Aliens: Colonial Marines would just about pass for average in the late Nineties.
You know, when 3D shooters were coming into their own with the likes of Quake II, Thief or even the excellent original Aliens Vs Predator – Gearbox’s FPS is archaic and cheap-feeling, a poor quality piece of merchandise that divebombs into the middle of Alien mythology with only soiled nostalgia to fall back on.
Set just after Aliens, your group of marines is sent in to investigate what happened to the Sulaco, taking you to familiar franchise locations as you quickly learn the extent to which it went to shit. Accompanying you is Michael Bishop, voiced by living franchise tickbox Lance Henriksen, while another treat comes in the form of Michael Biehn reprising his role of Hicks in a hopelessly contrived sequence of events. It’s a dreadful story that finds no intelligent ways to use the series’ wonderful iconography.
The shootouts against the xenomorphs just aren’t fun, which is a massive issue when it has to be the main thrust of an FPS campaign – the problem is the threat level is so low, and that the animation and levels of detail on the aliens are so weak that they’re just embarrassing to look at. If a xenomorph gets too close to you, don’t worry about it! You can just slap them on the nose with your rifle, thus reducing conflicts with this classic all-powerful movie villain to the level of a child cartwheeling a velociraptor in the face.
If only Ripley knew it was that easy.
Devoid of any other ideas, the story quickly resorts to you engaging in dull shootouts with Weyland-Yutani soldiers, which is an absolutely horrendous choice, considering how videogame-friendly the established Aliens universe is. It’s a technical mess, too, with long waits behind doors while things are loading and xenomorphs scuttling through the environment and marines in immersion-breaking fashion.
A well-featured, better-conceived and somewhat more atmospheric multiplayer mode isn’t quite enough to balance it out, unfortunately; Colonial Marines is the classic example of a game that’s been oversold and under-produced.