All things considered, time has been surprisingly good to the Xenomorphs. Though the franchise continues to dilute under waves of sequels, prequels and shameless tie-ins, it’s the haunting memories of ridley Scott’s alien and the adrenaline thrills of James Cameron’s aliens that has us hopelessly returning for more – we are but gluttons for disappointment.
Here’s the thing – Aliens: Colonial Marines should be the game that restores faith in the beloved franchise. Promoted as the ‘true sequel’ to James Cameron’s aliens, it thrusts the player into the boots of Corporal Christopher Winter, a Colonial marine who is tasked with investigating the USS Sulaco in search of ellen ripley and the rest of the marines who were dispatched to Lv-426.
It all sounds rather good, doesn’t it? We’ve been waiting far too long to explore the remnants of Hadley’s Hope, to sulk along the haunted passageways of the Sulaco and, of course, the chance to stick it to some Xenos with a powerloader. While Aliens: Colonial Marines lets you do all of these things, it doesn’t let you do them particularly well. What begins as a welcomed and sometimes mesmerising return to the planet that shaped science fiction quickly settles into a routine of frightening mediocrity.
Stalking through the scorched streets of Hadley’s Hope with the throbbing pulse of the motion tracker for company, it’s wonderfully compelling. Colonial Marines has no trouble finding the pace to quickly ramp tension levels through the roof, it just doesn’t manage to successfully settle on it like Cameron’s masterpiece achieved so effortlessly. For every success Colonial marines has with recreating an atmosphere and thrusting us into lovingly realised locale, it’s quickly overshadowed by the numerous cracks that begin to show when the fighting begins.
The encounters have no spark, no danger. Your skin doesn’t crawl as the motion tracker sparks to life, which is perhaps down to the way the conflicts are presented throughout. at no point are you ever given a real reason to fear the aliens; after all, they are pests and you’re part of the intergalactic extermination crew. For everything Gearbox could have done with the licence, it has patched together a pretty mundane FPS. Any fans of Call Of Duty will certainly see the familiarity, but not the polish.
What’s more terrifying than the encounters with the Xenos is how closely Colonial marines echoes rebellion’s alien vs Predator. Like its cousin, it is all too happy to lean back on convention, rather than letting you sink your teeth into the licence. The game is all too quick to funnel you into gauntlet runs, hurtling you from point a to point B in a hail of bullets with a suspension of the creeping tension it should be feeding the player. It’s a shame, because when Colonial Marines pushes you into last stands with your back up against the wall, we get a glimpse of what could have been.
You versus a room of Xenomorphs with nothing but a shotgun and an abundance of ammunition can be exhilarating, especially when the aliens begin to overwhelm your position. It’s twitch gameplay, not at its finest – not by a long shot – but it’s certainly enjoyable all the same. Sadly these brief moments only serve to highlight the frightening linearity to the rest of Colonial Marines, because for the majority of play it’s the worst kind of corridor shooter.
The weapons are lovingly recreated, though lack the punchyou’d expect. In a worldwhere Battlefield 3 makes you feel likeyou’re head deep in the battle, the soft feedback from the Pulse Rifle and Smartguns really lacks the gut-punch you would expect from future weaponry.