Aliens: Colonial Marines review

  • Occasional strong set piece moments
  • Ample Aliens lore throughout
  • Playing as xenomorphs in multiplayer
  • The incredibly uninteresting story
  • Wholly uninspired gameplay
  • Clunky campaign co-op

Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines is like a trip to a natural history museum. It's empty and nostalgic, meticulous and dated. More importantly, it's hands-off. Like a museum, Colonial Marines is at its best when you're admiring the view. The moment you attempt to reach out to interact you're met with a barrier, reminding you that you're there to look, not to touch.

Set up as a direct sequel to the 1986 film Aliens, Colonial Marines drops players into the armored boots of the titular soldiers, tasked with following-up on a distress call sent out after the conclusion of the movie. Fans of the franchise will enjoy being enveloped in the Aliens universe from the onset, with many of the locations from the film being recast as xenomorph-filled corridors. Attention to detail is paramount--if you're a fan of the film you'll know exactly why there's an android torn in half aboard the U.S.S. Sulaco, and you'll recognize many of the locations on LV-426's surface. You'll find collectible weapons named after Aliens' characters, audio recordings recanting events of the films, and dog tags of fallen soldiers as you work through the campaign. You won't be able to walk five feet without tripping over a wink and stumbling into a nod.

"Fans of the franchise will enjoy being enveloped in the Aliens universe..."

But once you've exhausted the glee of exploring the derelict space ship and poking the Space Jockey, you'll find that there's really nothing fun about Colonial Marines. During the five-hour long campaign you'll be dragged through a wholly uninteresting story that you're expected to care about through nostalgic pressure alone. You'll be given objectives like "plant thing on thing" or "push button in place" as you gun your way from one uninteresting encounter to the next.

There are a smattering of set piece encounters and a witty line of dialogue or two, but they're buried deep in a sea of apathy. Characters appear and vanish without explanation, and major plot holes are kicked into an airlock and ignored. Aliens is known for its strong, memorable characters, but Colonial Marines makes no time for its own--instead, it mistakes a nostalgic set visit to the locations from the film for motivation.


"...there's really nothing fun about Colonial Marines."

Sometimes this isn't an issue. There's some fanboyish fun blasting apart xenomorphs with a plasma rifle and watching their acidic blood splatter on the walls--that is, after all, what you're signing up for with an Aliens game. But by the end of the first chapter you'll have iced so many xenomorphs that they may as well be ants pouring out of an anthill. The game's shoddy AI doesn't help much, either. Xenomorphs stumble out of shadows and trot forward, lacking any survival instinct or sense of spacial awareness. In the films, the sleek aliens were portrayed as the perfect killing machines. In Colonial Marines, they barely pass as sentient. The Weyland-Yutani mercenaries you'll fight are significantly more capable in battle and make for more enjoyable encounters, but even then the game is still just scraping the bottom of what you expect from a shooter in 2013.

Sometimes, cooperative play can make a lackluster campaign more enjoyable--but it's a detriment in Colonial Marines. The scaling feels off, and you'll end up cruising through the already short campaign at breakneck speeds as xenomorphs dissolve under the combined might of up to four players. Narrow hallways go from mildly creepy to somewhat hilarious when they're jam-packed with soldiers bumping into each other as they jog from one place to the next. Though some of Colonial Marines' 10 chapters feel as though they were made with co-op in mind, others simply aren't optimized for multiple marines; it takes an already precarious situation and outright topples it.

"...scraping the bottom of what you expect from a shooter in 2013."

The only time it's preferable to play with others is in the versus modes, which pit player-controlled marines against player-controlled xenomorphs in a number of different game modes. Playing as xenomorphs feels unique, with third-person gameplay and the ability to climb walls to stalk your foes. Even jumping in as marines is more enjoyable, as you're challenged to fight against better organized and more intelligent foes than you face in the campaign. It's a shame, though, that these modes are so buggy--you'll leap at an enemy as a xenomorph and get stuck in an animation, or spawn with the first-person camera sticking out of the wrong side of your character's head. If the multiplayer was more polished it might add some much-needed replayability to Colonial Marines. Instead, it's another missed opportunity in a sea of mistakes.

Gaming owes a lot to James Cameron's Aliens films, but despite having its DNA present in just about every science fiction game ever made, Aliens has struggled to get a proper one of its own in the past decade. Aliens: Colonial Marines continues this disappointing trend, making for an experience that's more Aliens: Resurrection than it is Aliens.

This game was reviewed on PC and Xbox 360.


More Info

Release date: Feb 12 2013 - PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360, PC (US)
Available Platforms: PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360, PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Sega
Developed by: Gearbox
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending


  • PowZee - February 14, 2013 11:08 a.m.

    I'm almost through the campaign (solo) and I hope it's OK to say that I've been having a great time playing it and the story is pretty good too. The guns are fun and a lot of the action is too but you must play it in harder modes to get the intensity happening. Most reviewers who are bored with the action are probably playing it in the easiest mode. Yes, the graphics are dated / 2009 but it does not ruin the experience at all. But I agree that Gearbox should have done better. AvP a few years back had better graphics and was more intense, and you could play complete campaign as Marine, Xeno, and Predator . . . but if you love the Alien Universe you can enjoy this game. If you don't care at all about the Alien Universe games, then stick with Dead Space and Mass Effect and pass this one up.
  • interasteral7 - February 13, 2013 6:45 p.m.

    Has there been any good Predator video games?
  • frankenfurter - March 10, 2013 12:45 a.m.

    Yup, the original AvP and AvP2 on the PC.
  • interasteral7 - March 10, 2013 12:43 p.m.

    I meant any Predator video game that is not a crossover?
  • Spiderman - February 13, 2013 10:43 a.m.

    Yeah, I've played through the first few missions, tried the multiplayer. I'm not finding it to be offensively terrible or anything, it just sort of makes me shrug and play something else. Which is disappointing, but it happens. This is a good review, in my mind.
  • lewis-barclay - February 13, 2013 7:15 a.m.

    industries. sorry
  • lewis-barclay - February 13, 2013 7:07 a.m.

    That SUUUUUUCKS. I had high hopes for this too. They can pull off dead space but not aliens? First off don't give the license to gearbox. I'd give it too EA or capcom (jk about capcom) but maybe epic games or 343 studios?
  • Pruman - February 13, 2013 5:15 a.m.

    The sad thing is, I love Aliens so much that I will probably still pick this up at some point in the future, probably after it drops to $20 or less on Steam.
  • ultimatepunchrod - February 12, 2013 9:54 p.m.

    You'd think it wouldn't be that difficult to make a good game out of the Aliens or Predator license, but no one seems to be able to pull it off since AVP2 on the PC.
  • talleyXIV - February 12, 2013 4:42 p.m.

    In the review you said something about James Cameron directing the films. Ridley Scott directed Alien and that is the more influential, as James Cameron's Aliens would not even exist if not for Alien. "...there's really nothing fun about Colonial Marines." This quote should single-handedly make the game a 0.
  • GR HollanderCooper - February 13, 2013 9:32 p.m.

    Most of the things gaming has taken from the franchise came from Aliens, which Cameron directed.
  • metalgatesolid - February 12, 2013 1 p.m.

    Borderlands is one of the best FPS franchises on multi systems. How Gearbox can create a great FPS experience but stuff up possible great games, DN Forever could have been great. I say it alot on FPS reviews but BulletStorm shows how to create a new feeling FPS and make it the most fun FPS since Timesplitters 2.
  • Bloodstorm - February 12, 2013 3:38 p.m.

    To be fair, Gearbox had DNF for like, 4 months after getting the rights from 3D Realms. You can't blame all of DNF on Gearbox, just the facts that they actually released it.
  • kyle94 - February 13, 2013 10:39 a.m.

    Yea. Unless I'm remembering incorrectly, Gearbox just took what 3D Realms did, tried to patch up any major holes and quickly complete any unfinished sections, and then released it as quickly as possible.
  • Fox_Mulder - February 13, 2013 1:48 p.m.

    I'm with you, GearBox should stick to making original IPs, it seems those are the only ones worth a damn.
  • Redeater - February 12, 2013 12:45 p.m. Watch the video and then read the description. I just about died laughing because I didn't get it at first.
  • Nick_Pino - February 12, 2013 12:34 p.m.

    Bummer that the game's not great, but thankfully knowing ahead of time that it's not worth my time means it can avoid the backlog entirely and go straight to the closet.
  • shawksta - February 12, 2013 12:32 p.m.

    Dammnit gearbox, why do you suddenly make great games but then fall short out of nowhere, Oh well.
  • EAC73 - February 12, 2013 2:06 p.m.

    seems like gearbox can only do their original IPs great, not that other projects like the half life mods they took on early were bad, but BL and Brothers in Arms were perfected while DNF and apparently Aliens were very mediocre.
  • slimjim441 - February 12, 2013 10:56 a.m.

    Comparable to Aliens: Resurrection? That's harsh. To be honest, previews and trailers and such have been rather lackluster, but I guess I just really wanted this game to be good. I guess I'll be getting MGR for sure now. I just have to convince my pals to get Dead Space 3 for co-op instead of getting this.

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