It’s in its quieter moments that Colonial Marines offers some thrills. The aliens are tough, taking off one of your three blocks of health with each attack (on normal difficulty, at least) and destroying body armour with their concentrated acid blood. This, combined with the lack of regenerating health (Gearbox have opted for a med pack system) gives some sections an almost survival horror feel, which are occasionally enjoyable if you can ignore the xenos transitioning haphazardly from floor to wall to ceiling with all the grace of a contestant on Gladiators playing that weird upside down Scalectrix game.
Another massive issue in terms of creating tension is the implementation of the Motion Tracker. Surely one of the main appeals of a game inspired by Aliens is getting to scan areas and get a feel of your surroundings? Yet for some insane reason the Motion Tracker is rendered almost redundant by a prompt that tells you when to use it. There’s no point having it out unless prompted and even when you are encouraged to use it your attackers are usually on you so quickly it becomes more of a hindrance. In short: there’s not much need to stay frosty. Despite this, for big Aliens fans it’s still cool seeing its screen suddenly become a swarm of dots and readying yourself for the coming onslaught.
And that’s the issue with Colonial Marines, you need to be a massive Aliens fan to get enjoyment from its replicated guns, characters and locations, and even then you need to overlook the game’s myriad flaws. First and foremost, this is an FPS, and getting to hear an audio recording of Newt’s mum doesn’t make up for the fact it’s not much fun shooting things. For the most part, the xenos just throw themselves in to your line of fire. With no tension-filled games of cat and mouse (unless you count the one we essentially created through our own imagination and enthusiasm at the start of the game) the majority of the gameplay resembles a shooting gallery that just happens to be in recognisable locations. Sure, it’s cool exploring the Derelict, but a good game that does not make.
Multiplayer isn’t much better, apart from when you have to play as the xenos, when it’s much worse. Moving as a xeno feels as clumsy as it looks and you’ll often find yourself stuck mid-attack, flailing impotently having just missed your target. For the rounds when you get to be a marine, two game modes - Escape and Survivor – do offer some slithers of fun thanks to an obvious Left 4 Dead influence that sees teams of four reaching set destinations in Escape, and barricading themselves in to hold off xenos for as long as possible in Survivor.
Sadly, these modes and four player campaign co-op (which, let’s face it, makes any game more fun) are not enough to save a game that’s seemingly become victim of both the long dev cycle and official license curses. A lot of attention to detail has clearly gone into pleasing diehard Alien fans in terms of references and Easter eggs. If only the same effort had gone into making it more fun to play, coming up with some original ideas and finding a way to make the xenomorphs the truly terrifying, killing machine they are in the films.