It's fair to say that the Alien franchise has had a tough time of late. Pushed to breaking point by countless ill-judged cinematic spin-offs, before being ultimately undermined by Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.
The theory was then, that by taking us back to Hadley’s Hope – the ill-fated colony of James Cameron’s Aliens – the series might be returned to its former glories. Alas, that’s far from the case.
Interesting though it is to return to the scene of Aliens’ main fire fights, and to see what happened after Ripley, Newt and the other survivors escaped, Gearbox Studios has delivered a product that is not only unfinished, but also missing everything that made Aliens one of the finest action films ever.
By liberally throwing xenomorphs at us, the aliens’ power to terrify is diminished; and by culling them of every ounce of the malevolent intelligence that saw the Lovecraftian-esque horrors wipe-out an entire squad of marines they become mere cannon fodder. Targets to be cut-down in their droves, rather than creatures of nightmare to cower from.
Further cannon fodder comes in the guise of rival soldiers, supposedly commissioned by the shadowy Weyland-Yutani Corporation, whose sole purpose in the game is to give players a different shaped hostile to attack. Has there ever been a clearer sign that all’s not well in your Aliens-inspired game than when shooting xenomorphs is deemed insufficient fun?
There are glitches everywhere too, hostiles will sing through solid floors, turrets and pick-ups will simply materialise out of thin air and enemy soldiers will charge straight passed you, bizarrely ignoring you as they seek out there preordained starting points.
At least the online modes remedy this, if only because here other players will assume responsibility for the movement of both marines and xenomorphs, and so, for a time the game’s subtleties – the blip, blip, blip of the motion tracker and hurt of distinctive pulse rifle fire – begin to shine.
Soon a tangible atmosphere, and a real dread of dark corners and thick shadow, begins to form afresh. A pity then that the single-player campaign never for a moment comes close to attaining the same level of authenticity within the confines of the Aliens universe; particularly as the multiplayer aspect is by no means extensive.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a tease, it has moments where it sputters into life, largely due to the authenticity of the franchise’s iconic sights and sounds. Like the ruined husk of Hadley’s Hope however any signs of life are missing, and the game one huge opportunity gone begging.
Format: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Developer: Gearbox Studios