Aliens: Colonial Marines has had somewhat of a chequered journey to gamepads, with some 11 years of development behind it in some form or another. Now, after numerous delays, long silences and almost five years since the Borderlands’ creators and SEGA announced their intended collaboration we’re finally settling down to revisit the ill-fated Hadley’s Hope colony on LV-426. Was it all worth it? Not quite.
Unfurling some 17 weeks after the events of the 1986 flick, Colonial Marines kicks into action with the U.S.S Sulaco mysteriously re-emerging into orbit over the colonised planet of LV-426. From there, you’re thrust into action as Colonial Marine Corporal Christopher Winter as you explore the floating ghost ship, and eventually, the ravaged colony of Hadley’s Hope. Colonial Marines is fan service through and through, and while a lot of it may be lost on anyone unfamiliar with the picture, Gearbox is unabashed in its adoration for the source material.
Unfortunately this is where the wheels of creativity grind to a resounding halt as Gearbox fumbles the ball completely with a series of dull firefights, meagre level design, rough visuals and a complete and utter lack of dread which, as we all know, should serve as the bedrock for a sound Aliens experience. Weave in an immersion clobbering and highly intrusive XP system, flaccid boss battles, wasted opportunities with a Power Loader, numerous bugs (apparently addressed through a hefty day one patch) as well as a terrible ending, and you’ve got yourself a two star solo campaign.
Similarly, its multiplayer is also pretty unimpressive, despite delivering a series of modes that up are meant to up the ante. Out of the handful on offer - Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Survival - Escape was Empire’s mode of choice, thanks to its neat riff on Valve’s zombie juggernaut, Left4Dead. Here you’re slung through a series of linear structures in a scramble for the Evacuation Point, welding doors shut and battling swathes of Xenomorphs. And as in Left4Dead, if you die in a skirmish you’re forced to wait until your team makes its way to the next checkpoint before re-spawning. That aside, however, there isn’t much in the multiplayer department to write home about.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is not a terrible game, it’s just not a very good game either. Despite being a love letter to Cameron’s classic aesthetically, the experience has been dogged by clumsy design work, bugs and skittish firefights. Undoubtedly it will find its way into the hands of film fans with an interest in gaming, and if that happens to be you, pick up the PC version for a rental at best.
Reviewed by Sebastian Williamson