Colonial Marines has been in development for seven years. As the game is based on one of the most famous sci-fi film franchises of all time, expectations were high that developer Gearbox would deliver a tense and atmospheric action shooter that could live up to James Cameron’s blockbuster. Unfortunately, the end result is a catastrophic, buggy mess that will not only disappoint film fans, but gamers everywhere.
The plot, which takes place between the events of Aliens and Alien 3, had potential. As one of the titular Colonial Marines, players are tasked with investigating the U.S.S. Sulaco – the starship that carried Ripley back towards Earth and the end of the second film. It has somehow reappeared in orbit over planet LV-426, where the Aliens were first discovered, which in itself is sure to confuse fans of the franchise. It’s the first of many questions that go unanswered through the incredibly short campaign, leaving you to make your own assumptions.
As you might imagine when acid-spitting Xenomorphs are involved, the mission quickly descends into anarchy and you’re left to find a way to escape, dodging facehuggers and fighting soliders sent by the sinister Weyland Yutani Corporation to harvest the Alien eggs. Cue four to six hours of fairly monotonous blasting, heavily scripted set-piece events and some of the buggiest gameplay we’ve experienced for quite some time.
The girl in front dies. There, I saved you four hours
With a significant portion of the game spent shooting at humans, rather than Xenos, Colonial Marines often feels like a dimly-lit, futuristic Call of Duty clone – never more so when you reach the upgrade screen at the end of a mission and have the option to add red dot sights, silencers and laser sights to the iconic M41A pulse rifle. This is verging on sacrilege to fans of the films, and adds nothing to the gameplay. Each weapon, though faithfully modelled on the props from the film, is woefully inaccurate, with no connection between where you aim and where your bullets end up. They sometimes even fail to register altogether, meaning enemies take an inconsistent number of bullets to go down. Conversely, CPU-controlled enemies can sometimes shoot you through walls, while you can hit an alien in the chest with a shotgun mid-leap but it won't fall over until the landing animation has played out.
The motion tracker is pointless when 99% of Xenos run right at you
The Alien AI in general is shockingly bad, with Aliens frequently losing track of you and simply freezing in place while the pathfinding tries to recover. The limited set of animations make it difficult to tell when an enemy is down and out, or simply recoiling from a flesh wound. There’s no penalty for attacking Xenos from point-blank range, which you would expect to be met with a shower of acidic blood, and they do so little damage with their attacks that you can literally run through entire levels without having to stand your ground and fight them back.
Human opponents don’t fare any better, with enemy soldiers frequently getting stuck in their cover animations, refusing to budge until you move to a different part of the level. They at least put up more of a fight, but regenerating health and an abundance of armour pickups mean there’s never much of a challenge.