Colonial Marines also introduces human opponents early on in the form of a private army for the series’ shady puppeteers, the Weyland-Yutani corporation. This niggles as a story inconsistency, since the evidence in Aliens is that the Colonial Marines are the corporation’s private army, but more dispiritingly pitches the game into bland pop-and-cover generic action. Gameplay-wise, they are an unremarkable makeweight, and as an addition they seem out of place. They’re inspired not so much by the films – which are about mankind encountering something purely alien, not itself in an opposing uniform – as by the need to give us a break from the monotony of killing aliens.
The representation of the xenomorphs is the game’s most damaging failure. They’re just not dangerous enough, reduced by a first mission deluge into a swarm of targets bearing the shape of a familiar, once-horrific symbol of death. But they have none of that pop icon’s grace or deadliness. Their animation is occasionally staccato and their behaviour given to AI meanderings, leaving idiot aggression where there should be a fearsome singularity of purpose. There is no respect for the creature.
Colonial Marines’ release date falling so soon after Dead Space 3 – the latest in a series that has cribbed liberally from the Alien source material – brings this problem into sharp focus. Historically, Dead Space has solved the conundrum of requiring both abundance and lethality from its enemies by making each encounter with its necromorphs potentially fatal, but providing a nuanced set of tools to subdue and destroy them. Colonial Marines plays more like dousing a fire, your persistent spray of ammo directed inarticulately at a steady flow of enemies crawling out of the scenery.
In its central exercise of man versus alien, Colonial Marines feels stiff, shallow and dated. First announced for a 2008 release before the Aliens franchise machine prioritised other projects, it feels like more work has been retained from that initial production period than either Gearbox or Sega would care to admit. The saying that follows fiascos around Hollywood is that nobody sets out to make a bad film; collaborations sour, commercial realities dawn, and sometimes, as seems to be the case with Colonial Marines, time simply passes. While the intentions of all concerned have no doubt been pure – Gearbox in its aim to create a true sequel to Cameron’s punchy action hit, and 20th Century Fox in giving the developer a green light to tinker with the central thread of a billion-dollar film series – the final result is a familiar mismanagement of a rich and potent set of ideas and images. They deserve brighter and more sensitive custodianship than this.
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