Aliens: Colonial Marines is a first-person shooter that puts the player in the role of Cpl. Christopher Winter, a United States Colonial Marine who's part of a search and rescue team sent to investigate the U.S.S. Sulaco in search of Ellen Ripley, Dwayne Hicks and the rest of the missing marines who were dispatched to LV-426.
Developed by SEGA and Gearbox Software, the game has been described as a "true" sequel to James Cameron's 1986 film, Aliens. It's unclear when the game takes place, but it would appear that the story is running somewhat parallel to Alien 3, being as the cryotubes containing Ellen Ripley, Cpl. Hicks, Newt and Bishop have already been ejected from the Sulaco.
There's just one problem: Aliens: Colonial Marines rewrites film canon.
Much of the game's plot was written by Battlestar Galactica scribes Bradley Thompson and David Weddle; apparently, they never watched Aliens or else they simply chose to ignore the continuity of those films in scripting this sequel. Fans of the series know that Hicks died at the beginning of Alien 3, when the lifeboat containing his cryotube crashed on Fiorina "Fury" 161. According to Gearbox's game, however, Weyland-Yutani (the ominous corporation from the Alien films) retrieved Hicks from his cryotube before shooting Ripley and Newt into space (even though we see his corpse in Alien 3). Why? Other than having Michael Biehn return to voice his computer-generated counterpart, I have no idea.
Aboard the U.S.S Sephora, Cpl. Winter and his squad of ultimate badasses travel to the colony of Hadley's Hope on LV-426 to answer the Sulaco's distress signal. At the end of Aliens, LV-426 is consumed by the nuclear blast, which leaves me to wonder how the planetoid is still infested with aliens — let alone how the colony is still standing.
As a U.S. Colonial Marine, you have access to iconic weapons from the franchise, such as the M420 Flamethrower, the M41A Pulse Rifle and Hick's shotgun ("I like to keep this handy, for close encounters"). You'll also utilize welding torches to seal doors and motion trackers to detect unseen enemies.
Unfortunately, the dull, repetitive gameplay goes a little something like this: Shoot (in short, controlled bursts, mind you) waves of brainless, unthreatening Xenomorphs; take cover and shoot equally brainless Weyland-Yutani mercenaries; and watch Xenomorphs and mercenaries fight each other and effortlessly pick them off from a distance since they're preoccupied.
A few hours later, Aliens: Colonial Marines culminates with one of the most anti-climactic final fights in, perhaps, the history of gaming. But wait, it gets worse: There's a painfully dumb, utterly ambiguous scene that isn't an ending at all. There's no story resolution going on here — not that there was much of a story to begin with.
While there are some nice nods to the worlds and characters created by Ridley Scott and James Cameron, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a boring, predictable, exploitive cash-grab. With clumsy mechanics, a just plain stupid A.I. and uninspired level designs, SEGA and Gearbox have released a first-person shooter that feels as if it traveled through time from 1994 to hit store shelves. To quote Pvt. Hudson in Aliens, "You're on an express elevator to hell, going down."
In addition to the underwhelming single-player campaign, the game features competitive multiplayer including your standard "Aliens vs. Marines" 6-on-6 deathmatch and a 4-on-4 objective mode called "Escape," where Marines must reach an evac point while the Xenomorph team must hunt them down. Sounds cool, right? Well, consider the unintuitive controls and familiar environments and you've got another form of gameplay that gets old quick.
Aliens: Colonial Marines is a frustratingly disappointing video game. SEGA and Gearbox could have found more success by simply adapting Cameron's film into an immersive experience instead of copying its most memorable elements (The Queen, Ripley's Power Loader, Lance Henriksen's Bishop) and trying to cram them into a nonsensical narrative. I can't recommend this game to even the most fervent fan of facehuggers and chestbursters — it's a Red Box rental at best, which is really the perfect way to play this game, considering you'll beat it in a few hours. Or, to again quote Pvt. Hudson, "Game over, man! Game over!"
Aliens: Colonial Marines is rated M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence and Strong Language. It is currently available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U.
(Console Me, Creative Loafing's electronic gaming column, consists of previews, reviews and commentary penned by Charlotte writer Adam Frazier, a regular contributor to CL and the websites Geeks of Doom and Hollywood News.)