Aliens: Colonial Marines – Review

Has there ever been a movie license more perfectly suited to a videogame adaptation than Aliens? The movie series has influenced countless games over the years, from its entire arsenal of sci-fi weaponry to the design of H.R. Giger’s Xenomorphs. Heck, a few games are even guilty of copying Aliens’ marine banter word for word. Modern day first person shooters in particular wouldn’t be the same if the series simply didn’t exist, and a game that blends together everything the Alien universe has to offer has been a very long time coming.

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Too long, it would seem.


Set directly after the second Alien movie, Colonial Marines starts with a brief and linear rescue mission aboard the U.S.S. Sulaco spaceship. Although the opening does a good job of explaining the controls and how the recharging health system works, it failed to draw us in. It’s the roughness of the visuals that first stand out. Indeed, the game’s prolonged five year development period is more than apparent. Visually it looks dated with each texture as blurry and fuzzy as the last. There are some unwelcome animation glitches too, such as guns vanishing out of characters’ hands, and if you get too far ahead of the NPCs – who accompany you throughout most of the campaign – then they magically teleport to your current location. This puts a damper on the atmosphere somewhat, but thankfully such downfalls aren’t game breaking and can be easily overlooked.

Less so the first encounter with a Xeno which feels like a genuine anti-climax. There’s a lack of tension throughout and an even more notable lack of set-pieces designed to scare. Make no mistake – this is a very gung-ho experience. Although the iconic motion tracker is available from the start, it rarely has to be used due to emitting an audible sound when enemies are near even when it’s not equipped. The torch too is a missed chance to build tension. The battery doesn’t need re-charging and most areas are packed with fancy lighting effects which have seemingly been used to try to mask the roughness of the textures.


The Xenomorphs themselves are plentiful in number, crawling along walls and out of air-ducts as you expect them to, but even on ‘hardened’ difficulty they go down with one shotgun slug even from afar. If they get too close they can be pushed away, and sometimes after being incapacitated by one there’s a chance take it down with a pistol, akin to Borderlands 2’s ‘second chance’ feature. There’s also a challenge system in place similar to that seen in Borderlands 2. These challenges vary from tracking five hostiles on the motion tracker at once to taking down two enemies with one shotgun blast. Success awards extra XP and new weapon skins. Weapons can be upgraded after levelling up, with most having a choice of secondary fire modes.

After the less than impressive opening, things improve massively once the plot moves over to the human colony Hadley’s Hope. If that name rings a bell that’ll be because it’s the complex where most of Aliens’ story takes place. Gearbox’s attention to detail here is commendable, right down to the spent sentry turrets located outside the welded shut door of the operations room. This mission is a lot more open-ended, giving the chance to explore while setting up a perimeter. Aliens fans will be in their element – it’s the nearest they’ll ever get to walking onto the set of Aliens. Other touches that will no doubt please fans include the chance to find legendary weapons, – the first being Hick’s shotgun – and the fact that all the achievements are named after movie quotes. Like the 1986 movie there are a lot of decent one-liners as well that sometimes raise a grin.


After Hadley’s Hope things continue to improve. There’s a mission where the protagonist finds himself in a sewer system without any weapons on hand, and has to sneak past a colony of blind Aliens that explode on impact. A slight misuse of the license, perhaps, but it’s the only mission where the Xenos feel like a sizeable threat.

About halfway into the story a Power Loader can be clambered into during a boss battle. Here blows against the enemy have to be perfectly timed to prevent a mauling. This is followed by a stealth mission of sorts during which spotlights have to be avoided. It’s nothing too complex, nor clever, but it does add a bit of variety.

The ending sees the squad trying to find a way off the planet while ruining the plans of evil corporation Weyland Yutani in the process. It entertains but it never grips and like most of the game it’s pretty gung-ho with most mission objectives being based around blowing stuff up.

If we were asked to guess what Gearbox has been adding to the game for the past year or so, we’d wager that it was the reasonably attractive front end and experience point system, as these are the only things that resemble what the current crop of shooters have to offer.


Any experience gained in the campaign is carried over to multi-player, along with weapons that have been upgraded. There are four multi-player modes on offer, each offering the chance to play as three different Alien types.

Of the four modes, Team Deathmatch and Escape look set to be the most popular. Deathmatches are sheer carnage – both marines and Xenos go down with two or three hits and thus scores of 50+ kills per team are frequent occurrences. Thankfully the match settings are designed with this level of chaos in mind. Respawn times last just a few seconds and often you respawn amidst raging battles. Only the ‘Spitter Alien’ has a projectile attack – which is charged in an identical manner to Gears of War’s torque bow – but Aliens do have the advantage of being able to see marines’ heat signatures.

Escape meanwhile is objective based, involving either trying to progress across a map to an extraction point as the Marines, or trying to prevent their success when playing an Alien. Then there’s Survival which has a ‘safety in numbers’ theme, with the task being simply to stay alive along as you can. Extra XP is awarded for staying close to your team and in this mode sentry turrets can be deployed to try to boost chances of success. A little tip here: whoever moved the turret last gets the kill XP. Lastly there’s Extermination, a 5-on-5 battle to wipe out Alien egg clusters.

The chance to rise up the ranks and unlock new skills gives the multi-player mode an addictive quality and as a whole multi-player certainly doesn’t feel like a bolted on extra. It’s not particularly deep, but it is fun.


Sega recently announced that their future plans depend on just four core IPs, one of which is Aliens. If the company believes that releasing a game that has been in development for five years yet still feels as if it needs more spit and polish will fill their coffers with cash, then a rethink may be in order. Hopefully now the game is out and the weight has been lifted from their shoulders, the franchise can move forward.

That’s not to say Gearbox’s love for the license isn’t apparent here, but there are far too many instances when it feels like just another bug hunt. Given the rich source material, that shouldn’t be the case.

Matt Gander

Matt is Games Asylum's most prolific writer, having produced a non-stop stream of articles since 2001. A retro collector and bargain hunter, his knowledge has been found in the pages of tree-based publication Retro Gamer.

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  • I am not surprised. The preview trailers kind of looked like shit graphically as well. Hope the sequel is built more cohesively and faster.

  • That has to be one of the worst reviews i have ever read, Not only did you go through the game right to the end within this review which is a definite no no as you are spoiling the game for everyone reading this but you also just seem to be bad mouthing the game for no reason at all. Yes you did highlight some good points but overall it just seems your on a mission to criticize the franchise Bad review..

  • Seems like a perfectly reasonable review to me, that thoroughly explains the game. Although that one paragraph describing the end-mission may be a bit naughty, it could be a bit of a spoiler for anyone who cares about the plot.

  • Good game or bad game, no need to ruin the plot for those who wish to play it, especially with a game which has been so high profile mainly because of people wondering what the plot will be like…

  • I thought the review was ok shouldn’t really have given the ending away should of stated at the beginning that there would be spoilers.But i am going to play the game regardless it will be a lot of fun which is what it is all about.

  • Great review Matt. I had a small unsettling feeling when I first heard of this game that it might just somehow fall into the trappings of a generic “FPS” mould. With a movie franchise that’s so revered and clearly inspired the attitude, look and feel of FPS games like Doom and Halo, it’s game I feel should do the same in redefining the game design aspects of the current FPS genre inspiring a whole new generation of gaming and gamers. ALA DO NOT HAVE IT PLAY LIKE A OBJECTIVE BASED POINT A TO POINT B SHOOTER.

    What made the first Dead Space so compelling to play was that you never knew what to expect from the game as it delivered it step by step (Sound Design/Gameplay) making it a genuinely tense experience.

    Alas, I can’t help but wonder what Aliens could have been given the same approach with an added 4 player Co-op. open level exploration and it’s metric fuckton of source material!

  • The plot hasn’t been “ruined” at all. Play the game for yourself and you’ll see. I left out several key moments to save the storyline being spoilt.

    And i don’t know why people are staying we’re trying to critisise the franchise either. We have another two or three Aliens features lined up for this week.

  • Why detail the last mission no matter how brief or even the part where you are left in the sewer without any weapons and have to sneak past a colony of blind Xenomorphs? To me that is too much detail no matter how predictable a game can be i would have liked to have found that out on my own regardless if you left out “Several key moments” I also thought there was an embargo on reviews for this until later tonight?

  • Only publications that accept pre-release review code from publishers have to agree to an embargo (a rather awful recent concept to stop consumers seeing negative reviews before buying a game). In this case, Matt got hold of a retail copy of the game, and we don’t talk to PR people as much nowadays.

  • Thats shocking.. to have that embargo now a days just shows that people really have no choice anymore.. its all about reviews now a days instead of personal taste.

  • It used to be that publishers would arrange exclusivity agreements so certain magazines would be allowed to publish the first review. People think embargoes are a continuation of that. They’re not.

    Embargoes prohibit all reviews until the day the game is released – so in the game’s first few days of sale, people can’t easily find any reviews to inform their purchase. So people don’t know they’re buying a crap game, until it’s too late.

    The fact that all major publications sign up to these embargoes is slightly worrying.

  • Some PR companies who are “chummy” with certain publications also sometimes give them “special” embargo dates. Usually a few hours before everybody else.

  • Not all embargos are for the day of release, Adam. If a game is good it can be as far off as a week in advance. Usually when a game is bad however it’s the day of release as by this point it’s too late for people to cancel pre-orders.

  • Embargoes for bad games tend to be on the release day, that’s the distasteful element. Dirty PR cover ups aren’t usually required for good games.

  • I would have bought this for the PC if it weren’t for the
    Devs bullsh#t grandiose statmement that this is the true successor to Aliens, even a studio gimped David Fincher movie is a
    million times better than any emotionless dead eyed CGI cutscenes and gameplay offered by Gearbox.

  • Why are so many of you bashing this review? I wish I had been able to find a true review about Hitman Abso before shelling out for it, all the major sites gave it rave reviews and I was misled to believe it was HM game, when in fact, it was SC Conviction with a HM suit. I am grateful for this truthful review, money is not something most of us have to waste, these days, so I’ll wait to buy this game, second hand. Despite being a huge Aliens fan, at least I will be less disappointed and will have saved much needed cash on a POS game that claims to be the true “Alien 3”.

    I can’t wait to see Angry Joe’s review.

  • Agreed, in entirely. I’ve owned the game for a week and I can say the key words here are ‘anti-climatic’. Just about everything about the game is anti-climatic, right from the beginning through to the lackluster ending.
    My main gripe with it is that you are, sparing half of one level, never alone. The whole experience is a linear on-rails CoD experience with an Aliens skin. There’s a few neat parts, like the sewers (first time I’ve EVER said I liked the obligatory sewer level in a game the most) but overall the whole thing feels flat and lacking substance.
    Too bad. If it came out a couple years ago, maybe this would have two legs to stand on. Gearbox obviously gave it what they could, but it wasn’t enough especially considering what was promised.
    I was expecting a steak, but got a cheeseburger. I like cheeseburger, but it sure ain’t steak.
    Thanks for the good, honest review Matt.

  • This seems to be the way of all entertainment these days, whether that be movies, music or games. I can’t quite figure how all these major “paid” review sites praise mediocrity, so much. An average game is an average game, but you can bet IGN etc, will give it 9/10 scores.

    Just like the severely underwhelming Prometheus.

  • Agreed. I feel that consistently making Aliens into FPS run-un-guns is not doing the license proper creative justice. Seems like the perfect fit but in this instance it really isn’t. The game never stops holding your hand, which is aggravating. It’s like the devs have absolutely no faith in the player to progress through the game as intended, so objectives need to flash across the screen even when, seconds apart from each other, you get the instructions “Turn on Elevator. Find elevator switch. Free elevator switch. Pull elevator switch. Return to elevator.” LET ME DO IT MYSELF I KNOW THIS SHIT. Plus for the whole experience you are only alone once, for a small portion of a level, and besides that you have to follow the squad through the level to the objectives. And there’s always objective markers.
    I think the first AVP marine campaign is still the best Aliens experience. For starters the game just leaves you alone and lets you get on with it, exploring the levels and finding your way. There is none of that here. They made a poor-looking virtual museum for you to walk through and shoot some Aliens along the way.

  • This is why I don’t pre-order… not that this game being total mediocrity comes as a surprise.

  • I’m fairly certain they’re paid to make it stand out, and in a saturated games market where getting under a 7.5/10 immediately marks a reviewed game as the worst game ever, they gotta keep the scores high.
    It’s all a bit silly really.

  • I almost believe you have played it.

    Not really.

    In all honesty, the game been looking worse and worse as time goes on. No doubt Gearbox will DLC the crap out of it.

  • I think this is a good review, but overall, I dont think games should be reviewed at all, because what you say about a game is your own opinion, and you may put off people from buying the game that actually might have enjoyed it. I have pre ordered this game and I will love it.

  • So I just finished playing the campaign.I find that the Aliens fan base is very specific when it comes to details, much like the “James Cameron” approach to film making. I liked the small details gearbox added to make the experience as relatable to the movie and certain levels showed me a glimmer of hope but the overall experience is average at best. Some texture issues on the 360 version, assets not loading, AI (O’neal) getting stuck at doors etc.etc.
    I am puzzled as to why they gave the Aliens in multiplayer the 3rd person treatment. Why not have it play like AVP (1999 or 2010) where it was in first person.
    On the whole, I would have loved to see this game on the newer consoles supporting the architecture of Unreal 4.

    Sigh* at least on the plus side the score and sound effects were awesome. You know you’re grasping for straws when those are the things that stand out! Also for those who got the collectors edition, the figurine is ultimately badd ass!

  • But you could also say that about any review of anything? If you see enough people saying similar things the general consensus should be that it is what they’re saying it is. In this case, it’s a poor game that could have been so much more.
    Maybe the next attempt on next-gen will harness the potential.. I really hope so.

  • this was played single player, not in co op, textures look dated but nothing a pc mod won’t tweak. If the main complaints come from these two areas then I don’t see much in the ways of a negative for this game. Any game you play is going to be go from point A to point B for a conclusion.. some give the sandbox route, others a linear route; luckily for Aliens linear fits perfectly (although free access to manipulate building routes to complete objectives would be a great change of pace especially in a game where the blood of one creature eats through the damn floor..)

    as for the tidbits of game-play mechanics mentioned here it seems they blew it with the motion tracker giving off noise when not equipped (maybe they will change that when ppl join for co op.) And it also seems the aliens themselves are not deadly enough, too much hand holding going on in the ways of health. These aliens in the movies and literature are able to tear through steel doors, cut clean through armor/bone/flesh with claws and tail, and have acid that eats through just about everything… therefore one hit should kill or at least maim in some way comparable to injures in the ace combat system in arma, and the acid blood should be instant death on vital parts of the body, crippling on limbs, etc.

  • Really all we can hope for is that the Dev’s take note of what the players want in the game; i’m really hoping that the way planetside 2 has fleshed out an organic approach to patching their game through player requests has turned a new page in the way dev’s cater to player wants and these small areas of number tweaking will be seen to to better magnify the game-play. In other words you spend five years on a game, take a month to patch the sucker’s game-play based on what your population wants to have happen.

  • It’s just struck me where this game is set… Hadley’s Hope… right after Aliens? The place was nuked. There is no colony left!

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