Aliens: Colonial Marines

Aliens: Colonial Marines Features for Wii U

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Aliens: Colonial Marines screenshot
Aliens: Colonial Marines screenshot

By now you've no doubt read our review of Aliens: Colonial Marines. TL:DR, it's not very good, like a lot of Aliens games. But why? Shouldn't Aliens be the easiest film to make into a game? It codified an entire video gaming language: why can't we convert the source?

The problem, it seems, is that developers don't really understand what made the film so appealing. (These days, at least.) Yeah, it's got a load of guns in it, and cool catchphrases and sound effects. When you think Aliens, you probably think of Hudson's last stand, or Vasquez shouting 'lets rock!', or Hicks shouting 'eat this!' Or the power loader. Or the Alien Queen. Or the thing with the knife.

What might not immediately spring to mind is the fact that, for around an hour, the
only shots fired are harsh language. Or that, when the marines finally locate the nest, they get 'their asses kicked, pal' and have to bug out, their squad depleted and morale shattered. Or that the message of the movie, beyond the family stuff, is that superior firepower means nothing when you make all the wrong calls.

That's not our fault: blame James Cameron's filmmaking skill combined with his pants-tent for anything militaristic. But Aliens' quiet moments are what gives the dakka its power. After the shit-eating grins and big military tough guy speak proves to be only that in the nest, the marines spend the rest of their time trying to run away. You can't blame them. Hudson goes over the edge when the dropship crashes: the shot of him picking up the charred wreckage of the kit he was so proudly boasting about/hiding behind sums it all up: these are toys. It's your mind that's going to get you out of this.

So why do the games spend all their time trying to upgrade said toys, when the film spends its time stripping them away?

Money. Lovely Call of Duty money. That depressing fact aside, the point is there's a superb Aliens game to be built out of firing your guns less, not more. Of giving players an environment to traverse or secure and saying if you get this wrong you're dogmeat, pal. No respawns. If an Alien grabs you, it's game over. No 1000-bullet ammo drops. Survive with what you have. Make the right call, or suffer the consequences.

Aliens: Infestation, with its finite marines and perma-death, has already done this well, albeit on DS. But just imagine this kind of gameplay on big screen, next-gen. Make it like ZombiU, in a way. When you die, you get the chance to see your previous self, only this time in Alien form, which has taken on your attributes like the Xenos in the films do. By inaction, incompetence or maybe both, you've directly contributed to your enemy's strength. What if your powered-up character gives birth' to a Queen?

Aliens: Colonial Marines screenshot

Or maybe have the option to rescue your previous character from the nest to recover precious items? 'Hey, look at all these cool toys' is what the film is saying at the start. 'They're gone now. Sorry.' Like the marines, it's your job to salvage what you can.

What we're saying is, the point of Aliens is people using their wits, not just their guns. Almost every character in the film has a judgment call to make: Gorman essentially gets his boys killed, Ripley saves the survivors, the previously cowardly Hudson covers an escape attempt, and then Gorman redeems himself saving Vasquez from a fate worse than death. Now imagine if it was up to you to make those choices.

We know that making any game, let alone an Aliens tie-in with years of expectation heaped upon it, is difficult. Various market forces are also in play. But copying the latest big thing and slapping the name on it isn't going to work, especially when that big thing is the bombast of CoD.

We hate to disagree with James Cameron, but in this instance more isn't more.

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User Comments

p0rtalthinker's Avatar


AvP I really liked actually. Enjoyed that game quite a bit.
Posted 01:05 on 13 February 2013
Clockpunk's Avatar


^ Absolutely re: less is more (terrifying).

But alas I'm not a PC gamer... but it sounds like the mechanic and license would work very well together. If I play an Aliens game, I want to be scared silly. An intense experience. Not Shootymangeneric 17.
Posted 18:03 on 12 February 2013
VGSteve's Avatar

VGSteve@ munkee

Same for RE3's Nemesis. And if you did fight (and defeat him) you'd get a special item.
Posted 17:43 on 12 February 2013
VGSteve's Avatar

VGSteve@ Clockpunk

Have you seen the various Aliens mods for L4D?
Posted 17:35 on 12 February 2013
munkee's Avatar


There doesn't have to be hordes of them, either. Dark Samus (Metroid Fusion) was terrifying every single time she turned up. Most the time you wouldn't even get in a fight with her.
Posted 17:34 on 12 February 2013
Clockpunk's Avatar

Clockpunk@ VGSteve

"AvP on PC, which featured instant Facehugger death, gave me the fear"

THAT is what an Aliens based game requires. Make it scary, make them insanely dangerous and equally difficult to take down, and make them come randomly (a la Left 4 Dead)
Posted 17:16 on 12 February 2013
VGSteve's Avatar


AvP on PC, which featured instant Facehugger death, gave me the fear.
Posted 17:04 on 12 February 2013


PS1 Alien Trilogy. Now that was a good Aliens game.
Posted 16:51 on 12 February 2013
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ Bloodstorm

Day A. Fund it.
Posted 16:32 on 12 February 2013
Bloodstorm's Avatar


In todays market, such an idea will not go down/sell well.

You said it yourself, Call of Duty money. The only good Aliens game was Alien Trilogy.
Posted 15:49 on 12 February 2013

Game Stats

Release Date: 01/01/2013
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: Sega
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 3,426 22
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