

And here’s the explanation:

1) AttachXenoToTether doesn’t do anything. Its basically empty or stripped

2) AttachPawnToTether does ALOT. It controls tactical position adjustment, patrolling and target zoning

When a Xeno is spawned, it is attached to a zone tether. This zone tells the Xeno what area is its fighting space and where different exits are. In Combat, a Xeno will be forced to switch to a new tether (such as one behind you) so as to flank, or disperse so they aren’t so grouped up etc. (*disclaimer* this is inferred opinion, I cant see the actual code only bits)

Whenever the game tried to do this, nothing happened. Now it does!

ResetEra commenter JigglesBunny said they reinstalled the PC version of the game and followed these instructions. Lo and behold, it worked.

The improvement is immediately recognizable in your first encounters with the Xenos. While they still charge you perched on their hind legs, they now crawl far more often, flank you using vents and holes in the environment and are generally far more engaged and aggressive. Five years after release, a single letter managed to overhaul the entirety of the enemy AI behavior in the game.

PC Gamer’s video comparisons, published yesterday, also seem to uphold this.

Aliens: Colonial Marines, which launched in 2013, was a game for which the word “infamous” really does apply. Touted memorably by Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford in a 2012 walkthrough that showed “actual gameplay.” What players got in 2013 bore little resemblance, and included jankalicious classics like this, which became mini-memes.

It was a basis for a lawsuit that ended with publisher Sega offering a $1.25 million settlement and blaming Gearbox for mismanaging the marketing; Gearbox argued the claims should be dropped against it because Sega had final say the marketing and the studio was a contractor.

Polygon scored the game a 3 in our review, saying “the infuriating amount of confidence on display as Aliens: Colonial Marines systematically misses the point again and again is what really poisons the experience.” ResetEra was talking about the game because someone had pointed out it could be had on sale for less than $3. It’s probably still not worth the buy.

The next level of puzzles.

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