Aliens: Colonial Marines presents a fairly convincing facade but its thrills are forced and entirely superficial. You don’t ever feel like you’re actually in danger. You don't ever feel overwhelmed. In fact, over the course of its six hour campaign the game never gets even remotely close to replicating the genuine feelings of fear and dread that simmer throughout James Cameron’s cinematic classic, simply because its xenomorphic enemies are so mindless. These aliens aren’t sophisticated human hunters, they’re merely acid-fuelled fodder for the seemingly neverending rounds in your pulse rifle. Consequently, Colonial Marines is for the most part a disappointingly mundane, run ‘n’ gun first-person shooter that fails to captivate once the initial rush of nostalgia has worn off. At its worst, it simply feels unfinished - which is a surprise given how long it's been in development. . Its campaign plot picks up some seventeen weeks after the disastrous events that occurred at LV-426, with a new squad of marines sent in to explore the abandoned Sulaco spaceship and the remains of Hadley’s Hope. it’s a first-person shooter - and unfortunately a pretty average one at that. The problem lies with the aliens themselves; they’re not smart enough to hunt in packs or take you by surprise, they just wilfully hurl themselves in front of your short, controlled bursts. There’s never a feeling of being outwitted or outmanoeuvred, just outraged that you’ve sat down to take on some deadly xenos in one of sci-fi’s most iconic settings and somehow ended up in the equivalent of a clunky, coin-operated shooting gallery. It certainly doesn’t help that the game also bucks contemporary shooter convention by allowing you to carry all of your weapons at once - a darkened corridor full of xenos doesn’t seem particularly intimidating when you’ve got five kinds of assault rifle stuck down your pants and a shotgun up each sleeve. These shotguns are noticeably overpowered, by the way, and even when faced with the Weyland-Yutani soldiers who at least have a basic sense of self preservation and tend to hide behind cover, you can still easily take them out from a room’s length away with your seemingly rangeless super shotgun. And that’s the campaign in a nutshell; alternate the slaughter of waves of dimwitted xenos with generic cover shooting sections against similarly dimwitted human soldiers, occasionally come upon them both fighting against each other (which makes them even easier to kill since they’re preoccupied), arrive some six hours later at one of the biggest anti-climaxes of a boss fight in recent memory, watch a frustratingly ambiguous cutscene and abruptly roll credits. the way. Even when the game attempts to change things up – such as the level early on in which you’re stripped of all your weapons and must sneak your way through xeno-infested sewers – it completely misfires. These particular xenos – ‘boilers’ – are one of the few new species created for the game, and you kill them by quietly switching on power generators that cause them to throw a hissy fit and explode with rage (literally). This stretch of the game when you're at your most vulnerable should be tense and menacing, but instead it’s strangely hilarious. Certainly if you’re a diehard fan interested in Colonial Marines because its story is supposedly going to be officially considered as canon for the series, then you’re in for a rude shock. Gearbox has set out to answer the question of what happened on Hadley’s Hope after the events of Aliens, but unfortunately that answer seems to be nothing more than an indifferent shrug - there’s no story resolution to speak of, and we can only assume that the actual ending will arrive in the form of paid-for DLC. But it’s not just the woeful AI and disappointing story; perhaps the biggest reason that Colonial Marines fails to impress is due to the fact that so many of the concepts that felt fresh in James Cameron’s movie have been replicated so often in the first-person shooter genre that they now feel like cliches. We’ve been treated to one-man army arsenals in every shooter since Doom, we’ve fought off the facehugger-inspired headcrabs and set up sentry guns in the Half-Life games, and we’ve bunkered down many times over alongside the wisecracking USCM-eque soldiers in the Halo universe. The videogame industry has been openly stealing from Aliens for the past couple of decades, and consequently nothing that Gearbox wheels out in Colonial Marines feels new; it all feels derivative and poorly implemented. It doesn’t help that the developer has seemingly invested all of its most original ideas in recent years in its lucrative Borderlands franchise; for Colonial Marines the cupboard for new concepts is noticeably bare. The multiplayer component runs low on inspiration as well. Aside from being able to play through the campaign in four-player co-op (complete with slightly shuffled spawn points for the enemies), there are four adversarial online modes to choose from - Team Deathmatch, Extermination, Escape and Survival. Escape is easily the standout among these, given that it’s essentially Left 4 Dead with aliens and requires a team of marines to hustle their way to an extraction zone, frantically welding doors shut behind them to stave off an opposing team of xenos. This is as close as the game ever gets to nailing the panic and terror you’d expect from an Aliens game; it’s just too bad that with only two maps available in the mode it soon gets old (although again, this will likely be fleshed out if you cough up for the upcoming DLC). Colonial Marines’ multiplayer at least provides something different from the online norm, but the fact that the xenos are slightly awkward to control and feel noticeably less powerful than the gun-toting marines, combined with the general lack of multiplayer features, means you probably won’t stay online for long. Lastly, it would be remiss of us not to highlight the overwhelming technical issues that plague both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Colonial Marines, presumably since at least part of the console duties were outsourced to developer Timegate Studios. We’ve grown accustomed to the widening gap in graphical quality between PC and console releases this late in the current hardware cycle, but the console versions of Colonial Marines don’t just look bad next to the PC version; they look bad full stop. Noticeably low res textures, shoddy lighting, screen tearing, rampant aliasing, environmental objects that pop in out of nowhere and vanish again – including the gun in your own hands – it all combines to make for a shooter that’s substantially below par this far into the hardware generation. Clearly when it came to optimising the console game, the developers were too exhausted for one last bug hunt. We know how they feel. THE VERDICT Aliens: Colonial Marines looks like Aliens, and sounds like Aliens, but unfortunately it just doesn’t feel like Aliens. Instead, it feels indistinguishable from almost every shooter you’ve played in the past twenty years. There are some feelings of nostalgia to be enjoyed, but it soon wears off and all that is left is some bog standard run ‘n’ gun action that brings little of note to the FPS table - and it suffers from a severe lack of optimisation on PS3 and 360. Aliens: Colonial Marines has definitely been crafted with a lot of love for the franchise, it just needed a little more imagination - and a hell of a lot more polish.