Aliens: Colonial Marines: is authenticity enough?

Hadley’s Hope has you backtracking through areas and revisiting central hubs, but several of the objectives in Colonial Marines feel oversimplified. After a vivid introduction to the colony’s acid-splashed corridors, it’s a real disappointment to have to place motion trackers in a few nearby rooms, and then shuffle a sentry gun back to where you started to make an inevitable stand against the aliens.

Not everything is mere re-creation; on the lower decks, we discover a new breed – the purposeless, Queen-less xenomorphs who have been stewing in Hadley’s Hope. These new aliens, nicknamed ‘Boilers,’ are effectively Colonial Marines’ nod to the zombie trend. Visually degraded and reckless, they attack with no regard for their own safety.

Colonial Marines’ multiplayer will likely prove more divisive than its campaign, though the game modes make sense. Escape tasks squads of four marines with reaching a dropship in time by hitting checkpoints, all while a four-strong squad of xenomorphs aims to halt their progress. In Extermination, marines must guard bombs planted above a hive – after the round’s up, the sides swap and the winning team is determined by the number of bombs armed. Matches are balanced on a knife edge, forcing marines to move in a perpetual huddle and demanding cunning from the agile but brittle xenos.

The divisive element will be the thirdperson perspective when playing a xenomorph: it might serve to augment your peripheral vision, but it shines a spotlight on moments of unconvincing animation and is hampered by wilful camera work. The aliens’ Spitter class doesn’t require much precision to fire off its acid-based ranged attacks, but the Soldier and Lurker stealth class require absolute fluidity when moving from surface to surface, and wrestling with the camera is antithetical to that. The central idea here is that you’re forced to think like a xenomorph, but it’ll take a lot of late nights at the studio’s Texas HQ before you start to feel like one.

Colonial Marines looks set to be the best Aliens game since 1999’s nervy Aliens Versus Predator, then, but will its atmosphere and your inner Aliens fan be enough to convince you to turn a blind eye to its awkward mission design and sub-par animations? Or will it end up feeling like one of 2007’s best shooters, and thus curiously out of time?

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